Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's sentence to sixty months' imprisonment for illegal possession of a machine gun, holding that the sentence was neither procedurally nor substantively unreasonable. The sentence imposed by the district court was above the applicable guidelines sentencing range but below the statutory maximum of ten years. On appeal, Defendant argued, among other things, that the district court erred in considering photographs found on Defendant's cell phone showing Defendant handling military-style assault weapons and in considering information about the pervasiveness of guns and gun violence in Puerto Rico. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in considering the photographs at issue or in considering the problem of gun violence in Puerto Rico; and (2) Defendant's five-year term of imprisonment was substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Viloria-Sepulveda" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's sentence of ninety-seven months' imprisonment, holding that the district court did not err in calculating Defendant's criminal history category under the sentencing guidelines and that the sentence was procedurally reasonable. Defendant pled guilty to violations of 21 U.S.C. 846 and other crimes. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court committed procedural error when it counted a prior conviction in calculating his criminal history score because the prior conviction was "relevant conduct," that his sentence was procedurally unreasonable because it was disparately higher than the sentences of his co-defendants, and that the district court did not adequately state on the record why it chose to sentence him above the seventy-two months recommended by the plea agreement. The First Circuit disagreed, holding (1) Defendant's prior conviction was correctly counted as a prior sentence; (2) the district court adequately explained its reasoning for the sentence in open court; and (3) Defendant's disparity challenge was unavailing. View "United States v. Gonzalez-Barbosa" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court accepting Defendant's straight guilty plea to the charging of illegal reentry of an alien who had previously been removed from the United States, 8 U.S.C. 1326(a), holding that the record permitted a conclusion that the plea had a rational basis in fact. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in accepting his plea because he did not "voluntarily" re-enter the United States, and therefore, his guilty plea lacked an adequate basis in fact and that the district court violated Fed. R. Crim. P. 11 by not ascertaining whether Defendant understood the elements of the crime charged. The First Circuit disagreed, holding that the district court did not err in deciding to accept the plea and in determining that Defendant's guilty plea was knowing and intelligent. View "United States v. Mercedes Leon" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's sentence for bank robbery, Hobbs Act robbery, and a related firearms offense, holding that Appellant's argument that the district court impermissibly considered Appellant's gender as a factor in the sentencing calculus was without merit. The district court sentenced Appellant to a total of 108 months of incarceration. On appeal, Appellant argued that the district court (1) committed procedural error by failing to appreciate that it had discretion to consider the mandatory sentence on the firearms count when formulating the sentence for the grouped counts, and (2) violated his constitutional right to equal protection by engaging in gender stereotyping when formulating his sentence. The First Circuit disagreed, holding (1) the district court in this case did not commit the same procedural error that the Supreme Court condemned in Dean v. United States, 137 S. Ct. 1170, 1178 (2017); and (2) Appellant failed to make a plausible showing of any violation of his right to equal protection. View "United States v. Blewitt" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit dismissed without prejudice Appellant's appeal arguing that his firearms conviction and sentence violated double jeopardy protections, holding that the record as presented did not permit evaluation of Appellant's double jeopardy claim. Appellant pled guilty to conspiracy under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1962(d), and to using or carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime. On appeal, Appellant argued that his firearms conviction and sentence violated the Fifth Amendment's guarantee against double jeopardy because the conviction and sentence duplicated his prior conviction and sentence for a firearms offense under Puerto Rico law. The First Circuit dismissed the appeal because the record contained only the untranslated, Spanish-language judicial documentation of the Puerto Rico firearms convictions, which is inadequate by terms of the Jones Act, 48 U.S.C. 864. The Court, however, dismissed the appeal without prejudice to Appellant's right to raise his double jeopardy claim on the basis of translated records in future, collateral-review proceedings. View "United States v. Pacheco" on Justia Law

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In this sentencing appeal brought by the United States the First Circuit vacated Defendant's sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm and remanded the case for resentencing, holding that Defendant's prior Maine drug trafficking conviction properly qualified as a "controlled substance offense" under the United States Sentencing Guidelines. The district court essentially adopted the reasoning of another Maine federal judge in another case and held that, as a matter of law, Defendant's prior Maine drug trafficking conviction did not qualify as a predicate controlled substance offense under U.S.S.G. 2K2.1(a). The First Circuit disagreed, holding that Defendant's prior conviction properly qualified as a "controlled substance offense." View "United States v. Mohamed" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction for transporting child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2252A(a)(1), holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress and imposing as a special condition of Defendant's supervised release that Defendant submit to periodic polygraph tests. On appeal, Defendant argued, among other things, that the district court erred in concluding that the government did not violate the Fourth Amendment in obtaining and then reviewing "specific IP addresses" associated with Defendant's account with Kik, a smartphone messaging application, as well as the "specific dates and times associated with each instance of internet access accomplished from those IP addresses." The First Circuit held (1) Defendant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the information that the government acquired from Kik without a warrant; and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in including periodic polygraph testing as a special condition of Defendant's supervised release. View "United States v. Hood" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court ordering Appellant to pay mandatory restitution in connection with his conviction of crimes arising from a conspiracy to steer telecommunications contracts with the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico to a company controlled by a co-conspirator through a rigged bidding process, holding that there was no error in the district court's restitution calculation. The district court ordered Appellant to pay mandatory restitution of $408,208.42 pursuant to the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act (MVRA), 18 U.S.C. 3663A(a)(1), (c)(1)(A) & (B). Because Appellant did not object to the restitution amount at sentencing the First Circuit reviewed the amount for plain error. The Court then affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in calculating the restitution amount. View "United States v. Gonzalez-Calderon" on Justia Law

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In this consolidated appeal, the First Circuit held that the district court did not err in concluding that the court that issued a wiretap warrant could have found the facts in the application to be at least minimally adequate to support the issuance of the warrant, thus affirming the judgments below. A federal grand jury handed up an indictment charging all four defendants in this consolidated appeal with conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine and distribution and possession with intent to distribute heroin and/or cocaine. The four defendants eventually pleaded guilty to all charges. On appeal, the defendants challenged the district court's ruling on the motion to suppress wiretap evidence. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in concluding that the wiretap application, read in tandem with its supporting affidavit, was more than minimally adequate to support the wiretap authorization. View "United States v. Santana-Dones" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's sentence of seventy-one months' incarceration plus three years of supervised release in connection with his conviction for one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, holding that the sentence was neither procedurally nor substantively unreasonable. Defendant pleaded guilty to the offense without a plea agreement. The district court accepted the straight plea. The district court determined that a sentence at the higher end of the guideline range was sufficient, but not greater than necessary, and imposed the seventy-one-month incarcerate term and three years of supervised release. On appeal, Defendant asserted procedural and substantive error. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that there was no reversible procedural error in sentencing, and Defendant's claim of substantive error in his sentencing similarly failed. View "United States v. Ortiz-Mercado" on Justia Law