Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction of three counts of engaging in the business of dealing a firearm without a license and sentence of sixty months' imprisonment, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion in the district court's imposition of Defendant's sentence.Defendant admitted to engaging in the business of illegally dealing firearms on three separate occasions over more than one year. The district court imposed a sixty-month sentence. Defendant appealed his sentence, arguing that his sentence was procedurally and substantively unreasonable. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that there was no error as to the procedural objections and no abuse of discretion in the length of the sentence imposed. View "United States v. Andujar-Colon" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated Appellant's upwardly variant sentence of sixty months imposed in connection with his plea of guilty to one count of racketeering, holding that the sentencing court procedurally erred by basing Appellant's variant sentence, in part, upon certain evidence that lacked any indicia of reliability.Appellant, a former police officer with the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD), was convicted for his involvement with a corrupt group of PRPD officers. On appeal, Appellant challenged, among other things, the procedural reasonableness of his sentence, contending that the district court erred by relying upon his record of unadjudicated administrative complaints filed against Appellant during his career as an officer. The First Circuit agreed and vacated the sentence, holding that the district court's reliance upon Defendant's record of administrative complaints was insufficiently supported, and the error was not harmless. View "United States v. Rivera-Ruiz" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit dismissed this appeal, in which Appellant sought to override an appeal waiver and to proceed with an appeal based on the alleged ineffective assistance of his counsel, holding that ineffective assistance of counsel claims not raised in the district court and not within an exception to United States v. Mala, 7 F.3d 1058 (1st Cir. 1993), are insufficient to overcome an appeal waiver.Defendant agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and to failure to appear in court pursuant to a plea agreement that contained a waiver-of-appeal provision. After sentencing, Defendant appealed, asserting for the first time that his counsel afforded him ineffective assistance both at the time he entered his plea and at sentencing. The First Circuit dismissed the appeal, holding that Defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel allegations fell within the Mala rule and could not surmount his waiver of appeal. View "United States v. Staveley" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court resentencing Defendant while applying two sentencing enhancements under the United States Sentencing Guidelines, holding that both enhancements applied.Defendant, a former supervising pharmacist at the New England Compounding Center (NECC), was convicted for his conduct in connection with a criminal investigation into a 2012 deadly nationwide outbreak of fungal meningitis that was traced to the NECC's shipments of contaminated drugs. The district court sentenced Defendant to a term of imprisonment of ninety-six months. On appeal, the First Circuit vacated and remanded Defendant's sentence. On remand, the district court held that two enhancements applied to Defendant and resentenced him to a 126-month term of imprisonment. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in applying the two enhancements. View "United States v. Chin" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's convictions for unlawfully possessing firearms and ammunition as a convicted felon and for unlawfully possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his allegations of error.On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court abused its discretion when it qualified Special Agent Israel Valle with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as an expert under Fed. R. Evid. 702 on whether the ammunition and firearms charged in the indictment had traveled in interstate commerce. The First Circuit disagreed and affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion in ruling that Special Agent Valle was qualified to testify as an expert; and (2) Defendant's additional pro se arguments were without merit. View "United States v. Cortez-Oropeza" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's judgmentsentencing Defendant to a 188-month term of imprisonment for his conviction of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute on kilogram or more of heroin and 400 grams or more of fentanyl, holding that Defendant's claims did not survive scrutiny.In his complaint, Defendant argued that the district court mistakenly attributed to him the entirety of the drugs found in an apartment used by him and his coconspirators, and (2) the court erred applying the "stash house" enhancement. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the evidence was sufficient to show that Defendant bore responsibility for the drugs in the apartment; and (2) the "stash house" enhancement was appropriately applied in this case. View "United States v. Soto-Villar" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Appellant's habeas petition, holding that the Massachusetts state court reasonably applied federal law in deeming the Commonwealth's proof constitutionally adequate.After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of first-degree murder on a theory of felony murder based on a predicate of armed robbery and sentenced him to a term of life imprisonment on the felony murder charge. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) affirmed the conviction. Petitioner sought federal habeas review in the federal district court. The district court denied the petition. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in denying Appellant's application for habeas relief. View "Webster v. Gray" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction for four offenses relating to Defendant's possession of a handgun with an obliterated serial number and drugs found within the bag that he was carrying, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his allegations of error.On appeal, Defendant challenged the denial of his motion to suppress evidence recovered during his arrest, alleging that his seizure violated his Fourth Amendment rights and that he was coerced into handing over the bag to law enforcement. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to justify the initial seizure of Defendant but an intervening voluntary act provided independent probable cause to arrest Defendant; (2) suppression was not warranted under the fruit-of-the-poisonous-tree doctrine; and (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion in imposing limitations on cross-examination during the trial. View "United States v. Sierra-Ayala" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court sentencing Defendant to the statutory maximum of two years' imprisonment for violating two conditions of his supervised release, holding that the written judgment rendered unreliable this Court's assumption that the district court excluded from its consideration the comments it made before formally explaining its sentence.Specifically, the First Circuit held that the written judgment rendered unreliable the Court's otherwise controlling assumption that the trial court excluded from its consideration the express comments it made shortly before formally explaining its sentence. The Court remanded the case to a new district court judge for prompt resentencing. View "United States v. Serrano-Berrios" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction of two counts of criminal copyright infringement and one count of mail fraud and his sentence of concurrent prison terms of thirty-six months for the copyright counts and sixty months for the mail fraud count, holding that Defendant's arguments on appeal were unavailing.On appeal, Defendant argued that the evidence failed to show that he willfully committed the copyright violations and that his sentence must be adjusted because the district court erred in its guideline loss calculation. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) it was within the bounds of reason for the jury to find Defendant's actions willful; and (2) there was no plain error in the court's loss calculation. View "United States v. Gordon" on Justia Law