Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

by
The First Circuit vacated Defendant’s sentence and remanded for resentencing, holding that the presentencing report erroneously applied an enhancement, but for which his United States Sentencing Guidelines range would have been lower. Defendant pleaded guilty to unlawful re-entry into the United States. The district court sentenced Defendant to a term of forty-two months in prison. On appeal, Defendant claimed for the first time that the district court’s application of a four-level enhancement under U.S.S.G. 2L1.2(b)(2)(D) was in error. Without the enhancement, Defendant’s Guidelines range would be thirty to thirty-seven months instead of forty-six to fifty-seven months. The First Circuit vacated the sentence, holding (1) application of the section 2L1.2(b)(2)(D) enhancement was a clear and obvious error that affected Defendant’s substantial rights; and (2) Defendant’s Guidelines range was more than a year higher than it should have been, and resentencing was clearly warranted. View "United States v. Romero" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit summarily affirmed Defendant’s 240-month incarcerative sentence, holding that the district court did not hold Defendant responsible for an incorrect drug quantity or improperly count two prior convictions when calculating Defendant’s criminal history score. Defendant entered a guilty plea, pursuant to a plea agreement, to conspiracy to distribute heroin, conspiracy to possess stolen firearms, and attempted witness tampering. The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s convictions and sentence, holding (1) the district court did not err as a matter of law in including in its calculation drugs that Defendant personally consumed; and (2) the sentencing court did not miscalculate Defendant’s criminal history score, thus placing him into certain criminal history category III. View "United States v. Pinkham" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed Appellant’s conviction for wire fraud and his sentence, holding (1) Congress did not impliedly repeal the wire fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. 1343, as to prosecutions that also fall within the reach of the 1938 Wheeler-Lea Amendment to the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTCA), 15 U.S.C. 52-57; and (2) the remaining arguments raised by Appellant on appeal were without merit. Appellant pled guilty to wire fraud for selling non-prescription drug products via an online business. Appellant created and operated more than 1,500 websites containing altered clinical studies, fabricated testimonials, and false indicia of origin to induce customers to purchase his products. Appellant was sentenced to seventy-two months’ imprisonment. On appeal, Appellant argued that prosecutions such as his must be pursued exclusively by the Federal Trade Commission as false advertising cases. The First Circuit disagreed, holding (1) Appellant’s case was correctly pursued by the Department of Justice as a wire fraud case; (2) the district court correctly rejected Defendant’s defense as to intent to defraud; (3) the district court’s Guidelines calculation as to the loss amount was correct; and (4) Appellant’s sentence was substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Arif" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed the sentence imposed in connection with Appellant’s convictions, holding that the district court’s application of a four-level leadership enhancement under U.S.S.G. 3B1.1(a) was proper and that the sentence was substantively reasonable. Appellant pleaded guilty to leading a large drug distribution conspiracy in Puerto Rico housing projects over a five-year period and to using and carrying a firearm in connection with that drug offense. At sentencing, the district court calculated a higher offense level than the plea agreement and imposed a longer total sentence. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) there was no error in assigning Appellant a four-level leadership enhancement; and (2) Appellant’s 228-month federal sentence was substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Morales-De Jesus" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s sentences imposed in connection with his convictions for possession ammunition as a convicted felon (the felon in possession case) and for possessing a machine gun (the machine gun case), holding that the sentences were both procedurally and substantively reasonable. Specifically, the Court held (1) Defendant’s procedural challenges failed; (2) Defendant’s challenges to the calculation of his criminal history category in both cases failed; and (3) neither Defendant’s high-end guidelines sentence in the machine gun case nor his upwardly variant sentence in the felon in possession case was substantively unreasonable. View "United States v. Caballero-Vazquez" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of Defendants’ motions brought under 28 U.S.C. 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct their sentences, holding (1) the Rhode Island offense of assault with a dangerous weapon (A/BDW) does not constitute a violent felony under Armed Career Criminals Act’s (ACCA) force clause; and (2) therefore, Defendants no longer have the three predicate convictions necessary to support their original sentences. In their section 2255 motions, Defendants argued that, in light of Johnson v. United States (Johnson II), 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), their convictions for Rhode Island A/BDW, see R.I. Gen. Laws 11-5-2(a), no longer qualified as predicate convictions triggering the ACCA’s mandatory fifteen-year sentence, see 18 U.S.C. 924(e). The First Circuit agreed, concluding that Rhode Island A/BDW is not categorically a violent felony under the ACCA. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the assault form of Rhode Island A/BDW does not satisfy the force clause, and therefore, Rhode Island A/BDW is not a violent felony under ACCA. View "United States v. Rose" on Justia Law

by
Although the district court did not err in its application of the United States Sentencing Guidelines in this case, the First Circuit exercised its discretion under United States v. Godin (Godin II), 522 F.3d 133 (1st Cir. 2008), and United States v. Ahrendt, 560 F.3d 69 (1st Cir. 2009), to vacate Defendant’s sentence and remand to give the district court the opportunity to consider the United States Sentencing Commission’s current policy position on who qualifies as a career offender. Appellant pleaded guilty to one count of federal armed robbery. At the sentencing hearing, the district court applied the career offender enhancement in the Guidelines, increasing Appellant’s guideline sentencing range to 188-235 months’ imprisonment. The court ultimately varied downward and sentenced Appellant to 132 months’ imprisonment. On appeal, Appellant asked the First Circuit to vacate his sentence in light of a recently enacted amendment to the Guidelines. The First Circuit vacated Appellant’s sentence, holding a remand for resentencing was proper to allow the district court the opportunity to consider the Sentencing Commission’s updated views. View "United States v. Frates" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction and sentence, holding that the district court did not err in refusing to order a pretrial hearing to test the sufficiency of probable cause allegations supporting an arrest warrant and did not err in classifying Defendant as an armed career criminal and sentencing him under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. 924(e). Defendant entered a guilty plea to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Classifying Defendant as an armed career criminal, the court sentenced him to a fifteen-year term of immurement. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court appropriately denied Defendant’s motion for a Franks hearing; and (2) there was no sentencing error. View "United States v. Barbosa" on Justia Law

by
The district court’s decision to grant the jury’s oral request, made during deliberations, for a dictionary was improper, but under the circumstances of this case, the judge did not abuse his discretion in denying Appellant’s motion for a new trial. Appellant was found guilty of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and substantive mail fraud, based upon his certification of false injury claims submitted to the American Family Life Insurance Company. On appeal, Appellant argued that the judge erred in denying his motion for a new trial where the jury was exposed to material not properly offered during trial. The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court, holding (1) the judge’s decision to grant the jury’s request, over Defendant’s objection and with no discussion on the record, to use the dictionary was error; but (2) the trial judge took thorough, effective action to investigate the impact of the error and properly concluded that Appellant suffered no prejudice. View "United States v. Pagan-Romero" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction for social security fraud stemming from his fraudulent use of a social security number not his own, holding that the evidence was sufficient to sustain a conviction. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in denying his motions for a judgment of acquittal, filed at the close of the government’s case-in-chief and again after the jury returned its verdict. Specifically, Defendant argued that 42 U.S.C. 408(a)(7)(B) required his acquittal. The First Circuit disagreed, holding that both the language and purpose of the statute fit perfectly Defendant’s conduct and his intent. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that neither the jury nor the district judge was confused by the statutory language, and Defendant was properly convicted under the statute. View "United States v. Acosta-Joaquin" on Justia Law