Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed Defendant’s convictions for possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine based and possession of a firearm, holding that there was no reversible error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held that the district court (1) did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress statements he made to officers during the execution of a search warrant for his residence; (2) did not abuse its discretion in admitting “other acts” evidence under Fed. R. Evid. 404(b); (3) did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to disclose the identity of a confidential informant who provided information used to obtain the search warrant; and (4) did not err in enhancing Defendant’s sentence on the basis of his prior Maryland convictions. View "United States v. Bell" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit reversed the decision of the district court denying Appellant’s motion to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255, holding that Appellant’s ACCA-enhanced sentence was unlawful where the sentencing court relied on three ACCA predicate convictions and one of those predicates was no longer valid. Appellant received a mandatory sentence enhancement under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) based on three prior convictions. Appellant filed this motion to vacate his sentence arguing that one of his ACCA predicate convictions no longer qualified as an ACCA predicate in light of Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015). Assuming without deciding that the offense no longer qualified as an ACCA predicate, the district court found that another conviction listed in Appellant’s presentence investigation report but never designated as an ACCA predicate could replace the now-invalid predicate. The Fourth Circuit disagreed and remanded for resentencing, holding that the government may not use a conviction never before designated as an ACCA predicate to support an ACCA sentence enhancement on collateral review. View "United States v. Hodge" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed Appellant’s sentence of forty-nine months entered after he pleaded guilty pursuant to a plea agreement to conspiracy to commit access-device fraud and aggravated identity theft, holding that Appellant was not entitled to relief on any of his arguments on appeal. During the proceedings below, the government determined that Appellant had not fulfilled his obligation under the plea agreement to testify truthfully. The government then exercised its right under the agreement to refuse to move for a substantial-assistance sentence reduction. On appeal, Appellant argued that the district court erred by permitting the government to decline to move for a substantial-assistance reduction without requiring it to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Appellant had breached his obligations under the plea agreement. The Fourth Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the plea agreement was not ambiguous; and (2) Appellant’s approach requiring the government to declare Appellant in breach of the plea agreement was not supported by any language in the agreement or any principle of contract law. View "United States v. Under Seal" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of wire fraud, extortion under color of official right, conspiracy to commit such offenses, and two counts of perjury. The court held that the district court did not err by denying defendant's motion for acquittal where there was sufficient evidence to support the four convictions arising from his bribery schemes and the honest-services wire fraud convictions; the substantive Hobbs Act extortion conviction was not duplicitous and there was no constructive amendment; and there was sufficient evidence to support the perjury convictions. Finally, the district court did not err in denying defendant's motions for a new trial based on inadmissible testimony, newly discovered evidence, and the jury's failure to fully deliberate. View "United States v. Burfoot" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision and held that the Board correctly determined that petitioner was convicted of a conspiracy related to the distribution of a controlled substance; the conviction rendered him inadmissible under the Controlled Substance Provision; and he was subject to removal under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(1)(A). The court also held that section 1229a(c)(3)(B) did not prohibit the Board from considering petitioner's indictment. Finally, the court was without jurisdiction to address a new argument to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence because petitioner did not raise it before oral argument. View "Shaw v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal, on remand, of petitioner's juror bias claim. The court held that the district court failed to recognize the applicability of Supreme Court precedent requiring a hearing in these circumstances; erected inappropriate legal barriers and faulted petitioner for not overcoming them; and ignored judicially-recognized factors in determining whether a hearing was necessary. The court also concluded that the district court erred in Porter I by dismissing petitioner's separate but related juror bias claim pursuant to McDonough Power Equipment, Inc. v. Greenwood, 464 U.S. 548 (1984). Accordingly, the court remanded with instructions for the district court to allow discovery and hold an evidentiary hearing on petitioner's two separate juror bias claims. View "Porter v. Zook" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's restitution order after defendant was convicted of postal theft. Defendant, a mail handler for the postal service, was convicted of stealing video game discs sent by GameFly. The court held that fair market value was the appropriate measure of value for restitution and the Government failed to sufficiently demonstrate the victim's loss. In this case, the district court abused its discretion by relying on the victim's unsupported estimate of its replacement costs. The court held that the video games that GameFly lost were fungible and nothing in the record indicated that the stolen games had any unique or personal value to GameFly that fair market value could not adequately capture. View "United States v. Steele" on Justia Law

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After defendant was convicted of bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank and mail fraud for her role in a fraudulent mortgage scheme, the district court ordered her to forfeit over $1 million to cover proceeds that her coconspirators had received and dissipated. The Fourth Circuit originally affirmed the district court's judgment. The Supreme Court subsequently issued Honeycutt v. United States, 137 S. Ct. 1626 (2017), and vacated the court's original decision in this case, remanding for reconsideration under Honeycutt. In light of Honeycutt, the court held that 18 U.S.C. 982(a)(2) precludes joint and several forfeiture liability. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's forfeiture orders and remanded for reassessment of the appropriate forfeiture amount. The court reaffirmed the district court's judgment in all other respects. View "United States v. Chittenden" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit granted Ergon's petition for review challenging EPA's denial of Ergon's application for an extension of the small refinery exemption from the renewable fuel standard program. The court held that EPA's decision was arbitrary and capricious because EPA relied on DOE's facially-deficient recommendation to an unexplained and unknown degree, and EPA failed to properly address Ergon's petition with regard to renewable identification number costs. View "Ergon-West Virginia, Inc. v. EPA" on Justia Law

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18 U.S.C. 2339B prohibits anyone from knowingly providing or attempting to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization. Defendants were found guilty of conspiracy to provide and of providing on numerous occasions material support to al-Shabaab, a designated foreign terrorist organization, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2339B. The Fourth Circuit rejected defendants' contention that the district court erred in denying their motion to suppress evidence obtained pursuant to warrants issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) because the evidence was obtained unconstitutionally in light of FISA's ex parte and in camera judicial review process. The court held that the district court's adoption of a test to determine whether someone was part of a foreign terrorist organization for purposes of section 2339B was unnecessary and resulted from a misunderstanding of what section 2339B required in the context of this case. However, the district court appropriately found both defendants guilty of violating section 2339B. Finally, the district court did not err in applying sentencing enhancements under USSG 2M5.3(b)(1)(E) for support of a foreign terrorist organization with the intent, knowledge, or reason to believe it would be used to assist in the commission of a violent act. View "United States v. Dhirane" on Justia Law