Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

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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

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's 24 month sentence after he admitted to four violations of the conditions of his supervised release. The court held that the record amply demonstrated that the district court, in reaching its decision to impose the recommended sentence, considered defendant's arguments for a downward variance and addressed several of them, while highlighting the seriousness of the violations, as well as defendant's extensive criminal history. View "United States v. Gibbs" on Justia Law

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Defendant pleaded guilty to a federal drug trafficking conspiracy and waived his right to appeal his conviction and "whatever sentence is imposed," except on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel and prosecutorial misconduct. The Fourth Circuit held that defendant knowingly and intelligently waived his right to appeal; even valid appeal waivers did not bar claims that a factual basis was insufficient to support a guilty plea; and, in this case, the district court did not err, plain or otherwise, in concluding that a factual basis supported defendant's guilty plea. Accordingly, the court dismissed in part and affirmed in part. View "United States v. McCoy" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a habeas petition based on a claim under Simmons v. South Carolina, 512 U.S. 154 (1994). Under Simmons, a defendant is entitled to inform the jury when the alternative to a death sentence is life in prison without parole, but only if the prosecutor puts at issue the risk that he will be a danger to society if released from prison. The court held that the state court reasonably applied Simmons to petitioner's sentence when it held that the prosecutor in his case had not argued future dangerousness in support of the death penalty. View "Warren v. Thomas" on Justia Law

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Defendants, members of the MS-13 gang, were convicted of a wide variety of crimes in aid of racketeering. The Fourth Circuit affirmed, holding that the government did not violate its Brady and Napue duties; the government did not engage in a pattern of prosecutorial misconduct; Defendant Cerna was not entitled to a new trial where the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to give instructions as to lesser included offenses and in giving the purpose instruction; the court rejected Cerna's evidentiary challenges; the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying severance motions; the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Defendant Guevara's statutory right to two lawyers; there was sufficient evidence to support Defendant Chavez's conviction and his suppression claim was rejected; and Guevara and Cerna's sentences did not violate the Eighth Amendment. View "United States v. Chavez" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's denial of defendant's 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Defendant was convicted of money laundering and other crimes that related to a fraudulent investment scheme. In this case, defendant's counsel failed to raise a significant and obvious merger issue that, if raised, likely would have resulted in the reversal of defendant's money laundering convictions. The court held that merger constituted a "clearly stronger" argument than the issues raised on direct appeal, and because appellate counsel did not identify any true strategic rationale for failing to raise merger, counsel's performance was deficient. Furthermore, the deficient performance caused defendant prejudice. Accordingly, defendant established ineffective assistance of counsel under Strickland v. Washington. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Allmendinger" on Justia Law

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During seven weeks in 2002, Malvo (then 17 years old) and Muhammad, the “D.C. Snipers,” murdered 12 individuals, inflicted grievous injuries on six others, and terrorized the area with a shooting spree. The two were apprehended while sleeping in a car. A loaded rifle was found in the car; a hole had been “cut into the lid of the trunk, just above the license plate, through which a rifle barrel could be projected.” At the time, a Virginia defendant convicted of capital murder, who was at least 16 years old at the time of his crime, would be punished by either death or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. A jury convicted Malvo of two counts of capital murder but declined to recommend the death penalty. He was sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment without parole. Malvo later pleaded guilty in another Virginia jurisdiction to capital murder and attempted capital murder and received two additional terms of life imprisonment without parole. The Supreme Court subsequently held that defendants who committed crimes when under the age of 18 cannot be sentenced to death; cannot be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole unless they committed a homicide that reflected their permanent incorrigibility; and that these rules were to be applied retroactively. The Fourth Circuit concluded that Malvo’s sentences must be vacated because the retroactive constitutional rules for sentencing juveniles were not satisfied. The court remanded for resentencing to determine whether Malvo qualifies as a rare juvenile offender who may, consistent with the Eighth Amendment, be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole because his “crimes reflect permanent incorrigibility” or whether those crimes instead “reflect the transient immaturity of youth,” so that he must receive a lesser sentence. View "Malvo v. Mathena" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying defendant's motion to suppress after he conditionally pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court held that officers had reasonable suspicion of ongoing criminal activity when they seized defendant. In this case, officers were entitled to rely on the information provided by the first caller as noted in the call for service report: that a white male wearing a blue-and-white striped shirt was at RJ's, carrying a concealed weapon, and drinking. Furthermore, the officers corroborated several key facts from the first caller's tip before seizing defendant. Finally, the district court's racial remarks did not prejudice defendant. View "United States v. Kehoe" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence after she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, eight substantive counts of wire fraud and aiding and abetting, and four substantive counts of money laundering and aiding and abetting. The court held that the district court did not clearly err in applying the vulnerable victim sentencing enhancement, and by calculating the actual loss amount used to justify an eighteen level enhancement. View "United States v. Shephard" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit granted a petition for review of the BIA's decision affirming the IJ's order of removal based on petitioner's prior convictions for theft. The court held that the Maryland theft statute was not divisible and the modified categorical approach was inapplicable in this case, and not all of the offenses encompassed under the relevant Maryland statute qualified as crimes involving moral turpitude. Accordingly, the court vacated the BIA's decision and remanded for consideration of petitioner's application for cancellation of removal. View "Leyva Martinez v. Sessions" on Justia Law