Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

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The Fourth Circuit vacated defendant's 210 month sentence for conspiracy to distribute at least five kilos of cocaine. The court agreed with defendant that the district court erred by considering factors unrelated to his assistance when imposing the sentence. In this case, the district court abused its discretion by considering facts related to defendant's culpability for the charged conspiracy when determining the extent to which it would depart from the Guidelines' sentence. Accordingly, the court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Concha" on Justia Law

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Petitioner sought relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254 after the district court granted a certificate of appealability on the narrow procedural question of whether a habeas petitioner's claims raised for the first time in objections to a magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations must be heard by the district judge. The Fifth Circuit broadly answered in the affirmative, but found in this case that the district court did not commit reversible error. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Samples v. Ballard" on Justia Law

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Defendant, a former CIA agent, appealed his convictions for unauthorized disclosure of national defense information, unlawful retention and disclosure of classified information, attempted unauthorized disclosure of classified information, unauthorized conveyance of government property, and obstruction of justice. The Fourth Circuit held that the government failed to prove proper venue for defendant's offense of unauthorized disclosure to a reporter of a letter relating to a classified program. In regard to the other charged crimes, the court held that there was sufficient evidence in the record to support the jury's findings that defendant more likely than not committed the essential conduct of these offenses; there was sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant obstructed justice by trying to conceal an email from a grand jury investigation; and the district court did not commit reversible error when instructing the jury on venue, nor did it abuse its discretion when it allowed the government to introduce evidence that defendant kept classified documents in his home. Accordingly, the court vacated the conviction for unauthorized disclosure of the program letter, but otherwise affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Sterling" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's 360 month sentence after he was convicted of drug-related charges. The court held that the district court did not err by applying a two-level enhancement for possession of a weapon under USSG 2D1.1(b)(1) where the government provided the district court with sufficient evidence to support a finding that defendant possessed a firearm in connection with his drug distribution activities. View "United States v. Mondragon" on Justia Law

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The Juvenile Delinquency Act (JDA), 18 U.S.C. 5031, is intended to ensure that at the time they are brought into the criminal justice process, juveniles will have the benefit of a system that is tailored to their special needs and vulnerabilities and, in particular, to their special receptivity to rehabilitation. In light of this statutory purpose, it is entirely rational to define as juveniles protected by the JDA only those who are younger than 21 when they are indicted. In this case, although defendant was 17 years old when he and another individual robbed a brothel, raping one victim and killing another, he was over 21 years old when he was indicted for the crimes. The Fourth Circuit agreed with the district court that defendant's timing-related arguments were without merit, and that the government established the connection to interstate commerce necessary to sustain a Hobbs Act conviction. The court also found no error in the evidentiary rulings challenged on appeal nor error with defendant's sentence. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Lopez" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for three counts stemming from a mortgage fraud conspiracy occurring between 2005 and 2007. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant's three motions for a new trial; the court rejected defendant's challenges to the district court's denial of his motion to compel the government to produce approximately 99 short sale files discovered during a separate and unrelated grand jury investigation; the district court acted within its considerable discretion by admitting testimony from a government's expert witness on mortgage banking practices; there was sufficient evidence to support a finding of materiality where any reasonable juror could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt, based on the evidence in the record, that false representations made in the documents connected to the real estate transactions at issue would have been of critical importance to the lenders; the district court did not commit reversible error in its application of an enhancement for a loss amount of $7.1 million; and the district court did not err in applying a three-level enhancement for a manager's or supervisor's role, a two-level sophisticated-means enhancement, and a two level enhancement for abuse of a position of trust. View "United States v. Wolf" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit held that there was insufficient evidence to support defendant's convictions for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) conspiracy and government program theft. The court vacated these convictions and remanded for resentencing. However, the court held that there was sufficient evidence to convict defendant of honest services fraud, mail and wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements to federal agencies. Finally, the court rejected defendant's claim that the district court constructively amended the original indictment because the district court did not broaden the bases for defendant's conviction. Therefore, the court affirmed in all other respects. View "United States v. Pinson" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's 41 month prison sentence after he pleaded guilty to knowingly failing to register in Virginia as a sex offender. The court held that his Georgia rape convictions satisfied the requirements for finding him a Tier III offender because the Georgia offense was categorically comparable to or more severe than the federal crime of aggravated sexual abuse, as described in 18 U.S.C. 2241, which was one of the offenses defining a Tier III offender. View "United States v. Cammorto" on Justia Law

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The execution of a fraudulent scheme—not merely the submission of a false claim—may give rise to liability under 18 U.S.C. 1347 when execution of the scheme results in death. The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of two counts of healthcare fraud resulting in death under section 1347. Defendant, the former CEO of diagnostic imaging Alpha Diagnostics, argued that the fraudulent billing did not cause the deaths of the two patients. In this case, there was sufficient evidence to sustain defendant's convictions; the district court did not err in instructing the jury; and the district court did not err in admitting certain expert testimony on causation. View "United States v. Chikvashvili" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, who is civilly committed as a sexually dangerous person, filed suit against BOP employees challenging various conditions of his confinement at FCI Butner. The district court dismissed some of plaintiff's claims and then granted summary judgment as to the other claims. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court correctly dismissed BOP policies claims regarding double-bunking of civil detainees, forcing plaintiff to wear the same uniform as a prisoner, and limiting purchases at the commissary and his options on television to those of a prisoner; the commingling with prisoners claims where plaintiff was frequently in the presence of prisoners and that other prisoners taunted and harassed him; and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) claim where plaintiff did not qualify as an employee. The court also held that the district court correctly granted summary judgment as to the strip searches and mass shakedowns claims, the mail claims, and the educational and vocational programs claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Matherly v. Andrews" on Justia Law