Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
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A conviction for retaliating against a witness in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1513 does not require that the Government prove that defendant had knowledge of the federal nature of the proceeding. The Second Circuit rejected defendant's arguments to the contrary and affirmed his conviction for retaliating against a witness. The court remanded for revision of the provision of the sentence relating to the substance abuse treatment condition of supervised release; instructed the district court to consider on remand whether the court's forthcoming order in United States v. Traficante, No. 18-1962 (2d Cir., submitted Oct. 25, 2019) requires modification of the risk notification provision of supervised release; and granted the parties leave to reinstate this appeal to permit review of the district court's decision on remand as to the risk notification provision. View "United States v. Cotto" on Justia Law

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Where a district court offers no explanation for its sentence, and where neither the adopted presentence report nor the statement of reasons adequately demonstrates the court's reasoning, the court has committed plain error in violation of 18 U.S.C. 3553(c). The Second Circuit vacated defendant's sentence for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. The court held that the district court failed to state its reasons for sentencing defendant as required under section 3553(c); the error is clear or obvious; and the error affected defendant's substantial rights. Accordingly, the court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Rosa" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for using explosives, conspiring to murder U.S. nationals, conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, conspiring to bomb a U.S. government facility, and providing material support to terrorists. The court held that a district court does not abuse its discretion where it denies a defense counsel with the appropriate security clearance access to motions filed by the Government ex parte pursuant to section 4 of the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA); a custodial interrogation that takes place overseas over a period of several weeks and involves the display of hundreds of photographs as part of a foreign country's counterterrorism investigation is not unduly suggestive, thereby rendering inadmissible an out-of-court photo identification of the defendant; and a district court does not abuse its discretion when it limits the cross-examination of a fingerprint examiner to preclude references to a fingerprint misidentification in a wholly unrelated case. Under the circumstances in this case, the court held that the district court did not err in adjudicating the Government's CIPA motions ex parte and in camera, admitting the out-of-court photo identification of defendant, and limiting the cross-examination of the Government's fingerprint examiner. View "United States v. Al Farekh" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit reversed the district court's denial of defendant's Rule 29 motion for judgment of acquittal. On appeal, defendant argued that the government failed to prove that the protective order to which he was subject—the basis for the charged false statement on the Form 4473—meets the requirements of an order defined in 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(8). The court held that there was insufficient evidence that defendant had been issued a protective order "after a hearing" in which he had "an opportunity to participate," as required by section 922(g)(8)(A), and thus no rational trier of fact could find that when defendant submitted an application to purchase a firearm he violated section 922(a)(6) by knowingly lying about whether he was subject to such an order. View "United States v. Bramer" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit reversed the district court's denial of defendant's 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion to vacate his conviction on the ground of ineffective assistance of counsel. The court held that defendant received ineffective assistance because his lawyers did almost nothing to challenge the eyewitness identification testimony that formed the core of the Government's case, even though the identifications bore glaring indicia of unreliability. Furthermore, defendant received ineffective assistance because his counsel did not seek to exclude or object to the admission of a highly prejudicial and dubiously relevant photo of defendant posing with what appears to be a handgun. Because defendant was prejudiced by counsel's deficient performance, the court vacated his conviction and remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Nolan" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of a petition for writ of habeas corpus. The district court dismissed the petition based on the grounds that it became moot when petitioner was conditionally released from confinement in a state psychiatric institution as a person with a "dangerous mental disorder." The court held that the conditional release did not render the petition moot, because petitioner remains subject to an "order of conditions" that leaves him vulnerable to recommitment, and the imposition of this order was a mandatory consequence of the confinement orders that his petition challenges. View "Janakievski v. Executive Director, Rochester Psychiatric Center" on Justia Law

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United States v. Haymond, 139 S. Ct. 2369 (2019), did not undermine, let alone overrule, the Second Circuit's precedent on the validity of 18 U.S.C. 3583(e)(3). Haymond held that judicial factfinding authorized by a different supervised-release provision, section 3583(k), violates the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause and the Sixth Amendment's right to jury trial. The court held that judicial factfinding authorized under section 3583(e)(3) remains lawful. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's judgment of revocation following defendant's three violations of supervised release. View "United States v. Doka" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction and sentence for various tax offenses, including making and subscribing to a false tax return, tax evasion, and attempting to interfere with the administration of the internal revenue laws. Defendant's charges stemmed from his efforts, over the course of 14 years, to engage in a concerted campaign to obstruct the IRS's efforts to collect his delinquent tax payments and to secure overdue tax returns. The Second Circuit held that the district court lacked authority to require restitution payments to begin immediately following defendant's sentencing. However, the court held that, in assessing tax loss under USSG 2T1.1 application note 1, the district court was permitted to rely on uncharged relevant conduct constituting "willful evasion of payment" in violation of 26 U.S.C. 7201 and "willful failure to pay" in violation of 26 U.S.C. 7203. The court held that defendant's remaining claims were unavailing and affirmed the judgment as modified. View "United States v. Adams" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for conspiracy to commit witness tampering related to the death of one individual, conspiracy to commit tampering by planning to murder of another individual, and two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon. The court held that the district court's erroneous jury instructions did not rise to the level of reversible plain error; assuming that the district court committed evidentiary error by admitting hearsay declarations under Federal Rule of Evidence 804(b)(3), the error was harmless; there was no error in admitting a summary chart under Federal Rule of Evidence 1006, and had there been error, it was harmless; the district court did not err in determining that it was required to sentence defendant to the statutory minimum of life imprisonment; and defendant's remaining challenges to his sentence were without merit. View "United States v. Mack" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit denied defendant's motion to stay issuance of the judgment mandate pending his filing a petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court. Defendant was convicted of two counts each of honest services mail fraud, honest services wire fraud, and Hobbs Act extortion, and one count of money laundering. The court held that defendant presented no substantial questions raising either a reasonable probability that four justices will vote to grant certiorari, or a fair prospect that five justices will vote to reverse this court's judgment. The court also held that defendant failed to show good cause for issuing the stay. View "United States v. Silver" on Justia Law