Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
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Defendant, the former Speaker of the New York State Assembly, 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 Second Circuit held that extortion under color of right and honest services fraud require that the official reasonably believe, at the time the promise is made, that the payment is made in return for a commitment to perform some official action. However, neither crime requires that the official and payor share a common criminal intent or purpose. The court also held that both offenses require that the official understand—at the time he accepted the payment—the particular question or matter to be influenced. In this case, the district court's instructions failed to convey this limitation on the "as the opportunities arise" theory, and the error was not harmless with respect to defendant's convictions under three counts. Furthermore, the evidence as to the same three counts was insufficient as a matter of law to sustain a guilty verdict, and thus the court remanded with directions to dismiss the indictment with prejudice as to them. The court found the error was harmless as to Counts 3s, 4s, and 6s, and affirmed defendant's conviction on those counts. Finally, the court affirmed defendant's conviction under Count 7s for money laundering, because that crime does not require the defendant to be convicted of the underlying criminal offenses, nor does it require the underlying offense to take place within the limitations period. View "United States v. Silver" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision affirming the IJ's denial of petitioner's motion to terminate removal proceedings, his applications for a waiver of inadmissibility and readjustment of status, and ordering him removed. The court held that petitioner's conviction for attempted possession of a sexual performance by a child, in violation of New York Penal Law 263.16, is an aggravated felony, and his remaining arguments failed to raise a colorable constitutional claim or question of law. View "Quito v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Defendant was sentenced to 120 months in prison for federal drug offenses and the district court recommended that his federal sentence run concurrently with a yet-to-be-imposed state sentence for a parole violation. Defendant appealed, arguing that the district court erroneously assumed that it lacked the authority to impose a sentence that was concurrent or consecutive with the state sentence. The government consented to a partial remand to the district court because the district court erroneously assumed that it lacked authority to impose rather than merely recommend concurrent or consecutive sentences with respect to the yet‐to‐be‐imposed state sentence. However, the government did not consent to a remand for the district court to reconsider a related Guidelines issue, arguing that defendant waived his right to appeal procedural sentencing errors as part of his plea agreement. The Second Circuit vacated the sentence and remanded for the district court to consider both issues because they were closely related and it was within the court's discretion to control the scope of its mandate. View "United States v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for wire fraud, Title 18 securities fraud, conversion of U.S. property, and conspiracy, arising from the misappropriation of confidential information from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The federal wire fraud, securities fraud, and conversion statutes, are codified at 18 U.S.C. 1343, 1348, and 641, respectively. The court held that confidential government information may constitute "property" for purposes of the wire fraud and Title 18 securities fraud statutes. The court also held that the "personal-benefit" test announced in Dirks v. SEC, 463 U.S. 646 (1983), does not apply to those Title 18 fraud statutes. Finally, the panel found no prejudicial error with respect to the remaining issues presented on appeal. View "United States v. Blaszczak" on Justia Law

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Personal jurisdiction exists whenever an individual, charged with a crime over which the Federal court has subject matter jurisdiction, is brought before that court. The Second Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of obstruction of Government administration for making false statements to the IRS. The court held that the district court had personal jurisdiction over defendant where the district court had jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case: an alleged violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001. In this case, the indictment charged defendant and defendant was present before the district court. Therefore, the judgment was valid. View "United States v. McLaughlin" on Justia Law

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The Government appealed the substantive reasonableness of defendant's sentence for conspiring to provide material support to ISIS and attempting to murder a federal agent in the name of ISIS. The Second Circuit held that defendant's sentence of 17 years' imprisonment—which constitutes an 80% reduction from his recommended Guidelines range of 85 years—was substantively unreasonable in light of his exceptionally serious conduct involving a domestic terrorist attack against law enforcement in the name of ISIS; where a district court has accepted a defendant's guilty plea and his allocution to the elements of each charged offense, it cannot make findings of fact during sentencing that contradict or otherwise minimize the conduct described at defendant's plea hearing; where a sentencing court opts to compare the relative culpability of co‐defendants, it cannot selectively rely on a factor when it serves a mitigating function in one case, but then subsequently ignore the same factor when it serves an aggravating function in the other case; a defendant's legally‐required compliance with institutional regulations during his term of pre‐trial and pre‐sentencing detention is not a substantially mitigating factor for purposes of sentencing; and, at defendant's resentencing, the district court shall accord substantially greater weight to the specified 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors. Accordingly, the court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Mumuni" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment sentencing defendant to two months in prison for attempting to export defense articles without a license in violation of the Arms Export Control Act of 1976. The court held that the challenged statute and regulations were constitutionally applied to defendant; defendant lacked Article III standing to bring a facial overbreadth challenge; and defendant's other facial First Amendment challenges were without merit. View "United States v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Defendants Campo and Flores appealed their convictions and sentences for conspiracy to import five or more kilograms of cocaine into the United States. According to Campo, who from an early age was raised by Cilia Flores, the First Lady of Venezuela, and sometimes referred to her as his mother, defendants sought to raise $20 million in drug proceeds in order to fund Cilia Flores's 2015 campaign for a position in the Venezuelan National Assembly. The Second Circuit rejected defendants' claims of evidentiary errors; held that the evidence at trial was ample to permit the jury to find that defendants, if they lacked actual knowledge, deliberately avoided learning--or forming a belief--that their cocaine was to be bound for the United States; defendants' challenges to the instruction on conscious avoidance were without merit; and defendants' challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence of predisposition was without merit where, upon mention that the drugs would be sold in the United States, there was no semblance of any reluctance or hesitation by these defendants, who had spent the previous two months attempting to get partners for their plans to fly cocaine to other countries. Finally, the court rejected challenges to the district court's application of a two-step adjustment for defendants' roles in the conspiracy as supervisors or leaders of criminal activity under USSG 3B1.1(c), and a two-step enhancement for use of a private aircraft for importation under USSG 2D1.1(b)(3)(A). Accordingly, the court affirmed the convictions and sentences. View "United States v. Flores" on Justia Law

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There is no error in applying the career offender enhancement under USSG 4B1.1, to a defendant convicted of racketeering conspiracy based on underlying predicate acts of racketeering that qualify as crimes of violence under USSG 4B1.2. The Second Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and held that, even assuming defendant preserved his argument that the 2016 Guidelines should have been used, the district court did not err in concluding that defendant's conviction for federal racketeering conspiracy based on the predicate acts of racketeering is a crime of violence under section 4B1.1 of the 2016 Guidelines. Furthermore, the court held that defendant's prior New York state robbery convictions are clearly crimes of violence under the 2015 Guidelines. The court disposed of the consolidated appeals of defendant's co-defendants in a separate summary order. View "United States v. Canteen" on Justia Law

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Defendant filed a notice of appeal more than three years after he was sentenced for two counts of assault on a law enforcement officer. The Second Circuit held that United States v. Fuller, 332 F.3d 60, 65 (2d Cir. 2003), was inapplicable in this case, because it was unclear whether defendant could have filed a timely petition for habeas relief in the district court at the time he filed his untimely notice of appeal with this court. Therefore, the court dismissed defendant's appeal as untimely, and remanded to the district court with instructions to convert his notice of appeal into a petition for habeas relief, assessing whether such petition would be timely under 28 U.S.C. 2255(f)(4). View "United States v. Wright" on Justia Law