Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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Lund and 30 others were charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin. The indictment alleged that the conspiracy resulted in overdose deaths of five individuals, 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(A). Lund pleaded guilty but denied responsibility for two deaths, arguing that he had withdrawn from the conspiracy before those deaths. The district court judge rejected that argument and sentenced him in accordance with the 20-year mandatory minimum (“death results” enhancement). The Seventh Circuit affirmed. His sentence became final in 2013. In 2016, Lund filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255 based on changes in the law occurring after his conviction. In Burrage, the Supreme Court held that finding a defendant guilty of the “death results” penalty “requires proof ‘that the harm would not have occurred in the absence of—that is, but for—the defendant’s conduct.’” This but-for causation rule applies retroactively. Lund argued that under Burrage, he is actually innocent of the “death results” enhancement because the heroin he provided to two individuals was not the but-for cause of their deaths. The district court found that there was no statutory basis to find his petition timely; it was filed more than a year after the Supreme Court decided Burrage and more than a year after the evidence he presented could have been discovered, The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Even assuming actual innocence can be premised on a change in the law, Lund cannot take advantage of the exception because he rests both his actual innocence claim and his claim for relief on Burrage. View "Lund v. United States" on Justia Law

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Eight men entered a Chicago rail-yard, broke into a parked cargo train, and discovered firearms being shipped to a distributor. They stole over 100 guns. The government claimed, and one robber (Turner) testified, that another robber (Walker), contacted Driggers to sell the guns. Turner and Walker took 30 stolen firearms to Driggers’s store and consummated the sale. Turner received $1,700 for six guns that comprised his share. Driggers was not on the lease but the store was his. Police searched Driggers’s store. An ATF Agent testified that the agents found a hodgepodge of merchandise (some apparently stolen), personal documents and items belonging to Driggers, and a gun hidden in the backroom--its serial number matched a gun stolen during the train robbery. Trial testimony and phone records showed that after Driggers allegedly purchased the 30 stolen guns, he contacted Gates. Before Driggers’s trial, Gates confessed. Gates’s storage units contained six stolen guns. Gates confessed to purchasing them, plus 11 others from the train robbery. In his own case, Gates stated that he purchased those guns from Lipscomb and Peebles; in Driggers’s case, the prosecution argued that Gates had bought them from Driggers. The Seventh Circuit affirmed Driggers’s conviction for possession of a firearm as a felon, 18 U.S.C. 922(g). He was acquitted of possession of a stolen firearm. The court rejected arguments that the district court improperly allowed testimony about Gates and gave an erroneous jury instruction on joint possession. View "United States v. Driggers" on Justia Law

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Rainsberger was charged with murdering his elderly mother and was held for two months. He claims that the detective who built the case against him, Benner, submitted a probable cause affidavit that contained lies and omitted exculpatory evidence. When the prosecutor dismissed the case because of evidentiary problems, Rainsberger sued Benner under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court denied Benner’s motion, in which he argued qualified immunity. Benner conceded, for purposes of his appeal, that he knowingly or recklessly made false statements in the probable cause affidavit, arguing that knowingly or recklessly misleading the magistrate in a probable cause affidavit only violates the Fourth Amendment if the omissions and lies were material to probable cause. The Seventh Circuit rejected that argument. Materiality depends on whether the affidavit demonstrates probable cause when the lies are taken out and the exculpatory evidence is added in. When that is done in this case, Benner’s affidavit fails to establish probable cause to believe that Rainsberger murdered his mother. Because it is clearly established that it violates the Fourth Amendment “to use deliberately falsified allegations to demonstrate probable cause,” Benner is not entitled to qualified immunity. View "Rainsberger v. Benner" on Justia Law

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Maier was convicted of threatening Wisconsin state court judges in 2006. In 2011, Maier mailed a handwritten letter to the jurors in that case, stating that after being “skrewed” and serving two years in prison, Maier was “going for a Pardon.” Maier addressed various injustices he believed he suffered during his prosecution, trial, and incarceration, closing the letter by encouraging the jurors to mail their questionnaires to the governor’s Pardon Advisory Board with a copy to Maier. The letter did not included direct threats. Maier sent a second letter, encouraging the jurors to contact his state representative or the governor’s office, and signed off as “Your friend from Planet of the Apes Courthouse In downtown Zappenville[.]” Convicted of six counts of stalking, Maier was sentenced to 15 years in prison. After exhausting state remedies and unsuccessfully seeking Supreme Court review, Maier sought federal post-conviction review under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of the petition; the Wisconsin Court of Appeals’ decision was not objectively unreasonable. The statute criminalizes behavior that ʺwould cause a reasonable person under the same circumstances to suffer serious emotional distress, so failing to introduce evidence of non-jurors’ impressions could not have harmed Maierʹs defense to such an extent that it changed the outcome. The court rejected an argument that the jury instructions misstated Wisconsin law, relieving the state of its burden of proof. View "Maier v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Four men conspired to sell heroin to an undercover officer. Arturo and Enemicio had phone conversations with the officers, arranging to sell 995 grams of heroin for $180,000. Enemicio drove Arturo to the officer’s car. Arturo instructed him to drive to another location, where Omar verified that the officer had the cash. Tomas arrived carrying a firearm and the heroin. The men were charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute a mixture containing 100 grams or more of heroin, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1) and 846, and distribution of 100 or more grams of heroin. Enemicio, additionally charged for a previous heroin deal, had one prior burglary conviction and was sentenced to 65 months. Tomas, additionally charged with possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, was sentenced to 110 months. Arturo pleaded guilty to Count Two. The court calculated Arturo’s criminal history using his 2009 conviction for manufacturing and delivering cocaine, based on charges filed in 1990, and more recent convictions for possession of a controlled substance and of an altered identification card. Arturo committed the 2016 offense while on parole; he had two much older convictions. His advisory range was 100-125 months, with a statutory mandatory minimum of 60 months. Arturo argued, under 18 U.S.C. 3553(a), that the calculation “over-represented” his criminal history due to the time between the 1990 crime and his conviction, that his co-defendants played a larger role in the conspiracy, and a lower sentence would avoid a disparity between his sentence and Enemicio’s. Arturo also cited age, poor health, low likelihood of recidivism, and that he would face harsh conditions because his status as a deportable alien would prevent him from accessing prison programs and resources. The Seventh Circuit affirmed Arturo's 100-month sentence. The district court thoroughly considered the facts and Arturo’s arguments. View "United States v. Bustos" on Justia Law

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In 1977, Peoria police officers arrested 14-year-old Savory for the rape and murder of Cooper and the murder of Cooper’s 14-year-old brother. Savory claims that officers subjected him to an abusive 31-hour interrogation; fabricated evidence; wrongfully coerced a false confession; suppressed and destroyed exculpatory evidence; fabricated incriminating statements from alleged witnesses; and ignored evidence pointing to other suspects. Savory was tried as an adult. His conviction for first-degree murder was overturned. He was convicted again in 1981 and was sentenced to 40-80 years in prison. Savory exhausted state remedies; he unsuccessfully sought federal habeas corpus relief. He repeatedly sought clemency and DNA testing. He was paroled in 2006. In 2011, the governor commuted the remainder of Savory’s sentence, terminating his parole but leaving his conviction intact. In 2015, the governor issued a pardon that “acquitted and discharged” Savory’s conviction. Less than two years later, Savory sued the city and police officers under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Under Supreme Court precedent (Heck), Savory could not bring suit until he obtained a favorable termination of a challenge to his conviction; he had to file suit within two years of accrual. The defendants asserted that the Heck bar lifted when Savory’s parole was terminated in 2011. The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of the claims as untimely. Savory’s claims, which closely resemble malicious prosecution claims, could not accrue until “the conviction or sentence ha[d] been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal … or ... by a federal court’s issuance of a writ of habeas corpus.” View "Savory v. Cannon" on Justia Law

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Chicago police officers stopped a Toyota after it sped out of an alley. The driver fled, leaving several passengers. Officer Morlock pursued the driver. The Toyota rolled and wedged itself against Flaherty’s squad car. Passenger Grant tried to escape but his legs got stuck between the cars. Flaherty ordered the other passengers to “quit moving.” Brown, age 13, attempted to flee but stopped hanging out of a window. Officers Proano and Habiak arrived. Proano had his weapon cocked and aimed at the Toyota. Seconds later, passenger Bates reached over the console, put the car in reverse, and pressed the gas pedal. The Toyota moved and a BB gun fell out. No one was in its path. Habiak picked up the gun. Proano fired shots as the Toyota pivoted and rolled into a light pole. Ten of Proano’s 16 bullets entered the Toyota; one hit Bates’s shoulder, others grazed his face. Two bullets hit another passenger in his leg and foot. No other officer fired shots. Proano reported that he shot because of an “imminent threat of battery.” Proano did not identify the BB gun as a contributing factor. Proano was convicted for willfully depriving the passengers of their right to be free from unreasonable force, 18 U.S.C. 242. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Proano’s arguments regarding the admission of training and policy evidence and the jury instruction on willfulness. The court upheld the denial of a “Garrity” motion. Under Garrity, when a public official must choose between cooperating in an internal investigation or losing his job, his statements during the investigation cannot be used against him in a criminal trial. Federal prosecutors were never exposed to Proano’s protected statements. A dashcam video, other witnesses, and police reports all provided independent bases from which they could have learned the facts. View "United States v. Proano" on Justia Law

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Neilitz purchased $125,000 worth of ECS stock; Rawah Partners invested $350,000. In 2008, Corrigan, ECS’s President and CEO, negotiated a sale of ECS. Because of the worldwide financial downturn, the sale fell through. Shortly thereafter, ECS's board authorized Corrigan to manage ECS as he saw fit. Corrigan was negotiating another sale when ECS began to suffer cash flow problems. ECS had difficulty paying expenses and officers’ compensation. It closed its Chase Bank account and opened a new LaSalle Bank account that excluded the Vice President from its signatories. ECS's employee healthcare policy was canceled in January 2009, for nonpayment. Corrigan began soliciting Neilitz and Rawah for additional investments announcing that ECS was close to closing a sale but needed funds for healthcare insurance premiums. Per Corrigan’s instructions Neilitz and Rawah each wired $50,000 to an account which, unbeknownst to them, was Corrigan’s personal account. Corrigan spent the funds for personal expenses. Corrigan was terminated from ECS in 2011. Corrigan contacted Neilitz and Rawah, attempting to buy back the fraudulently sold stock but reaffirmed his original lie. Corrigan was convicted on four counts of wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343. The Seventh Circuit affirmed his conviction and an order of restitution in the full amount of the investments. The indictment adequately alleged a scheme to defraud; the evidence supported the conviction. View "United States v. Corrigan" on Justia Law

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Mitchell enrolled in an Elgin Community College online criminal-justice course. The instructor, an Elgin police officer, eventually advised her that she was failing the course. Soon after, the police department received anonymous threats and a harassing email targeting the officer. Another officer swore out a complaint accusing Mitchell of electronic communication harassment. She was arrested, immediately bonded out, and two years later was acquitted. Mitchell sued the city and several officers seeking damages for wrongful prosecution. A district judge dismissed the case, concluding that the federal claims were either untimely or not cognizable. Mitchell appealed. The Supreme Court’s 2017 decision, Manuel v. Joliet, overturned circuit precedent that defeated Mitchell’s Fourth Amendment claim below, clarifying that pretrial detention without probable cause is actionable under the Fourth Amendment, via 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Court did not decide when the claim accrues. A Seventh Circuit panel then held that a Fourth Amendment claim for unlawful pretrial detention accrues when the detention ends. The court did not determine the timeliness of Mitchell’s claim because the parties did not adequately address whether and under what circumstances a person who is arrested but released on bond remains “seized” for Fourth Amendment purposes or what conditions of release, if any, were imposed on Mitchell when she bonded out. View "Mitchell v. City of Elgin" on Justia Law

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Hagen was convicted twice under Illinois law for failing to get her children to school (Guardian Allows Child Truancy). She later pleaded guilty in federal court for conspiring to distribute methamphetamine. The district court counted her two convictions for allowing child truancy toward her criminal history score. The Seventh Circuit reversed, applying a five‐factor test to confirm that Guardian Allows Child Truancy is similar to, but less serious than, the offense of non‐support (failing to provide for a child’s basic needs); Sentencing Guidelines section 4A1.2(c)(1) therefore required its exclusion from the criminal history score. Non‐support bears so many obvious similarities to Guardian Allows Child Truancy that the court plainly ought to have considered it; the court committed plain error, affecting a substantial right. View "United States v. Hagen" on Justia Law