Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

by
Van Haften, a Wisconsin native, was caught traveling to Turkey to join ISIS. Van Haften holds several bizarre beliefs and has a vendetta against the government, having been convicted of statutory rape and designated a sex offender. Van Haften pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, 18 U.S.C. 2339B(a)(1). The district court applied the terrorism enhancement (U.S.S.G. 3A1.4) because his crime was “calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct.” After hearing testimony about Van Haften’s delusional beliefs and his willingness to reform, the court gave him a below-guidelines sentence of 10 years. Without the terrorism enhancement, Van Haften’s range would have been 57–71 months. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting overwhelming evidence that Van Haften sought revenge against the government. While Van Haften’s motivations fluctuated over time and were sometimes incoherent, his actions were not irrational even if his factual predicates were false or absurd. It is unimportant why Van Haften wanted to retaliate against the government; he committed a crime calculated to retaliate against the government. A desire for safety and Islamic fellowship may have contributed his decision, but this was not Van Haften’s sole, or even primary, motivation. View "United States v. Van Haften" on Justia Law

by
Correa-Diaz, born in 1986 and a citizen of Mexico, entered the U.S. as a minor without parole. In 2004, Correa-Diaz, age 18, was arrested, based on a police officer’s observation of his conduct, in an automobile, with a 14-year-old girl. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment on an attempted sexual intercourse charge and six months’ imprisonment a sexual contact charge. The court suspended Correa-Diaz’s sentence. In 2015, Correa-Diaz pleaded guilty to counterfeiting in violation of Indiana law and was charged as removable under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii) for having been convicted of an aggravated felony, as defined by 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(A). The Seventh Circuit denied relief, rejecting arguments that the 2004 offenses did not constitute aggravated felonies. Because the Indiana law focused solely on the age of the participants, section 1101(a)(43)(A) requires the age of the victim to be less than 16. That condition was satisfied and “perform[ing] or submit[ing] to sexual intercourse or deviate sexual conduct” in violation of Indiana law constitutes “sexual abuse,” defined by the BIA “[t]he employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of a child to engage in, or assist another person to engage in, sexually explicit conduct or the rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children.” View "Correa-Diaz v. Sessions" on Justia Law

by
The Seventh Circuit reversed defendant's conviction and remanded to the district court for further proceedings. In this case, the district court granted defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty plea and proceeded to trial. On September 9, 2016, the district court brought the motion to withdraw the guilty plea back to life and then summarily denied it. The court held that the September 9 proceedings resulted in a new change of plea, which the district court accepted without conducting the colloquy required by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11. On remand, defendant must have the opportunity to enter a new plea, either guilty or not guilty, and the government is free to decide whether to pursue a plea agreement. View "United States v. Olson" on Justia Law

by
The Seventh Circuit reversed defendant's conviction and remanded to the district court for further proceedings. In this case, the district court granted defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty plea and proceeded to trial. On September 9, 2016, the district court brought the motion to withdraw the guilty plea back to life and then summarily denied it. The court held that the September 9 proceedings resulted in a new change of plea, which the district court accepted without conducting the colloquy required by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11. On remand, defendant must have the opportunity to enter a new plea, either guilty or not guilty, and the government is free to decide whether to pursue a plea agreement. View "United States v. Olson" on Justia Law

by
Little was shot to death at a gas station in 1991. Martinez and Luna claimed to have seen a man around the station at the time. Weeks later, Snow was arrested for robbing a different gas station. According to officers, Snow repeatedly asked about the Little investigation. Luna viewed a lineup and stated that Snow looked like the man he saw; Martinez made no identification. In 1999, Snow was indicted. Approached by the police, Snow provided false identification and fled. Claycomb, charged as Snow’s getaway driver, was tried first and acquitted. Snow told the judge that his appointed attorneys were unprepared for trial and unsuccessfully sought a continuance. Martinez identified Snow at trial. Luna did not. Twelve other witnesses testified that Snow indicated that he was involved in the crime. Snow and his wife testified that he was at home on the night in question. The jury found Snow guilty of first-degree murder. State courts denied Snow’s direct appeal. The Exoneration Project filed an unsuccessful post-conviction petition citing new evidence that one of Snow’s attorneys had since been disbarred. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of relief, finding some claims procedurally defaulted. It was reasonable for the state court to conclude that counsel’s failure to introduce certain evidence did not affect the outcome of the case, that the attorney’s personal problems did not constitute ineffective assistance of counsel that evidence allegedly withheld in violation of “Brady” was not material. View "Snow v. Pfister" on Justia Law

by
Little was shot to death at a gas station in 1991. Martinez and Luna claimed to have seen a man around the station at the time. Weeks later, Snow was arrested for robbing a different gas station. According to officers, Snow repeatedly asked about the Little investigation. Luna viewed a lineup and stated that Snow looked like the man he saw; Martinez made no identification. In 1999, Snow was indicted. Approached by the police, Snow provided false identification and fled. Claycomb, charged as Snow’s getaway driver, was tried first and acquitted. Snow told the judge that his appointed attorneys were unprepared for trial and unsuccessfully sought a continuance. Martinez identified Snow at trial. Luna did not. Twelve other witnesses testified that Snow indicated that he was involved in the crime. Snow and his wife testified that he was at home on the night in question. The jury found Snow guilty of first-degree murder. State courts denied Snow’s direct appeal. The Exoneration Project filed an unsuccessful post-conviction petition citing new evidence that one of Snow’s attorneys had since been disbarred. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of relief, finding some claims procedurally defaulted. It was reasonable for the state court to conclude that counsel’s failure to introduce certain evidence did not affect the outcome of the case, that the attorney’s personal problems did not constitute ineffective assistance of counsel that evidence allegedly withheld in violation of “Brady” was not material. View "Snow v. Pfister" on Justia Law

by
Indiana State Police conducted controlled buys at Tingle’s residence, then executed a search warrant. They found 165 grams of methamphetamine, digital scales, $5,520 in cash in the house plus $1,190 on Tingle’s person, and eight firearms, including a loaded handgun on a desk containing methamphetamine. The government offered Tingle a plea deal, stating that if he rejected the offer, it would seek a superseding indictment adding charges to increase the mandatory minimum sentence. Tingle rejected the offer. Tingle unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the additional charges based on prosecutorial vindictiveness. Tingle’s motions seeking disclosure of grand jury testimony and to suppress items found in the search were also denied. The court barred the government from introducing a 1982 drug conviction. The court stated that it would not label any witness as an “expert witness,” but nonetheless gave a jury instruction on expert witnesses, without identifying which witnesses were considered experts. The parties did not object. Tingle admitted to possessing the methamphetamine, but denied the distribution allegations, claiming the drugs were for personal use on a year‐long boat trip. The Seventh Circuit affirmed Tingle’s convictions for possessing and distributing methamphetamine and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, rejecting arguments concerning the jury instruction, witness testimony about Tingle’s mental state, access to grand jury materials, and prosecutorial vindictiveness. View "United States v. Tingle" on Justia Law

by
Indiana State Police conducted controlled buys at Tingle’s residence, then executed a search warrant. They found 165 grams of methamphetamine, digital scales, $5,520 in cash in the house plus $1,190 on Tingle’s person, and eight firearms, including a loaded handgun on a desk containing methamphetamine. The government offered Tingle a plea deal, stating that if he rejected the offer, it would seek a superseding indictment adding charges to increase the mandatory minimum sentence. Tingle rejected the offer. Tingle unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the additional charges based on prosecutorial vindictiveness. Tingle’s motions seeking disclosure of grand jury testimony and to suppress items found in the search were also denied. The court barred the government from introducing a 1982 drug conviction. The court stated that it would not label any witness as an “expert witness,” but nonetheless gave a jury instruction on expert witnesses, without identifying which witnesses were considered experts. The parties did not object. Tingle admitted to possessing the methamphetamine, but denied the distribution allegations, claiming the drugs were for personal use on a year‐long boat trip. The Seventh Circuit affirmed Tingle’s convictions for possessing and distributing methamphetamine and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, rejecting arguments concerning the jury instruction, witness testimony about Tingle’s mental state, access to grand jury materials, and prosecutorial vindictiveness. View "United States v. Tingle" on Justia Law

by
After a neighbor saw him brandishing a gun during an argument with his girlfriend and heard gunshots, Mancillas was convicted of two counts of possessing ammunition as a felon, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). He was sentenced to a term of 100 months. The Seventh Circuit agreed that the Indiana offense of strangulation is a “crime of violence” for Sentencing Guidelines purposes, so the district court did not err in calculating Mancillas’ base offense level. Applying the categorical approach, the court stated that the Indiana strangulation statute explicitly contemplates a degree of violent force in the final element of the offense. The court remanded for resentencing because the court summarily denied Mancillas’ clear and unequivocal request to represent himself at sentencing and failed to conduct a “Faretta” colloquy. Even at sentencing, where the complexities of trial and the difficult strategic choices are over, a court must respect the wishes of a defendant who unequivocally wishes to exercise his or her right to proceed pro se. This means undertaking a meaningful inquiry into a request for self-representation. View "United States v. Mancillas" on Justia Law

by
Brown, the manager of a company that provided home physician visits, and Talaga, who handled the company’s billing, were convicted of conspiracy to commit health-care fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1349; six counts of health-care fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1347; and three counts of falsifying a matter or providing false statements, 18 U.S.C. 1035(a). The district court sentenced Mr. Brown to 87 months’ imprisonment, 34 months below the Guidelines’ range, stating that a significant sentence was warranted because of the duration of the scheme, the amount of the fraud, the need for general deterrence, and Brown’s failure to accept responsibility. Ms. Talaga was sentenced to 45 months. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Brown’s argument that the court’s assumptions about the need for general deterrence were unfounded and constituted procedural error and Talaga’s arguments that the court calculated the amount of loss for which she was responsible by impermissibly including losses that occurred before she joined the conspiracy. The district court was under no obligation to accept or to comment further on Brown’s deterrence argument. Talaga, as a trained Medicare biller, knew that that the high-volume billings were fraudulent. View "United States v. Talaga" on Justia Law