Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the sentence Defendant received for being a felon in possession of a firearm, holding that any error in the district court's methodology in arriving at the sentence was harmless.Defendant pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The district court imposed a sentence of eighty-seven months in prison, which was less than the statute maximum of 120 months requested by the government. On appeal, Defendant challenged the procedures used by the district court in arriving at his sentence. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding (1) any error in the district court's methodology was harmless; and (2) Defendant was not entitled to relief on his remaining claims of error. View "United States v. Settles" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of federal drug offenses in a two-count indictment and sentencing him to 180 months' imprisonment, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his claims of error.While on federal supervised police, Defendant agreed to cooperate with local police, and his cooperation was allowed by a federal judge. The district court later issued a warrant for Defendant's arrest for violating the conditions of his supervised release. A federal grand jury subsequently indicted him on two counts of distributing a controlled substance. Defendant twice moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing that he had received federal immunity from prosecution for the drug offenses through his cooperation agreement. The district court denied the motions to dismiss. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in denying Defendant's first motion to dismiss based on federal immunity; and (2) did not err in denying Defendant's second motion to dismiss the indictment as a discovery sanction. View "United States v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Appellant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that the Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision affirming Defendant's conviction did not reflect an unreasonable application of clearly established law.Defendant moved to suppress incriminating statements he made to a detective, arguing that his statement "I don't want to talk about this" expressed an unambiguous intention to cut off all further questioning and that the detective's continued questioning violated Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). The trial court denied the motion, after which Defendant pleaded guilty to armed robbery and first-degree reckless injury. The Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no abuse of Miranda. Thereafter, Appellant brought his habeas petition. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the petition, holding that the Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision amounted to a reasonable application of the Supreme Court's Miranda line of cases. View "Smith v. Boughton" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Petitioner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2241 challenging his money-laundering convictions, holding that Petitioner did not face the kind of "fundamental miscarriage of justice" that must exist to justify relief under section 2241.After a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of violations of the Mann Act, 18 U.S.C. 2421-24, the money-laundering statute, 18 U.S.C. 1956, and associated conspiracies and sentenced to a 432-month term of imprisonment. Petitioner later filed his habeas petition arguing that he was convicted on the money-laundering counts for conduct that was not a crime. The district court denied relief. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that Petitioner failed to establish that he faced a "fundamental miscarriage of justice" necessary to justify relief under section 2241. View "Roberts v. LeJeune" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit vacated Defendant's above-Guidelines sentence of eighty-four months in prison imposed in connection with his plea of guilty to possessing a firearm as a felon, holding that the sentencing decision rested on conflicting findings that could not be reconciled.Based largely on his finding that Defendant was an active participant in the shoot-out at issue rather than an innocent bystander, the sentencing judge imposed an above-guidelines sentence of eighty-four months in prison. On appeal, Defendant argued that the judge selected the sentence based on the clearly erroneous finding that he was an active participant in the shooting. The Seventh Circuit agreed and remanded the cause for resentencing, holding that the record reflected an "inscrutable inconsistency" in the factual findings on which the judge based his choice of sentence. View "United States v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant's motion to suppress without holding an evidentiary hearing, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying an evidentiary hearing.A law enforcement officer stopped Defendant while he was riding a motorized bicycle and arrested him under the theory that his bicycle was a motor vehicle requiring a license. During the arrest, police searched Defendant and found various drugs and drug paraphernalia. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the government needed to establish probable cause that he was driving a motor vehicle on a revoked license. The district court summarily denied the motion. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the evidence established that the arresting officer had probable cause to believe that Defendant rolled past a stop sign, which independently supported Defendant's arrest. View "United States v. Norville" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court imposing an above-Guidelines sentence of eighty-four months after Defendant pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, holding that the sentence was procedurally and substantively reasonable.The court ultimately calculated Defendant's new offense level to be seventeen, yielding an advisory Guidelines range of fifty-one to sixty-three months' imprisonment. The district court concluded that an upward variance from the advisory guidelines range was required to protect the public and sentenced Defendant to eighty-four months' imprisonment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that Defendant's sentence was both procedurally and substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Dickerson" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed Defendants' convictions for arson stemming from their participation in riots in Madison, Wisconsin following the shooting of a Black man by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, holding that the district court properly held that 18 U.S.C. 844(i) is constitutional.Defendants Willie Johnson and Anessa Fierro moved to dismiss the indictment against them, arguing that the federal arson statute is facially unconstitutional because its enactment exceeded Congress's authority under the Commerce Clause. The district court denied the motion, after which Defendants entered into conditional plea agreements. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that section 844(i) was validly enacted pursuant to Congress's authority under the Commerce Clause. View "United States v. Fierro" on Justia Law

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Officers found nine firearms in Prado’s home: five were stolen and one had an obliterated serial number. Prado pled guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm as a felon, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1).The district court calculated the initial base offense level as 20, which was lower than the base offense level of 22 recommended in the PSR because Prado’s prior conviction for mob action by force was not a crime of violence. The court applied a four-level enhancement (U.S.S.G. 2K2.1(b)(1)(B)) because the offense involved 8-24 firearms; a two-level enhancement (U.S.S.G. 2K2.1(b)(4)(A)) because Prado possessed a stolen firearm; and a four-level enhancement under subsection (B) because Prado possessed a firearm with an obliterated serial number. The PSR indicated that section 2K2.1(b)(4) allowed the application of only one of the enhancements in its subsections, not both. A “hanging paragraph” in 2K2.1(b) provided that the cumulative offense level from the application of 2K2.1(b)(1)–(4) may not exceed 29. Following the imposition of those enhancements, the court applied a four-level enhancement (2K2.1(b)(6)(B)) because Prado used or possessed the firearms in connection with another felony, and deducted three levels for Prado’s acceptance of responsibility. Despite a guideline range of 135-168 months, the statutory maximum was 120 months.The Seventh Circuit affirmed Prado's 108-month sentence, rejecting an argument concerning Prado’s guideline range. Under any calculation, the applicable guideline range is the 120-month statutory maximum. View "United States v. Prado" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the order of the district court denying Defendants' requests for reduced sentences following their convictions stemming from their participation in a drug conspiracy involving the distribution of crack cocaine and heroin, holding that the district court properly denied Defendants' requests for reduced sentences.In 2009 and 2010, Defendants pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute controlled substances. In 2020, Defendants each filed motions under 404(b) of the First Step Act seeking reductions in their sentences based on changes congress made to penalties resulting from certain drug crimes. The district court judge denied the motions. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in ruling that Defendants were not entitled to relief under the First Step Act. View "United States v. Clay" on Justia Law