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Betts‐Gaston and Ross formed a company that defrauded homeowners and mortgage lenders. They found homeowners facing foreclosure and convinced them to sign documents that deeded their homes to a trust; arranged for straw buyers to obtain mortgages to buy the homes; and produced loan applications that inflated the buyers’ incomes and misrepresented the purpose of the purchases. Once a sale was completed, the buyer deeded the property back to the trust, so that the defendants had both the mortgage proceeds and title to the properties. The homeowners initially still lived in the homes but at least two were eventually evicted. At trial, the government offered evidence of three such transactions. Betts‐Gaston and Ross were indicted for wire fraud in 2011. Ross pled guilty and agreed to cooperate. Betts‐Gaston was convicted and sentenced to a 57-month prison term. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that: the government concealed the terms of Ross’s plea agreement, in violation of its Brady obligations; the court’s limited questioning of prospective jurors violated the right to an impartial jury; evidence on the materiality of her misrepresentations was excluded, impairing the right to present a defense; insufficient evidence supported the conviction on Count II; and the judge was hostile in front of the jury, impairing the right to a fair trial. View "United States v. Betts-Gaston" on Justia Law

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Two men robbed a store. The security video shows that one pointed a shotgun at the clerk. The gunman wore a black sweatshirt with a white skeleton pattern that zipped to form a skull hood. The gunman’s exposed hands appeared black to the clerk and on the video. The accomplice took cash. The men fled. Weeks later, officers visited Bailey’s mother. She showed the detectives Bailey's bedroom. They saw a skeleton hoodie and prepared an affidavit for a search warrant, noting that they had received an anonymous tip that Bailey, an African-American, had committed the robbery. A judge approved the warrant. Detectives seized the sweatshirt. Officers arrested Bailey after he fled. Bailey was indicted for armed robbery, possession of a short-barreled shotgun, and resisting arrest. The prosecutor dropped two charges; Bailey pleaded guilty to resisting. Bailey sued, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming violations of his Fourth Amendment rights, citing inconsistencies in the description. The district court denied motions to dismiss, based on purported falsehoods in the affidavit. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The warrant did not say whether the description came from the victim or the video and mentioned both sources; it was not deliberately false. There were few disparities between the video and the warrant description. Even if the warrant were stripped of possible falsities, a fair probability remained that the officers would find evidence of the robbery in Bailey’s home; his Fourth Amendment claim and his Monell claim against the city fail as a matter of law. View "Bailey v. City of Ann Arbor" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's 120 month sentence after he pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of ammunition. The court held that the district court properly chose not to rule on defendant's objections to the presentencing report because the objected-to material did not affect sentencing; the district court did not abuse its discretion by imposing a consecutive sentence; the district court did not procedurally err because it referenced 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors and the considerations in USSG 5G1.3, comment 4; and defendant's within-Guidelines range was substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Peterson" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for knowingly possessing a firearm. The court held that there was evidence sufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In this case, circumstantial evidence demonstrated that defendant had constructive possession of the guns. Furthermore, circumstantial evidence of constructive possession and testimony about prior specific instances where defendant handled the firearms were ways for the government to present sufficient evidence of knowing possession. View "United States v. McIntosh" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction of unlawful sexual contact, his sentence, and the trial court’s instruction that Defendant register as a Tier III registrant pursuant to the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act of 2013 (SORNA 2013). The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment and sentence but clarified that Defendant will be required to register pursuant to SORNA 1999 upon his release from incarceration, holding (1) the motion court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress his statements to a detective; (2) the court did not abuse its discretion by considering three instances of Defendant’s sexual contact with the victim when it set his basic sentence; and (3) Defendant should have been notified of his duty to register pursuant to SORNA 1999 - not SORNA 2013. View "State v. Seamon" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of conviction finding Defendant guilty of one count each of gross sexual assault, unlawful sexual contact, and sexual abuse of a minor following a jury trial. The court held (1) the trial court’s jury instructions as to the counts for gross sexual assault and unlawful sexual contact correctly informed the jury of the relevant law and the State’s burden of proof; (2) the temporal parameters for the conviction as established by the indictment were sufficient to avoid double jeopardy concerns; and (3) there was competent evidence in the record to support the jury’s guilt verdicts and thus the court’s entry of a judgment of conviction. View "State v. Hodgdon" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated Defendant’s conviction of murder in the first degree on theories of deliberate premeditation and extreme atrocity or cruelty. The court held (1) while not overwhelming, the evidence presented at trial was sufficient as a matter of law to support Defendant’s conviction of murder in the first degree, and therefore, there was no error in the judge’s denial of Defendant’s motion for a required finding; but (2) the trial judge’s failure to require an explanation of the prosecutor’s peremptory challenge of a prospective juror, who was African-American, was error, and because the error constituted structural error for which prejudice is presumed, the case must be remanded to the superior court for a new trial. View "Commonwealth v. Jones" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the government based on claimants' lack of Article III standing in a civil forfeiture case. The court held that claimants met their burden of making an assertion of ownership and provided some evidence of ownership to establish standing. The court explained that credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts were jury functions and not those of a judge. In this case, the record was devoid of contradictory evidence, claimants consistently maintained that the money was theirs, nothing in their account was physically impossible, and the couple explained how they came to own the money in considerable detail. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "United States v. $17,900.00" on Justia Law

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Appellant Leon Mills challenged a superior court decision to overturn a county court’s finding of a violation of Rule of Criminal Procedure 600 that he receive a prompt trial. The Rule requires that trial commence within 365 days from the date the criminal complaint is filed. Delays at any stage of the proceedings caused by the Commonwealth when it fails to exercise due diligence count in the 365-day tally. On June 6, 2011, the Commonwealth filed a complaint against Appellant charging him with a series of crimes arising out of a drive -by shooting, including attempted murder and aggravated assault. At a status meeting on March 20, 2012, however, per the Commonwealth's request, trial was continued. Trial was rescheduled to September 10, 2012. The outcome of the dismissal motion turned on whether or not 174 days was to be included or excluded in the 365 -day calculation. The common pleas court enforced the rule's main directive, and dismissed. Upon review, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed with Appellant that time attributable to the normal progression of a case simply was not "delay" for purposes of Rule 600, and reinstated the dismissal order. View "Pennsylvania v. Mills" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Smith, a Putnam County police officer, of violating 18 U.S.C. 242, by subjecting two men to the intentional use of unreasonable and excessive force, and violating their civil rights. Smith’s fellow police officers had testified against him, describing two separate, unwarranted attacks on arrestees who were fully under control. Smith had bragged about his behavior and mocked those who objected. Smith had a prior conviction for misdemeanor battery of a three-year-old child and the child’s mother, who was then Smith’s wife. Smith had not taken responsibility for his actions, had “unaddressed anger control issues,” and had engaged in other misconduct that had not resulted in criminal charges. The district court sentenced Smith to 14 months’ imprisonment, less than half the low end of the guidelines range. The Seventh Circuit affirmed Smith’s conviction but vacated the sentence. On remand, the court again sentenced Smith to 14 months’ imprisonment and again failed to adequately explain or justify the below-guidelines sentence. The Seventh Circuit again vacated and remanded, citing the “thin rationale” for the sentence. The court’s brief mention of the nature and circumstances of the offense affords no basis to review its exercise of discretion. View "United States v. Smith" on Justia Law