Justia U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's sentence of forty-two months' imprisonment for illegal possession of a machine gun, holding that the sentence was both procedurally and substantively reasonable.On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erroneously applied a four-level enhancement to his total offense level for possession of a firearm in connection with another felony of drug possession pursuant to U.S.S.G. 2K2.1(b)(6). Specifically, Defendant argued that possession of a firearm in connection with mere drug possession for personal use was insufficient to apply the enhancement. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Defendant was clearly in possession of the firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking under this Court's case law, and therefore, the evidence was sufficient to justify an enhanced sentence for that reason; and (2) Defendant's sentence was substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Reyes-Torres" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction of violating federal laws by conspiring to receive, and of receiving, kickbacks from the pharmaceutical company Insys in exchange for prescribing its synthetic opioid, Subsys, holding that there was no merit to Defendant's arguments on appeal.Specifically, the First Circuit held (1) the government introduced sufficient evidence to prove that Defendant participated in a conspiracy to receive kickbacks or to prove that he accepted those kickbacks in exchange for prescribing Subsys; (2) Defendant's conduct fell outside the Anti-Kickback Statute's safe harbor provision; and (3) the district court did not err in failing to instruct the jury about that same safe harbor provision. View "United States v. Clough" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's sentence for firearm-related convictions, holding that the district court properly applied two sentencing enhancements in this case.Defendant pleaded guilty to an information charging two federal firearms counts. The presentence investigation report applied a number of enhancements to determine an adjusted offense level, only two of which were relevant to this appeal. One of the enhancements resulted in a four-level increase in the adjusted offense level for trafficking firearms. The other enhancement was an "other-felony-offense" enhancement, which was recommended on the basis that Defendant used or possessed the firearms in connection with another felony offense and also resulted in a four-level increase in the adjusted offense level. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that there was no prohibition in the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines proscribing simultaneous application of the trafficking and other-felony-offense enhancements. View "United States v. Stinson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court sentencing Defendant to an upwardly variant sixty-month term of immurement for illegal possession of a machine gun, holding that Defendant's sentence was neither procedurally nor substantively unreasonable.Specifically, the First Circuit held (1) the sentencing court specifically articulated why it believed that Defendant's situation was sufficiently distinctive to warrant a variance; (2) Defendant was not prejudiced when the prosecutor made a gratuitous conjecture without basis in the record; and (3) the relatively modest variance as well within the ambit of the court's discretion. View "United States v. Bruno-Campos" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The First Circuit affirmed the order of the district court denying Petitioner's second 28 U.S.C. 2255 petition, holding that the district court did not err.Petitioner was convicted of using a firearm during a crime of violence (specifically, pharmacy robbery), in violation of 18 U.S.C. 924(c). At sentencing, the district court determined that Petitioner qualified for a sentencing enhancement under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) because his criminal record included at least three violent felonies, including New Hampshire state court convictions for armed robbery and robbery. After the First Circuit affirmed Defendant's convictions, the law regarding what qualifies as a violent felony under ACCA and what qualifies as a crime of violence for section 924(c) changed. In light of these changes, Petitioner filed a section 2255 motion arguing that his sentence was improperly enhanced under the ACCA. The district court denied the motion. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Petitioner's robbery and armed robbery convictions are ACCA predicate crimes; and (2) pharmacy robbery is a crime of violence under the section 924(c) elements clause. View "Boulanger v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's convictions and sentence for three counts related to distribution of heroin and one count of discharging a firearm in furtherance of a drug crime, holding that the district court did not err.On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress certain evidence at trial and erroneously concluded that he was eligible for a two-level role enhancement under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court properly found that law enforcement officers had sufficient probable cause to substantiate a search warrant for Defendant's apartment before a protective sweep began, and Defendant did not establish that the government failed to meet the requirements for applying the inevitable discovery doctrine; and (2) the district court did not clearly err in applying the two-level role enhancement. View "United States v. Soto-Peguero" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction of possession with intent to distribute oxycodone, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress.Defendant's vehicle was intercepted by the Maine State Police, and Defendant's vehicle was searched. Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea to possession with intent to distribute oxycodone. On appeal, Defendant argued that the authorities lacked probable cause to search his vehicle and that the district court erred by refusing to suppress statements he made both before and after Miranda warnings were administered. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the authorities had probable cause to search Defendant's car, and therefore, the evidence seized during the vehicle search was admissible; and (2) the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress his statements. View "United States v. Simpkins" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court denying Defendant's motion to suppress drug evidence that was seized without a warrant after an automobile stop and drug evidence from a subsequent visual body cavity search, holding that the police had reasonable suspicion to perform the automobile stop and particularized reasonable suspicion to perform the visual body cavity search.On appeal, Defendant argued that his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments were violated because the law enforcement officers lacked reasonable suspicion to perform the initial stop of his vehicle and the requisite level of suspicion to perform the visual body cavity search of his person at the police station. The First Circuit disagreed, holding that the officers (1) had reasonable suspicion to stop Defendant's vehicle; and (2) had particularized reasonable suspicion to conduct the visual body cavity search. View "United States v. Perez" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on Plaintiff's racial discrimination and retaliation claims against the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), holding that both challenges were meritless.Plaintiff brought claims of racial discrimination, unlawful retaliation, and negligent infliction of emotional distress against the MBTA. The district court granted summary judgment to the MBTA on all claims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff did not produce sufficient evidence to get to a jury on his claim that he was denied a promotion based on his race; and (2) Plaintiff did not establish a prima facie case of retaliation. View "Henderson v. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the decision of the district court denying Defendant's motion to strike the government's notice of intent to seek the death penalty on retrial in this case, holding that double jeopardy barred the government from seeking the death penalty.Defendant was charged with nine counts of committing a violent crime in aid of racketeering and nine counts of using a firearm during a crime of violence. In advance of trial, the government filed a notice of its intent to seek the death penalty on sixteen of those counts. The jury found Defendant guilty on all charges but could not reach a unanimous decision as to punishment. The district court imposed a life sentence without the possibility of release. The First Circuit vacated the conviction, concluding that a courtroom closure during trial constituted structural error. On remand, the government again notified the court of its intention to seek the death penalty. Defendant moved to strike the government's notice on double jeopardy grounds. The district court denied the motion. The First Circuit reversed, holding (1) the first life sentence was an "acquittal," and therefore, double jeopardy barred the government from seeking the death penalty on retrial; and (2) the assumption that the initial penalty-phase jury was properly discharged was incorrect. View "United States v. Candelario-Santana" on Justia Law