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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s sentence of 154 months’ imprisonment, holding that the sentence was both procedurally and substantively reasonable. Defendant pleaded guilty to carjacking with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, 18 U.S.C. 2119, and to carrying and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A)(ii). The district court imposed a sentence of eighty-four months of the section 924(c) offense and seventy months for the section 2119 offense. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court properly considered all of the factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. 3553(a); and (2) the aggregate 154-month sentence was substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Vallellanes-Rosa" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the conclusion of the district court that recognition of a “joint participant” exception to the spousal testimonial privilege is not warranted. The joint participant exception to the evidentiary privilege allows a spouse to testify against a defendant when the defendant has jointly participated in a criminal conspiracy with his spouse. In the instant case, Defendant and his wife (Wife) were arrested together and convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and conspiracy to distribute heroin and fentanyl. Intending to call Wife as a witness at Defendant’s trial, the Government subpoenaed Wife. Wife moved to quash the subpoena on the grounds that the spousal testimonial privilege prevented the Government from compelling her to testify. The district court granted Wife’s motion to quash and denied the Government’s motion to compel Wife’s testimony at Defendant’s trial. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the Government’s interest in being able to compel the testimony of a defendant’s co-conspiring spouse are outweighed by the significant policy concerns underlying the spousal testimonial privilege; and (2) therefore, the district court’s decision was not an abuse of discretion. View "United States v. Pineda-Mateo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The First Circuit vacated the district court’s denial of Defendants’ motion for a new trial based partly on a claim that one juror lied in filling out the written questionnaire given to prospective jurors prior to trial, holding that the district court’s investigation concerning the answers given by the juror was inadequate. After a jury trial, Defendants were convicted of charges arising out of a large-scale marijuana-farming operation. Defendants moved for a new trial, arguing that one juror lied in filling out a written questionnaire given to prospective jurors prior to trial. The district court denied the motion for a new trial. The First Circuit vacated the denial based on the possible bias of the juror and remanded for an evidentiary hearing, holding that the alleged bias of the juror presented a “colorable or plausible” claim of the type of juror misconduct that could require a new trial, and therefore, the district court was required to do more than it did before ruling on the new trial motion. View "United States v. Russell" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction stemming from an armed robbery committed in Puerto Rico and the sentence imposed, holding that armed robbery committed in violation of the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. 1951, qualifies as a “crime of violence” under 18 U.S.C. 924(c) and that Defendant's sentence was not an abuse of discretion. Defendant stood convicted of aiding and abetting a robbery committed in violation of the Hobbs Act and aiding and abetting felony murder in the course of using or carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. Defendant’s conviction for felony murder rested on the proposition that his offense that led to a death - armed robbery in violation of the Hobbs Act - was a “crime of violence” under section 924(c). On appeal, Defendant argued that his armed robbery conviction did not qualify as a crime of violence and challenged the imposition of a restitution order. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) a conviction for Hobbs Act robbery categorically constitutes a “crime of violence” under section 924(c)’s force clause; (2) the district court did not err in ordering restitution; (3) the district court did not err in making Defendant’s Guidelines calculation; and (4) the district court was within its discretion to impose consecutive sentences for counts one and three. View "United States v. Garcia-Ortiz" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court applying a two-level enhancement for possession of a stolen firearm and a four-level enhancement for using a firearm in connection with another felony in calculating Defendant’s sentence, holding that there was no fault in applying both enhancements to Defendant’s conduct. Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. In sentencing Defendant, the district court overruled Defendant’s objections to the guidelines calculation. Defendant appealed, claiming that the district court impermissibly “double counted” in applying enhancements for both possession a stolen firearm and possessing a firearm in connection with another felony offense. The First Circuit disagreed, holding that there was no basis to interpose an implied prohibition on “double counting” those enhancements. View "United States v. Brake" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to MVM, Inc. as to a former employee’s claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000, et seq., and related Puerto Rico laws, holding that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment as to these claims. Plaintiff, a former employee of MVM, Inc., brought a variety of federal and Puerto Rico law claims against MVM and other defendants. After dismissing several of Plaintiff’s claims, the district court granted summary judgment to MVM as to the remainder. The First Circuit affirmed the summary judgment ruling, holding that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to MVM on Plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim, Plaintiff’s claim under Title VII that MVM had unlawfully subjected her to disparate treatment because of her gender, and Plaintiff’s claim under Title VII for retaliation. View "Bonilla-Ramirez v. MVM, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s convictions and sentence for federal carjacking and weapons counts, holding that Defendant’s arguments on appeal failed. Specifically, the Court held (1) the force clause in 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A), which defines a crime of violence, encompassed Defendant’s 18 U.S.C. 2119 convictions for carjacking; (2) Defendant’s arguments that section 924(c) is unconstitutional, both facially and as applied, were without merit; (3) the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions; and (4) the district court did not err in instructing the jury as to what the government had to prove to sustain Defendant’s convictions. View "United States v. Cruz-Rivera" on Justia Law

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In this case alleging several violations of federal and state discrimination laws the First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court denying Defendant’s motion to stay the proceedings in district court and compel arbitration, holding that the contract to arbitration in between the parties was unenforceable. Plaintiffs - several individuals and the National Federation of the Blind - filed a complaint alleging that Defendant - the Container Store, Inc. - failed to utilize tactile keypads on its point-of-sale devices in its stores that could independently be used by customers who are blind in violation of federal and state discrimination laws. Defendant moved to compel arbitration, citing an arbitration provision in the terms and conditions of a loyalty program of which the individual plaintiffs were members. The district court denied the motion. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) based upon the lack of evidence that the in-store plaintiffs had any knowledge that arbitration terms applied to their enrollment in the loyalty program, Defendant failed to establish that an agreement to arbitrate was consummated between it and three of the four individual plaintiffs; and (2) the district court did not err in finding that the loyalty program agreement was illusory and therefore void. View "National Federation of the Blind v. Container Store, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court that the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction against a German corporation did not offend the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, holding that on the facts of this case the exercise of jurisdiction would not violate due process. Plaintiff, a Maine corporation, sued Defendant, a German corporation, in federal district court in Maine for trademark infringement. As a basis for personal jurisdiction over Defendant, Plaintiff said that Defendant’s nationwide contacts with the United States supported specific jurisdiction under Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(k)(2). On prima facie review, the district court concluded that it could constitutionally exercise specific personal jurisdiction over Defendant under Rule 4(k)(2). The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff met all three requirements to establish personal jurisdiction. View "Plixer International, Inc. v. Scrutinizer GMBH" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the convictions of Akeen Ocean and Jermaine Mitchell for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine base and Ocean’s sentence of 120 months’ imprisonment with three years of supervised release, holding that there was no merit in any of Appellants’ claims of error. Specifically, the Court held (1) there was sufficient evidence to convict Ocean of the charged conspiracy; (2) the district court did not err in admitting recorded jailhouse conversations Ocean had with a girlfriend who cooperated with the government; (3) the sentencing judge did not err in calculating Ocean’s drug quantity; and (4) the district court did not err by allowing two law enforcement witnesses to testify that they believed a substance they seized was crack cocaine. View "United States v. Ocean" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law