Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The district court did not err in imposing a 218-month sentence on Defendant for conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing heroin, holding that the sentence was not procedurally unreasonable. On appeal, Defendant challenged the drug quantity that the district court attributed to him. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that, contrary to Defendant’s argument on appeal, certain witness statements concerning Defendant’s heroin distribution, as out-of-court statements, were not inherently less reliable for sentencing purposes. Rather, the district court’s reliance on the witness statements and its adoption of a narrowly tailored drug quantity determination supported by that evidence were reasonable. View "United States v. Lee" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction for possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, holding that Defendant’s argument that the conviction was invalid owing to the district court’s acceptance of Defendant’s guilty plea despite the court’s failure to satisfy Fed. R. Crim. P. 11 failed. Specifically, the First Circuit held (1) the facts on record are at least arguably sufficient to satisfy the requirement of demonstrating on the record a factual basis for the “in furtherance” element as required under Rule 11; and (2) the court addressed Defendant with enough care to determine that he understood the nature of the “in furtherance” charge to which he was pleading guilty. View "United States v. Gonzalez-Negron" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The First Circuit vacated Virgilio Diaz-Jimenez’s (Diaz) conviction and remanded the cause for further proceedings, holding that the search of Diaz’s home was unconstitutional, and the error was prejudicial. Diaz and Hector Serrano-Acevedo (Serrano) were convicted of armed bank robbery and possession of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. On appeal, Diaz argued that the government’s warrantless search of his home violated his Fourth Amendment rights and that the district court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence uncovered during the search. Serrano argued that certain statements made during trial were impermissible hearsay. The First Circuit vacated Diaz’s conviction and affirmed Serrano’s conviction, holding (1) the district court erred by denying Diaz’s motion to suppress, and the error was not harmless; and (2) if there was any error in the admission of the statements challenged by Serrano, it was harmless. View "United States v. Serrano-Acevedo" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the 120-month sentence Defendant received after pleading guilty to being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm, holding that the sentence was neither procedurally nor substantively unreasonable. Specifically, the First Circuit held (1) the district court did not err by classifying Defendant’s prior conviction for attempted murder under Puerto Rico law as an enumerated “crime of violence” that triggers an increase in his base offense level pursuant to the United States Sentencing Guidelines; (2) the district court’s upward variance from Defendant’s advisory sentencing range under the guidelines was procedurally sound, and Defendant’s remaining procedural challenges failed; and (3) Defendant’s sentence was substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Benitez-Beltran" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the sixty-month sentence Defendant received following the revocation of his supervised release, holding that his sentence was neither procedurally nor substantively unreasonable. In 2010, Defendant completed a prison sentence for possession a gun and ammo in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime and began a five-year term of supervised release. After Defendant violated the terms of his release and was indicted for being a felon in possession of a firearm, the district court sentenced Defendant to sixty months in prison. The First Circuit affirmed the sixty-month revocation sentence, holding that the sentence was neither procedurally unsound or substantively unreasonable. View "United States v. Tanco-Pizarro" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The First Circuit vacated the judgment of the district sentencing Defendant to twenty-one months of imprisonment for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana and seventy-two months of imprisonment for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, to be served consecutively, and remanded this matter for resentencing. Defendant pleaded guilty to the crimes pursuant to a plea agreement that endorsed a decrease by two levels for acceptance of responsibility and ignored the possibility of a three-level reduction under the governing guideline. The district court approved a two-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility and imposed the sentences set forth above. The First Circuit vacated the sentences, holding that Defendant’s counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to detect the possibility of an extra level decrease and that Defendant deserved the extra level decrease and resentencing. View "United States v. Robles-Pabon" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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On the facts of the case, the constitutional speedy trial clock began to run from the date of the original indictment rather than from the date of an additional charge first brought in a superseding indictment. A federal grand jury indicted Defendant on twelve counts of wire fraud. Approximately six years later, the government filed a superseding indictment containing the same twelve wire-fraud counts as the original indictment and adding a new count for bank fraud. The district court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss the original indictment and the added bank-fraud count on Sixth Amendment speedy trial grounds. The government appealed, arguing that, with respect to the bank-fraud charge, the district court should have measured the period of delay from the filing of the superseding indictment, not from the filing of the initial indictment. The First Circuit disagreed, holding that the bringing of an additional charge does not reset the Sixth Amendment speedy trial clock to the date of the superseding indictment where the additional charge and the charge for which the defendant was previously accused are based on the same act or transaction, or common scheme or plan, and where the government could have, with diligence, brought the additional charge at the time of the prior accusation. View "United States v. Handa" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s sentence following his guilty plea to a two-count indictment charging him with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and unlawful possession of a machine gun. The district court sentenced Defendant to sixty months in prison on each count, to be served concurrently. The sentence directed periodic drug testing of Defendant during his subsequent supervised release. On appeal, Defendant objected to the sixty-month sentences. The First Circuit held (1) although the district court considered community considerations, the judge did not ignore Defendant’s individual circumstances, nor did he fail to explain why an upward variance was warranted; and (2) the drug testing requirement was reasonably related to the legitimate objectives of supervised release. View "United States v. Laureano-Perez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court in this criminal case, holding that the sentence imposed upon Defendant in connection with his plea of guilty to transporting child pornography was without error. Pursuant to the parties’ plea agreement, the government recommended a sentence at the lower end of the applicable range at sentencing. The district court calculated the guideline sentence at a new range of 121-151 months and then sentenced Defendant to 121 months’ imprisonment, the bottom of the range but higher than any sentence support by both parties. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) even if the district court did not explicate on the record its consideration of every argument Defendant presented in his sentencing memorandum, those arguments were unmistakably considered and rejected elsewhere in the court’s reasoning; and (2) as for Defendant’s attack on the guideline invoked by the district court, the First Circuit has, in settled precedent, upheld a district court’s discretion to follow it or not. View "United States v. Rivera-Hernandez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendants’ convictions for wire fraud, embezzlement of public money, and conspiracy, holding that there was no merit in any of Defendants’ claims of error. Defendants, members of the United States Army National Guard in Puerto Rico, were convicted for carrying out a fraudulent scheme to obtain recruitment bonuses. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in denying Defendants’ pretrial motion to dismiss the indictment as untimely; (2) the court’s rulings as to military dress in the courtroom were not an abuse of discretion; (3) the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions; (4) Defendants’ evidentiary challenges failed; and (5) one of the Defendant’s challenge to his sentence was unavailing. View "United States v. Melendez-Gonzalez" on Justia Law