Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s sentence of sixty months in prison following his guilty plea to being a felon in possession of a firearm and unlawfully possessing a machine gun, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. After entered his guilty plea, the district court varied upward and sentenced Defendant to sixty months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. The presentence report stipulated a guidelines imprisonment range of thirty to thirty-seven months. On appeal, Defendant claimed that the variant sentence was excessive and thus substantively unreasonable. The First Circuit disagreed, holding that, given Defendant’s offense conduct and his criminal history, the sentence imposed was substantively reasonable and that the variance was lawfully imposed and adequately explained. View "United States v. Hernandez-Ramos" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the sentence imposed upon Defendant, a convicted fraudster, particularly the restitution order entered pursuant to the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act (MVRA), 18 U.S.C. 3663A, in the amount of $581,880, holding that the district court satisfied the requirements of the MVRA. Defendant pleaded guilty to seven counts of mail fraud and two counts of visa fraud. The government sought a total of $581,880 in restitution on behalf of 368 victims. The district court adopted the government’s calculations and ordered restitution accordingly. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) both the district court and the First Circuit had jurisdiction over the matter; and (2) there was no abuse of discretion in the order of restitution. View "United States v. Naphaeng" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s sentence of 276 months in prison for conspiracy to commit kidnapping, holding that the sentence was neither procedurally flawed nor substantively unreasonable. After Defendant pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit kidnapping, the district court imposed a below-guidelines sentence. On appeal, Defendant challenged the sentence’s procedural and substantive reasonableness. The First Circuit affirmed the sentence, holding (1) the ransom-demand enhancement under section 2A4.1(b)(1) of the guidelines was not plain error; (2) Defendant’s arguments regarding the judge not expressly ruling on his objections to the presentence report’s inclusion of a two-level obstruction-of-justice enhancement and rejection of a two-level minor-role reduction did not amount to procedural unreasonableness; and (3) Defendant’s sentence was substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Romero" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The First Circuit denied Petitioner’s application seeking permission to file a successive motion under 28 U.S.C. 2255 to vacate her conviction and sentence for possessing a destructive device during and in relation to and in furtherance of a crime of violence, holding that Petitioner’s application did not meet the requirements for certification of a successive section 2255 motion. Petitioner sought to file this successive motion in 2016 following the Supreme Court’s decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015). Petitioner then supplemented her motion after Sessions v. Dimaya, 138 S. Ct. 1204 (2018), was decided. Petitioner hoped to argue in the district court that the rule announced in Johnson and reiterated in Dimaya rendered the definition of “crime of violence” under which she was convicted unconstitutionally void for vagueness. The First Circuit denied the application, holding that Johnson’s rule, reaffirmed in Dimaya, did not extend to Petitioner’s conviction under 924(c)’s residual clause. View "Brown v. United States" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Appellant’s habeas petition, holding that the state court ruling challenged in this case was neither contrary to nor an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law. Appellant was convicted in state court of murder in the second degree and sentenced to life imprisonment. Thereafter, Appellant filed a motion asking the court to conduct a jury inquiry on the basis that a book found in the jury deliberation room entitled “Guilty: Liberal 'Victims' and Their Assault on America (Guilty)” was “extraneous material” that could have improperly influenced the jurors’ deliberations. The trial justice denied the motion after a non-evidentiary hearing. The state appellate court affirmed Appellant’s conviction and the denial of his jury inquiry motion. Appellant later filed a petition for habeas relief in the federal district court and filed a motion for an evidentiary hearing. The district court denied both the petition and the motion. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the state appellate court’s decision that the book did not qualify as “extraneous” material was not objectively unreasonable. View "Bebo v. Medeiros" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In 1996, a jury convicted former Massachusetts state representative Francis Woodward of, among other crimes, honest-services mail and wire fraud. He appealed the district court's denial of his most recent petition for a writ of error coram nobis. The First Circuit concluded the district court did not err in denying that petition: he did not demonstrate his conviction was the result of any fundamental error. View "Woodward v. US" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s sentence of twenty-one months’ imprisonment imposed in connection with Defendant’s conviction of making and conspiring to make false statements on a mortgage loan application, holding that there was no error requiring that Defendant’s sentence be vacated. The pre-sentence report in Defendant’s case resulted in a guidelines range of twenty-one to twenty-seven months incarceration. The district court ultimately sentenced Defendant to twenty-one months in prison. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court made several errors in calculating his sentencing guidelines range. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that, even if the court erred in imposing its sentence, it did not do so plainly. View "United States v. Mayendia-Blanco" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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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