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

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
by
The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction for wire fraud, extortion conspiracy, and extortion, holding that Defendant was "fairly tried and lawfully convicted by an impartial jury in a trial presided over by an able judge and unblemished by any reversible error."A jury convicted Defendant of nine counts of wire fraud, four counts of tax fraud, four counts of extortion conspiracy, and four counts of extortion in connection with his promotion of his SnoOwl app and public corruption as mayor of the city of Fall River, Massachusetts. The district court acquitted Defendant on six of the nine wire fraud counts and all four of the tax fraud counts and otherwise denied Defendant's post-trial motions. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the evidence was sufficient to sustain the convictions that the district court allowed to stand; (2) Defendant was not prejudiced by "evidentiary spillover" resulting from a "transference of guilt" from the counts that the district court dismissed in a post-trial ruling; (3) there was no instructional error in this case; and (4) any alleged misconduct on the part of the prosecutor did not support Defendant's claim that the alleged misconduct prejudiced the jury and, thus, influenced the outcome of the case. View "United States v. Correia" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court sentencing Defendant to 108 months in prison in connection with her conviction for one count of carjacking resulting in serious bodily injury, holding that the sentence was neither procedurally nor substantively infirm.In the presentence investigation report, the probation office recommended a four-level enhancement for abduction to facilitate the commission of the offense of conviction. The district concluded that a four-level increase was warranted and imposed a sentence at the bottom of the guideline sentencing range for the offense of conviction. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the sentence was both procedurally and substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Rijos-Rivera" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The First Circuit affirmed the district court's decision granting summary judgment to Defendants, Norman Sylvester and the Town of Bourne, Massachusetts and dismissing Plaintiff's lawsuit alleging that the discipline he faced as a firefighter violated his constitutional rights, holding that the district court did not err.In his complaint, Plaintiff claimed that he refused to sit for a "promotional" photograph in violation of his religious beliefs and that he was disciplined as a result of his refusal. Plaintiff brought this complaint against Sylvester, in his role as Fire Chief of the Bourne Fire Department, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, for violation of his rights under the Free Exercise Clause, and against the Town and Sylvester under the Massachusetts Wage Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch,. 149, 148. The district court granted summary judgment to Sylvester on qualified immunity grounds on the section 1983 claim and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claim. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly concluded that Sylvester did not violate Plaintiff's constitutional rights, as required by the first prong of the qualified immunity analysis; and (2) there was no abuse of discretion in the district court's decision declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claim. View "Swartz v. Sylvester" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit vacated Defendant's convictions for nine counts of wire fraud and six counts of aggravated identity theft for his participation in an alleged health insurance fraud scheme, holding that the verdict form that was submitted to the jury violated Defendant's federal constitutional right to a jury trial, and the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.Specifically, the First Circuit held (1) the district court invaded the jury's over fact-finding by overemphasizing certain of the government's evidence in a manner that was contrary to Appellant's interests, in violation of Appellant's Sixth Amendment right; and (2) there was a reasonable possibility that the constitutional violation at issue influenced the jury in reaching its verdicts in this case, and therefore, the verdicts could not stand, and remand was required. View "United States v. Moffett" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Appellant's requested credit for accepting responsibility for the two offenses of conviction because he had offered to plead guilty to those offenses and later declined to contest the offenses at trial, holding that the district court did not err.Appellant was convicted of two counts of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. At sentencing, Appellant requested a two-level reduction in offense level of acceptance of responsibility. The district court denied the request and sentenced Appellant to 180 months' imprisonment. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in denying Appellant credit for acceptance of responsibility. View "United States v. Gauthier" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Appellant's complaint asserting that New Hampshire's criminal defamation statute was unconstitutionally vague in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and violated the First Amendment by criminalizing defamatory speech, holding that Appellant's allegations did not assert viable constitutional claims.At issue was N.H. Rev. Stat. 644:11(I), which provides that a person is guilty of a misdemeanor if he "purposely communicates to any person, orally or in writing, any information he knows to be false and knows will tend to expose any other living person to public hatred, contempt or ridicule." Appellant was twice charged under the statute. Appellant later brought this complaint. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Garrison v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 64 (1964), precluded Appellant's First Amendment attack on section 644:11; and (2) the New Hampshire statute was not unconstitutionally vague. View "Frese v. Formella" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court to admit and consider hearsay evidence when revoking Appellant's term of supervised release, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below.After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of possessing and distributing cocaine base and of being a felon in possession of ammunition. After Appellant began serving his term of supervised release under several conditions a criminal complaint was lodged against him charging him with weapons and assault offenses. The district court found that Appellant was guilty of several crimes and revoked his term of supervised release. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) there was no abuse of discretion in the admission of the challenged hearsay statements; and (2) Appellant waived his remaining challenge on appeal. View "United States v. Franklin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's sentence imposed in connection with his plea of guilty to conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1951(a), holding that there was no plain error in the district court's application of a four-level role-in-the-offense enhancement.This case arose from a home invasion and robbery committed by Defendant and four co-conspirators. After Defendant pleaded guilty the district court sentenced him to a ninety-seven months' term of immurement. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in applying the upward role-in-the-offense adjustments. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the sentencing court did not commit plain error when it determined that Defendant operated as an organizer of the enterprise. View "United States v. Rivera" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction of fifty-seven counts under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1961 et seq.; the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. 301 et seq.; and the federal mail fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. 1341, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion in the proceedings below.After Defendant was initially sentenced, the First Circuit vacated the sentence and remanded the case for further proceedings regarding two enhancements at issue on appeal, which were set out in U.S.S.G. 2B1.1(b)(16)(A) and U.S.S.G. 3A1.1(b). On remand, the same sentencing judge resentenced Defendant to a 174 months in prison, determining that both the conscious or reckless risk enhancement and the vulnerable victims enhancement applied to Defendant. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in applying the two enhancements when determining Defendant's base offense level; and (2) Defendant's remaining claims of error were unavailing. View "United States v. Cadden" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's sentence of twenty-four months' imprisonment imposed in connection with his plea of guilty to health care fraud, holding that the sentence was neither procedurally nor substantively unreasonable.Defendant pleaded guilty to health care fraud for his multiyear scheme to defraud MaineCare, a state-run program that administers Medicaid benefits in the state of Maine and reimburses Maine health care providers for MaineCare services. After a hearing, the court varied downward and imposed a sentence of twenty-four months' imprisonment. The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's sentence, holding (1) the district court did not err in its loss calculations or in imposing a four-level leader/organizer enhancement; and (2) Defendant's downward variant sentence satisfied the substantive reasonableness standard. View "United States v. Ahmed" on Justia Law