Articles Posted in Criminal Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s convictions stemming from his participation in a large-scale cocaine trafficking conspiracy but vacated his life sentence and remanded for further proceedings. The court held (1) the trial evidence was sufficient to support the convictions; (2) the district court did not err in admitting evidence of Defendant’s participation in a drug-smuggling expedition to Antigua; and (3) the district court committed procedural error in sentencing Defendant because the court did not address Defendant’s potentially persuasive argument in favor of a sentence varying from the advisory guideline range. View "United States v. Robles-Alvarez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The First Circuit vacated the district court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to reduce his sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(2) and remanded for reconsideration. Defendant pled guilty to one count of a six-count indictment charging him with conspiring and agreeing to possess with intent to distribute various controlled substances. The district court imposed a sentence of 102 months’ imprisonment, to be followed by eight years of supervised release. Defendant later moved to reduce his sentence on the basis of U.S.S.G. app. C supp., amend. 782, which, if applied, would drop his guidelines sentencing range to seventy-eight to ninety-seven months. The district court denied Defendant’s motion, noting Defendant’s “conduct at the Bureau of Prisons.” The First Circuit vacated the denial of Defendant’s motion because it appeared from the record that Defendant’s conduct in prison was “materially less problematic than the district court may have been led to believe.” View "United States v. Torres-Rivera" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s sentence of 108 months’ incarceration, holding that there was no abuse of discretion. Defendant pled guilty to maritime drug and conspiracy offenses. The district court sentenced Defendant to a bottom-of-the-range guidelines sentence of 108 months’ incarceration. Defendant appealed, arguing that the sentencing court erred in not granting him a minor role adjustment under U.S.S.G. 3B1.2(b). The First Circuit rejected Defendant’s argument, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it declined to assign Defendant to a two-level downward minor role adjustment under U.S.S.G. 3B1.2(b). View "United States v. Cortez-Vergara" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Appellant’s motion to vacate his consecutive sentence, holding that Appellant’s appeal from the district court’s ruling was foreclosed by the First Circuit’s recent decision in United States v. Ellison, 866 F.3d 32 (1st Cir. 2017). Appellant was convicted of federal armed bank robbery, conspiracy, and possession of a firearm by a felon, for which he received a 210-month prison sentence. Appellant was also convicted of use of a firearm during a crime of violence, for which he received a consecutive five-year mandatory minimum sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A)(i). In moving to vacate his consecutive five-year sentence Appellant argued that the definition of “crime of violence” in 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3)(B) was unconstitutionally vague. The district court denied the motion, concluding that Defendant’s crime of federal armed bank robbery still qualified as a crime of violence under section 924(c)(3)(A) - the force clause. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that federal bank robbery, and a fortiori federal armed bank robbery, are crimes of violence under the force clause of section 924(c)(3). View "Hunter v. United States" on Justia Law

by
While police officers conducted an unlawful search by testing a key in the lock of the unit in which he was staying, the district court properly denied Defendant’s motion to suppress because, in searching the apartment, the officers relied in good faith on a warrant issued to search that unit. The key was seized from Defendant during a search incident to his arrest. The police tried the key on doors to apartments inside a multi-family building outside which Defendant was arrested. The key opened the door to one of the units. When a warrant issued, police searched the unit and discovered a firearm and drugs. The district court denied Defendant’s motion to suppress. Defendant was subsequently convicted drug- and firearm-related crimes. The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction and sentence, holding (1) there was an unreasonable search in violation of the Fourth Amendment, but the exclusionary rule should not apply in this case; (2) the district court did not err in admitting evidence that there was a credit-card-making machine in the unit; and (3) under plain error review, there was no error in the district court’s application of the fifteen-year-mandatory minimum sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act. View "United States v. Bain" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress drugs, a digital scale, and a firearm obtained following a traffic stop of the vehicle in which Defendant was a passenger. In his motion to suppress, Defendant argued that the evidence was obtained through an illegal search and pat-frisk. The district judge denied the motion after an evidentiary hearing, finding that the pat-frisk was warranted. Defendant then pled guilty to possession of heroin with intent to distribute, possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court, holding that the totality of the circumstances provided a particularized objective basis for the officer’s suspicion that Defendant was armed and dangerous, and therefore, the district court properly denied Defendant’s motion to suppress. View "United States v. Orth" on Justia Law

by
Defendant challenged his 560-month sentence, entered pursuant to a guilty plea, for brandishing and discharging firearms during a crime of violence. On appeal, Defendant argued (1) the government breached the plea agreement by arguing at the sentencing hearing that Defendant “had not accepted responsibility”; and (2) his and his co-defendant’s sentences were “unduly disparate.” The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) there was no breach of the plea agreement; and (2) Defendant’s 560-month sentence was not substantively unreasonable in light of his co-defendant’s 380-month sentence where Defendant was more culpable than his co-defendant. View "United States v. Ortiz-Torres" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s 151-month prison sentence imposed after he pled guilty to drug crimes. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in sentencing him as a career offender based on his prior drug convictions under N.Y. Penal Law 110 and 220.31 and in applying the criminal-livelihood enhancement under section 2D1.1(b)(15)(E) of the sentencing guidelines. The First Circuit found no error, holding (1) the district court correctly sentenced Defendant under the career-offender guideline because Defendant’s two prior drug convictions under New York law constituted predicate offenses under the career-offender provision, 4B1.1 of the sentencing guidelines; and (2) the district court did not err in finding that Defendant qualified for the criminal-livelihood enhancement under section 4B1.3 of the sentencing guidelines. View "United States v. Davis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s sentence of nine years’ imprisonment imposed in connection with his conviction for violating 18 U.S.C. 371 and 666(a) by conspiring to bribe and paying a bribe to a judge on the Puerto Rico Court of First Instance. The First Circuit held that the district court (1) did not err in calculating the value of the benefit to the judge; (2) did not err by finding that the criminal activity involved five or more participants; (3) followed the preferred methodology when it determined Defendant’s sentence; (4) did not abuse its discretion by considering evidence of Defendant’s prior acts; (5) was not required to inform Defendant that it intended to rely on evidence from Defendant’s detention hearing and public corruption statistics; and (6) imposed a variance, not a departure. View "United States v. Acevedo-Lopez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The First Circuit dismissed portions of this interlocutory appeal for want of appellate jurisdiction and otherwise affirmed the district court’s ruling that Defendant was not entitled to qualified immunity at the summary judgment stage. Stephen McKenney died at the hands of Defendant, a police officer “who was trying to do his job.” Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that Defendant’s use of deadly force transgressed McKenney’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures. Defendant filed an interlocutory appeal challenging a pretrial ruling in which the district court denied summary judgment for Defendant on qualified immunity grounds. The First Circuit dismissed the appeal in part for want of appellate jurisdiction and otherwise affirmed the district court’s denial of summary judgment, holding (1) certain aspects of the interlocutory order denying summary judgment were not appealable; and (2) while this court had jurisdiction to consider whether the contours of the relevant Fourth Amendment law were so blurred at the time Defendant shot McKenney that he was deserving of qualified immunity, the argument lacked force. View "McKenney v. Mangino" on Justia Law