Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s sentence of sixty months’ imprisonment. After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of possession with intent to distribute marijuana and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. The district court made a guidelines calculation that, in accordance with the pre-sentence investigation report, yielded a recommended sentencing range of twelve to eighteen months’ imprisonment. The court then imposed a variant sentence of sixty months’ imprisonment, basing forty-two months on Defendant’s firearms-related conduct. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that there was no clear or obvious error in the district court’s decision not to apply a two-level firearms enhancement and to impose a variant sentence of sixty months. View "United States v. Torres-Figueroa" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant was convicted of violating Maine’s assault statute. The court of appeals vacated Defendant’s conviction and remanded for further proceedings. On remand, the district court dismissed the indictment. The government appealed the dismissal. While the appeal was pending, the First Circuit issued its decision in United States v. Voisine, which the Supreme Court affirmed. See Voisine v. United States, 579 U.S. __ (2016). The First Circuit reversed the decision below and ordered the indictment reinstated in light of Voisine, which made it clear that Defendant’s original conviction was proper. The court then remanded the case for reentry of the judgment of conviction and the sentence, albeit with leave for Defendant to proceed with a previously preserved challenge to his sentence. View "United States v. Carter" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The First Circuit remanded this case for further proceedings, holding that the district court abused its discretion in failing to rule on the merits of Appellant’s ineffective assistance claim prior to sentencing. Appellant was charged with several counts related to a drug distribution conspiracy. Appellant was originally represented by court-appointed counsel, but after seven months Defendant retained private counsel Prior to sentencing, Appellant raised his ineffective assistance of counsel claim, arguing that his prior counsel allegedly failed to provide him with effective assistance throughout plea negotiations. The district court declined to rule on Appellant’s claim, finding it to be “premature.” Appellant ultimately pled guilty to a high plea offer negotiated by his new counsel. The First Circuit disagreed with the district court’s ruling, holding that, at times, it may be imperative for a district court to rule on a claim of ineffective assistance prior to the defendant seeking post-conviction relief, and such was true in this case. View "United States v. Ortiz-Vega" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, holding that the district court did not err, much less commit plain error, in accepting Defendant’s guilty plea. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Defendant pleaded guilty to a one-count information charging him with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Consistent with the terms of the plea agreement, the district court imposed a sentence of eight years’ imprisonment. The First Circuit held (1) there was no error in the district court’s acceptance of Defendant’s guilty plea; and (2) even if Defendant established that an error occurred, in light of the strength of the government’s evidence and the substantial benefit Defendant received by pleading guilty, Defendant could not demonstrate a reasonable probability that he would not have pled guilty but for the purported error. View "United States v. Diaz-Concepcion" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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After a jury trial, Defendants Abraham Walker-Couvertier (Walker) and Dean Lugo-Diaz (Lugo) were found guilty of numerous drug-related crimes. The trial court sentenced Walker to concurrent 192-month terms of immurement on the drug counts and a consecutive sixty-month term of immurement on a firearms count. The court sentenced Lugo to concurrent 121-month terms of immurement on the various counts of conviction. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Defendants’ belated challenge to the requirement, as applied in the District of Puerto Rico, that jurors be proficient in English failed; (2) Walker’s challenge to the propriety of a traffic stop was not preserved for appellate review; (3) contrary to Defendants’ arguments, several statements made by the prosecutor during closing argument were not prejudicial; (4) there was no plain error in the challenged jury instructions; (5) the evidence was sufficient to support Lugo’s conspiracy conviction; and (6) Defendants’ claims of sentencing error were unavailing. View "United States v. Walker-Couvertier" on Justia Law

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Defendant entered a straight guilty plea to possession of a machine gun. The district court sentenced Defendant to thirty-three months’ imprisonment in accordance with the government’s recommendation. Defendant appealed his sentence, arguing that his thirty-three-month sentence was both procedurally and substantively unreasonable. In support of his claim that his sentence was procedurally unreasonable, Defendant made several arguments. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Defendant’s claims of procedural error failed, and his sentence was not procedurally unreasonable; and (2) under the circumstances of this case, imposition of a thirty-three-month sentence was not substantively unreasonable. View "United States v. Gonzalez-Rodriguez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Petitioner, a Nigerian citizen by birth, pleaded guilty to making a material false statement in a matter within the jurisdiction of the United States government. Because of his conviction, Petitioner was permanently barred from obtaining lawful permanent resident status and was subject to deportation at any moment. Nearly a decade after his probationary sentence ended, Petitioner sought a writ of error coram nobis that vacates or allows him to revise the factual basis of his conviction. As grounds for the writ, Petitioner alleged that the performance of his attorney was constitutionally deficient under Sixth Amendment standards, and therefore, his conviction arose from fundamental error. The district court denied a writ of error coram nobis. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Petitioner’s counsel was not constitutionally ineffective in any way. View "Williams v. United States" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute more than 1,000 grams of marijuana, among other charges. Defendant moved to suppress evidence taken from a warrantless search of his truck. The district judge denied the motion. Defendant later conditionally pled guilty, reserving his right to challenge the denial of his suppression motion. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the questioning of Defendant was within the permissible scope of a traffic stop, and the questions did not impermissibly extend the duration of the stop; (2) the initial search of the truck was permissible in light of Defendant’s voluntary consent; (3) the continuation of the search after Defendant withdrew his consent was permissible because probable cause existed; and (4) there were no constitutional violations during the traffic stop. View "United States v. Dion" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the convictions of brothers Stanley Gonsalves and Joshua Gonsalves, who were convicted on multiple counts arising from their operation of an oxycodone-trafficking ring. The court held (1) the district court did not err in denying Joshua’s motion to suppress the evidence seized the night of his February 2012 arrest; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Joshua’s and Stanley’s motions for a mistrial; (3) the evidence was sufficient to support Stanley’s convictions; and (4) Stanley’s sentence was procedurally reasonable because any error in calculating his Guidelines sentencing range did not impact his substantial rights. View "United States v. Gonsalves" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s sentence for the crime of possession of stolen government property with intent to convert. The district court imposed an above-the-range sentence of thirty months’ imprisonment. The First Circuit held (1) the district court did not clearly err in refusing to find that Defendant’s criminal conduct was attributable to his substance abuse; (2) the district court made no finding that the offensive conduct involved identity fraud; (3) the district court adequately explained its reasons for imposing an upwardly variant sentence; and (4) Defendant’s sentence was substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Fields" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law