Justia U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Second Circuit reversed the district court's denial of a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The court held that the trial court's exclusion of three defense witnesses violated petitioner's constitutional right to present a complete defense. Therefore, the court remanded with instructions to the district court to issue the writ. View "Scrimo v. Lee" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed the district court's imposition of a condition of supervised release that required him to perform 300 hours of community service a year over his term of supervision for a total of 695 hours. Defendant's conviction stemmed from his role in two different fraud schemes. The Second Circuit vacated and remanded for resentencing, holding that the challenged condition was not reasonably related to any of the relevant sentencing factors, was inconsistent with the pertinent Guidelines policy statements, and involved a greater deprivation of liberty than was reasonably needed to achieve the purposes of sentencing. The court held that the pertinent policy statement issued by the Sentencing Commission must be read to advise that courts should generally refrain from imposing more than a total of 400 hours of community service as a condition of supervised release. View "United States v. Parkins" on Justia Law

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Dean v. United States, 137 S. Ct. 1170 (2017), has abrogated the Second Circuit's decision in United States v. Chavez, 549 F.3d 119 (2d Cir. 2008), and permits sentencing judges to consider the severity of mandatory consecutive minimum sentences required by 18 U.S.C. 924(c) in determining sentences for underlying predicate offenses. In this case, the court was uncertain as to whether the district judge was aware of the discretion that Dean allowed him to exercise, and therefore held that the appropriate disposition was to remand for resentencing. In a summary order filed separately, the court affirmed defendant's four convictions. View "United States v. Brown" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Second Circuit held that a district court may apply a four-level sentencing enhancement under USSG 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) to a defendant who sells a firearm and drugs to a buyer in a single transaction, and to a buyer who the defendant has reason to believe is a drug dealer. The court considered Defendant Wood's remaining arguments and held that they were without merit. Accordingly, the court affirmed with respect to Defendant Wood in Appeal No. 18-985. The court affirmed the consolidated appeal of Defendant Ryan in a simultaneously filed summary order. View "United States v. Ryan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Second Circuit held that defendants violated plaintiff's constitutional rights and denied qualified immunity to defendants for the week of administratively imposed post‐release supervision (PRS) after plaintiff's determinate sentences had expired. In regard to the period of PRS that plaintiff served from her initial release from prison on October 5, 2007, until her determinate sentences expired on November 27, 2008, the court held that there were material issues of fact as to whether that period of PRS was more onerous than the period of conditional release she would have been subjected to without PRS and consequently whether she was deprived of a liberty interest during that period. Therefore, the court lacked jurisdiction to determine whether defendants were entitled to qualified immunity and dismissed the appeal, remanding for further proceedings. View "Reyes v. Fischer" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of paying and conspiring to pay bribes, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371, 666, and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), and gratuities to United Nations officials and of related money laundering. Defendant's charges stemmed from his sustained effort to bribe two U.N. officials to designate one of his properties as the permanent site of an annual U.N. convention. The court held that the word "organization" as used in section 666, and defined by 1 U.S.C. 1 and 18 U.S.C. 18, applies to all non‐government legal persons, including public international organizations such as the U.N. The court also held that the "official act" quid pro quo for bribery as proscribed by 18 U.S.C. 201(b)(1), defined by id. section 201(a)(3), and explained in McDonnell v. United States, does not delimit bribery as proscribed by section 666 and the FCPA. Thus, the district court did not err in failing to charge the McDonnell standard for the FCPA crimes of conviction. Insofar as the district court nevertheless charged an "official act" quid pro quo for the section 666 crimes, that error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Finally, the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant, and the jury did not misconstrue the "corruptly" element of section 666 and the FCPA and the "obtaining or retaining business" element of the FCPA. View "United States v. Ng Lap Seng" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for money laundering and conducting transactions in property criminally derived through bribery in the Republic of Guinea. The court held that McDonnell v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 2355 (2016), does not apply to Articles 192 and 194 of Guinea's Penal Code, and therefore defendant's claim that the jury instructions were improper because they did not include the definition of "official act" relative to a bribery conviction necessarily failed. The court also held that the evidence was sufficient to support a finding of a quid pro quo exchange necessary for defendant's conviction and that he committed an "official act" as defined in McDonnell. Finally, the court held that defendant's remaining evidentiary challenges failed and his other arguments were without merit. View "United States v. Thiam" on Justia Law

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Defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine, and to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, while on board a stateless vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, in violation of the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act, 46 U.S.C. 70501 et seq. The Second Circuit dismissed the indictment, because the government failed to demonstrate, as required by section 70504, that the vessel was subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. In this case, the indictment should have been dismissed upon the government's failure to demonstrate at the pretrial hearing that the vessel was subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. Furthermore, the error was not cured by defendants' subsequent defective guilty pleas. Accordingly, the court vacated the convictions. View "United States v. Prado" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress after he pleaded guilty to knowingly accessing child pornography. Defendant argued that the warrant that authorized the use of a government search program called the Network Investigative Technique was invalid. The court agreed with the district court that, regardless whether the warrant violated Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(b) and the Federal Magistrates Act, 28 U.S.C. 636, and whether such violations are also violative of the Fourth Amendment, law enforcement officers acted in good faith in applying for and carrying out the warrant. View "United States v. Eldred" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant appealed the district court's March 28, 2019 order denying defendant's second bail application and directing that he be detained pending trial. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's May 16, 2019 order, and wrote to explain that decision and to clarify the circumstances under which the Bail Reform Act permits a district court to release a defendant pending trial pursuant to a condition that the defendant pays for private armed security guards. The court expressly held that the Bail Reform Act does not permit a two‐tiered bail system in which defendants of lesser means are detained pending trial while wealthy defendants are released to self‐funded private jails. To interpret the Bail Reform Act as requiring district courts to permit wealthy defendants to employ privately funded armed guards where an otherwise similarly situated defendant without means would be detained would violate a fundamental principle of fairness. That said, a private-security condition may be appropriate where defendant was deemed to be a flight risk primarily because of his wealth. In the instant appeal, defendant argued that the district court erred in finding that no conditions or combination of conditions would reasonably assure his appearance in court. The court held that the district court's finding that defendant posed a risk of flight, as well as the Government's satisfaction of its burden of showing that no conditions or combination of conditions could reasonably assure his appearance in court, was not clearly erroneous. View "United States v. Boustani" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law