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

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of petitioner's second or successive petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2255. The court concluded that the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), as well as United States v. McCoy, 995 F.3d at 32, bars petitioner from raising his claim arguing that his consecutive ten-year sentence is invalid because attempted Hobbs Act robbery is not a crime of violence. Applying the deferential clear standard of review, the court also concluded that the district court did not reversibly err in dismissing the petition and rejected petitioner's contention that his fifteen-year sentence as a career offender under the Armed Career Criminal Act is invalid in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States, 576 U.S. 591 (2015). View "Savoca v. United States" on Justia Law

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When a district court denies a defendant's motion under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1)(A) in sole reliance on the applicable 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors, it need not also determine whether the defendant has shown extraordinary and compelling reasons that might (in other circumstances) justify a sentence reduction.Defendant moved to reduce his 60-month sentence to time served under section 3582(c)(1)(A), but the district court denied the motion. In considering defendant's motion, the district court recognized the health challenges he might face from the COVID-19 pandemic while incarcerated. The district court also relied on the applicable factors listed in 18 U.S.C. 3553(a), including the seriousness of defendant's offense, the harm it had caused his community, and the need to avoid unwarranted sentencing disparities among similarly situated criminal defendants. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "United States v. Keitt" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Defendant appealed his 42 year sentence imposed after his conviction by a jury of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), conspiracy to distribute narcotics, and murder through the use of a firearm during a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime. Defendant also appealed his convictions on the racketeering and firearm charges.The Second Circuit agreed with defendant that, under binding precedent from the Supreme Court, RICO conspiracy is not a crime of violence for purposes of 18 U.S.C. 924(j). The court explained that, because it is unclear whether the jury based its decision to convict defendant of the firearm-murder offense on the erroneous belief, in light of the trial court's instruction, that RICO conspiracy is such a crime, defendant's conviction of that offense must be vacated. The court otherwise affirmed the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Capers" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Second Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part in an action where defendants were convicted of charges related to defendants' personal use of grant money that the UN awarded to their non-profit organization. Defendants received a grant in the amount of $500,000 for the sole purpose of establishing a radio station in Iraq dedicated to women's programming. However, defendants siphoned off more than $65,000 of the grant to pay personal debts, bills, and taxes.Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, the court concluded that there was sufficient evidence for the jury to convict on the wire fraud and related counts. The court remanded for the district court to consider defendants' motion for a new trial on these counts. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, the court concluded that there was sufficient evidence for the jury to convict defendants for their false statements. The court discerned no errors with respect to the false statement convictions that would require a new trial. View "United States v. Jabar" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Second Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions and sentences for conspiring to manufacture, distribute, or possess a controlled substance on a vessel. The court concluded that the district court did not procedurally err in denying minor-role reductions pursuant to USSG 3B1.2 and 2D1.1(a)(5)(iii) and applying two-level enhancements for defendants' roles as pilot or navigator of a vessel carrying controlled substances pursuant to USSG 2D1.1(b)(3)(C). The court also concluded that Defendant Torres' 240 month sentence and Defendant Salas' 180 month sentence were substantively reasonable where the district court weighed the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) sentencing factors and did not abuse its discretion in imposing the sentences. View "United States v. Torres" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion for compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1)(A). The court explained that, although section 3582(c)(1)(A) permits a district court to end its analysis if it determines that extraordinary and compelling reasons for granting the motion are absent, the court's review on appeal is aided considerably when the district court, as here, also analyzes the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) sentencing factors—particularly in those cases where it is a close call whether extraordinary and compelling circumstances exist. In this case, the district court considered the section 3553(a) factors and reasonably concluded that defendant's early release would undermine respect for the law and undermine the deterrent purpose of the original sentence given his very serious offenses. The court rejected defendant's contentions to the contrary. View "United States v. Jones" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Defendants Levy and Nordlicht were convicted of securities fraud, in violation of 15 U.S.C. 78j(b) and 78ff; conspiracy to commit securities fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371; and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1349. Defendants' convictions stemmed from their participation in a fraudulent scheme to defraud bondholders of an oil and gas company, Black Elk, from the proceeds of a lucrative asset sale. Defendants moved for a judgment of acquittal pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29, or, in the alternative, for a new trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33. The district court granted Levy's motion for a judgment of acquittal and conditionally granted his motion for a new trial in the event the judgment of acquittal was later vacated or reversed. The district court denied Nordlicht's motion for a judgment of acquittal, but granted his motion for a new trial.The Second Circuit vacated the district court's order and judgment granting defendants' post-trial motions. The court concluded that a rational jury could have concluded that Levy participated in the Black Elk scheme with criminal intent. The court applied the preponderates heavily standard and concluded that letting the verdict stand as to Nordlicht would not result in manifest injustice. In this case, the district court's factual findings in connection with Nordlicht's Rule 29 motion, as well as the ample record evidence illustrating Nordlicht's knowledge and intent, undermine the district court's conclusions in the Rule 33 context and demonstrate that the evidence did not preponderate heavily against the verdict. Therefore, the district court abused its discretion granting the motion for a new trial. The court considered the parties' arguments on appeal and concluded that they are without merit. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Levy" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Defendant appealed his conviction following a guilty plea to a narcotics conspiracy charge, alleging that the district court misstated the applicable mandatory minimum term of supervised release in violation of Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, concluding that the Rule 11 error was harmless. In this case, because both parties wrongly assume that the defendant bears the ultimate burden of persuasion to show that the Rule 11 error affected his substantial rights, the court clarified that where a defendant moved to withdraw a guilty plea before sentencing based on a Rule 11 error, it is the government's burden on appeal to show that such error was harmless. Nonetheless, the court found that plaintiff's substantial rights were not violated by the error in his plea agreement and colloquy. The court concluded that defendant's plea was knowing and voluntary and he did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel. View "United States v. Freeman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Second Circuit dismissed defendant's appeal challenging his new sentence, holding that the Government can invoke the appeal waiver despite having earlier consented to defendant's habeas petition. In this case, defendant pleaded guilty pursuant to a plea agreement to conspiring to commit a Hobbs Act robbery and brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. Although an appeal waiver provision in the agreement barred defendant from challenging his conviction or sentence, the Government consented to his request to vacate the 18 U.S.C. 924(c) conviction as unconstitutional in light of United States v. Davis, 139 S. Ct. 2319 32 (2019). The district court then vacated defendant's conviction and resentenced him on the remaining Hobbs Act robbery conspiracy count.The court held that "partial enforcement" or "partial invocation" of a plea agreement's waiver provision is permitted under limited circumstances, including those present here. Therefore, the valid appeal waiver in this case requires that the court dismiss defendant's appeal rather than address his challenge. View "United States v. Borden" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Halkbank, a commercial bank that is majority-owned by the Government of Turkey, was charged with crimes related to its participation in a multi-year scheme to launder billions of dollars' worth of Iranian oil and natural gas proceeds in violation of U.S. sanctions against the Government of Iran and Iranian entities and persons. Halkbank moved to dismiss the indictment but the district court denied the motionThe Second Circuit held that it has jurisdiction over the instant appeal under the collateral order doctrine. The court also held that, even assuming the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) applies in criminal cases—an issue that the court need not, and did not, decide today—the commercial activity exception to FSIA would nevertheless apply to Halkbank's charged offense conduct. Therefore, the district court did not err in denying Halkbank’s motion to dismiss the Indictment. The court further concluded that Halkbank, an instrumentality of a foreign sovereign, is not entitled to immunity from criminal prosecution at common law. View "United States v. Bankasi" on Justia Law