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

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
by
The American subsidiary of Alstom Power, Inc. (“API”), a global power and transportation services company, hired two consultants to bribe Indonesian officials to help secure a $118 million power contract. Defendant, who worked in Paris for API’s United Kingdom subsidiary, was allegedly responsible for approving the selection of the consultants and authorizing payments to them. For his role in the alleged bribery scheme, Defendant was charged in an American court with (among other things) violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act  (“FCPA”), which makes it unlawful for officers, directors, and agents “of a domestic concern” to use interstate commerce corruptly to bribe or attempt to bribe foreign officials. Defendant appealed. Defendant moved for acquittal, arguing he was not an agent within the meaning of the FCPA. The district court granted that motion; the government appealed and Defendant cross-appealed.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling holding that the district court properly acquitted Defendant under Rule 29 because there was no agency or employee relationship between Defendant and API. The court also affirmed on the cross‐appeal, finding no error in either the district court’s speedy trial analysis or its jury instructions.     The court explained that while there is some evidence that Defendant supported API in his working relationship with the corporation, it is not sufficient to establish that API exercised control over the scope and duration of its relationship with Defendant. Further, the district court’s analysis of the Barker factors and dismissal of Defendant’s Sixth Amendment claim falls “within the range of permissible decisions. View "United States v. Hoskins" on Justia Law

by
A jury convicted Defendant of conspiracy to commit armed bank robbery; armed bank robbery; and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence. He was sentenced to 219 months in prison. Defendant appealed, challenging the district court’s denial of his motion for a new trial based on his counsel’s purported ineffective assistance in (a) failing to move to suppress Defendant’s pre-Miranda statement to an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and (b) conceding to the jury that Defendant was outside the bank when it was robbed. Defendant also challenged the sufficiency of the evidence and argues that his sentence was procedurally and substantively unreasonable.   The Second Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court. The court held that Defendant was not prejudiced by his trial counsel’s failure to move for suppression of his pre-Miranda statement to the FBI, where he made a similar post-Miranda statement that was undisputedly admissible. Further, that Defendant’s counsel did not provide objectively deficient performance when he conceded before the jury that Defendant was outside the bank on the day it was robbed, in light of Defendant’s post-Miranda admission, and abundant witness testimony placing Defendant outside the bank as a lookout. Moreover, there was sufficient evidence to support Defendant’s convictions and his sentence was procedurally reasonable. The district court did not clearly err in applying sentencing enhancements based on its conclusion that, given the circumstances in this case, it was reasonably foreseeable that Defendant’s co-conspirators would use physical restraints and body armor. View "United States v. Sainfil" on Justia Law

by
Three Defendants (“Defendant 1” “Defendant 2” and “Defendant 3” collectively “Defendants”) were convicted of firearms, narcotics, and racketeering offenses following a jury trial at which Defendant 1 and Defendant 2 testified in their own defense. In a concurrently filed summary order, the court considered and reject nearly all of Defendants’ arguments except with respect to vacatur of Defendant 1 and Defendant 2’s convictions on Count 2 of the Superseding Indictment. In this opinion, the Second Circuit held that, contrary to Defendant 1 and Defendant 2’s arguments, the district court did not err in instructing the jury on the principles to use in evaluating the testimony of interested witnesses, including Defendants 1 and 2. The district court’s instruction did not assume the testifying Defendants’ guilt or otherwise undermine the presumption of innocence.The court explained at no point did the court assume Defendants’ guilt by suggesting, directly or indirectly, that Defendants had a motive to testify falsely. The instructions here were guilt-neutral, not guilt-assuming. The district court even-handedly instructed the jury to consider Defendants testimony” just as you would the testimony of any witness with an interest in the outcome of this case.” The court did not equate biased or likely to be biased with a motive to testify falsely. Accordingly, the court found that the district court did not commit error (much less plain error) in instructing the jury on the principles to use in evaluating Defendants’ testimony. View "United States v. Jenkins" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
Petitioner appealed from a district court judgment denying his petition for writ of habeas corpus in connection with an extradition proceeding. Petitioner argued that the text of the relevant extradition treaty and its legislative history indicate that whether extradition is time-barred is a question for the extradition court, which cannot issue a certificate of extraditability if extradition is so barred.   The Second Circuit affirmed, concluding that the most natural reading of the relevant extradition treaty’s text is that the issue of timeliness is a matter for the relevant executive authority to decide in its discretion, not a question for the extradition court to decide as a matter of law. The court explained that based on the customary meaning of the word “may” and its particular use in Article 6 of the Treaty; the Senate Report’s Technical Analysis, the most authoritative item of legislative history cited by either party to this case; and the government’s consistent position as to the meaning of the provision, the court held that the plain meaning of the word “may” in that provision is discretionary, and not mandatory, in nature.   The court further explained that because Article 6‘s Lapse of Time provision is discretionary, the decision whether to deny extradition on the basis that the Requested State’s relevant statute of limitations would have barred prosecution had the relevant offense been committed within that State’s jurisdiction is a decision consigned to that State’s relevant executive authority, and is not a mandatory determination to be made by a federal court before issuing a certificate of extraditability. View "Yoo v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Defendant was indicted for knowingly producing child pornography in violation of federal law. He moved to suppress evidence gathered from his electronic devices, arguing that the government’s search warrants lacked probable cause and therefore violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The district court denied the motion. Defendant then pleaded guilty but reserved the right to appeal the district court’s decision on his motion to suppress.   The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment explained that it disagrees with the district court that Defendant’s prior guilty plea to an earlier charge in Tennessee state court precludes him from challenging the search warrants in this case. But the court agreed that even assuming arguendo that the warrants are defective, the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule applies.   The court explained that there was at least arguable probable cause for the Tennessee Warrants, therefore, the Detective acted based on an “‘objectively reasonable good-faith belief’ that [his] conduct [was] lawful.” The court further wrote that the affidavits at issue here are not so devoid of factual support because they detail allegations from State Victim 1’s mother that support the common-sense inference that her daughter told her that Defendant took nude photographs of her. View "United States v. Jones" on Justia Law

by
Defendant appealed his conviction following a jury trial in district court in which he was found guilty of racketeering, murder in aid of racketeering, various narcotics offenses, interstate prostitution, and sex trafficking of minors. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred by permitting him to represent himself without a psychiatric evaluation.   The Second Circuit affirmed the judgment holding that while the district court has the discretion to conduct an inquiry into a defendant’s mental competence before granting a motion to proceed pro se, the court is not required to order psychiatric testing and did not err in granting Defendant’s motion. The court explained that where a defendant has been found competent to stand trial Edwards does not require a court to conduct a further competency hearing or order psychiatric evaluations before permitting a defendant to proceed pro se. (Indiana v. Edwards, 554 U.S. 164 (2008).) Further, on the current facts, the court could not say that the district court abused its discretion in failing to sua sponte order a psychiatric evaluation prior to determining that Defendant “knowingly and intelligently” waived his right to counsel. View "United States v. Rivera" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
Defendant was convicted of conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery. Application Note 1 to Section 4B1.2 provides that, among other things, a conspiracy to commit a crime of violence is itself a crime of violence. The district court held that it was not obligated to defer to Application Note 1 because it was inconsistent with 4B1.2(a). The Government appealed.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. The court held that the Hobbs Act robbery is not categorically a “crime of violence” under the career offender provision of the United States Sentencing Guidelines. The court explained that Hobbs Act robbery can be committed based solely on violence against property, whereas a “crime of violence” under Section 4B1.2 must be based on violence against people.   Here, the court explained it need not rule upon the validity of Application Note 1 in this context because the object of Defendant’s conspiracy offense (Hobbs Act robbery) was not a crime of violence as defined by Section 4B1.2. And if the object of the conspiracy is not a crime of violence, then the conspiracy itself cannot be one either (at least, not by virtue of Application Note 1).     . View "United States of America v. Chappelle" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
After a three-and-a-half-year delay, a jury convicted Appellant of conspiring to launder the proceeds generated by a network of Brooklyn medical clinics. Appellant appealed his conviction and sentence. He argued that the district court erred when it denied his motions to dismiss based on violations of the Speedy Trial Act, 18 U.S.C. Section 3161 et seq. Specifically, Appellant claimed that the district court improperly excluded time based on the complexity of the case without determining, on the record, why the case was complex or that such exclusions outweighed the best interest of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial. He contended that the excessive pre-trial delay, to which he objected, arose not from the supposed complexity of the prosecution but rather because the Government delayed production of certain documents possessed by state and federal agencies that had participated in the joint investigation and prosecution of Appellant.   The Second Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment of conviction, vacated Appellant’s conviction and sentence, and remanded to the district court. The court held that the district court’s exclusion of time during at least two long periods of delay was insufficient under the Speedy Trial Act.   The court explained that the Speedy Trial Act was designed to enforce the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee that the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy trial. Here, the district court failed in this responsibility. It neither held the Government accountable for its discovery obligations nor appropriately considered the causes and implications of the extraordinary delays introduced by the Government’s dilatory conduct of discovery. View "United States v. Pikus" on Justia Law

by
Police received reports of a gunshot fired from the roof of a building. Officers responded to the scene within two minutes, at which point they observed Defendants exiting a building. While officers were not sure which building the shots were fired from, the building Defendants were exiting was in the immediate area. Officers noticed one of the Defendants bladed his body away from them, and both Defendants had their hands in their pockets. When asked to remove their hands from their pockets, Defendants complied. However, at this point, officers noticed a bulge in one of the Defendant's pockets. A passerby informed officers that he had seen Defendants coming down from the building's rooftop. Officers frisked one of the Defendants, recovering a firearm.Defendants entered guilty pleas each to a single count of being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. Sections 922(g)(1) and 2, preserving their right to appeal the court's adverse decision on their motion to suppress.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Defendants' motion to suppress, finding that the police had reasonable suspicion to initiate a pedestrian stop as well as to conduct a pat-frisk of the Defendant who had a bulge in his pocket. View "United States v. Hawkins" on Justia Law

by
Defendant was convicted of six counts of criminal contempt for repeatedly defying court orders, for which he was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. He challenges the conviction, arguing that the district court’s appointment of special prosecutors under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 42(a)(2) violated the Appointments Clause of the United States Constitution because (1) the special prosecutors are inferior officers who were not supervised by a principal officer, and (2) Rule 42 does not satisfy the Appointments Clause requirement that “Congress . . . by Law” vest the appointment of inferior officers in the courts.   The Second Circuit affirmed Defendant’s convictions. The court first concluded that special prosecutors are officers under the Appointments Clause. Next, the court held that Defendant’s Appointments Clause arguments lack merit. First, the special prosecutors are subject to supervision by the Attorney General, who has broad statutory authority to “conduct” and to “supervise” all litigation involving the United States. This authority includes supervising—and if necessary, removing—the special prosecutors. Second, Plaintiff failed to raise his challenge to Rule 42 below, thus the court concluded conclude that the district court did not commit plain error by appointing the special prosecutors in light of directly applicable Supreme Court precedent Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by initiating prosecution against Defendant for repeatedly defying court orders for years. View "United States v. Donziger" on Justia Law