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

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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The government petitioned for a writ of mandamus directing the district court to preclude defense counsel from arguing nullification and to exclude any evidence of sentencing consequences. In this case, respondent was charged with production of child pornography. The district court granted respondent's request to argue jury nullification, but reserved decision on the admissibility of evidence regarding the sentencing consequences of a conviction. The Second Circuit held that the conditions for mandamus relief were satisfied with respect to the district court's nullification ruling, but not with respect to the admissibility of evidence of sentencing consequences. In this case, the court could not rule out the possibility that the admissibility of sentencing consequences will depend at lest in part on events that will unfold at trial. Therefore, in these circumstances and in light of the second Cheney condition, the court held that the district court's decision to defer ruling on the admissibility of sentencing consequences until after the commencement of trial was not clearly and indisputably outside the range of permissible decisions. Accordingly, the court denied the government's petition for a writ of mandamus directing the district court to preclude the introduction at trial of any evidence related to sentencing consequences, without prejudice to renewal following the district court's ultimate ruling on the motion to preclude. View "United States v. Manzano" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Petitioner's prior Connecticut state convictions for first and second degree robbery categorically qualify as violent felonies under the force clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255. In Shabazz v. United States, 912 F.3d 73 (2d Cir. 2019), the court held that Connecticut's simple robbery statute qualifies as a violent felony under the force clause. The court explained that the statutes under which petitioner was convicted require that he have committed simple robbery. The court found petitioner's remaining arguments were without merit. View "Estremera v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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It is proper only to consider a defendant's financial eligibility for new counsel under the Criminal Justice Act. The Second Circuit granted Defendant Nunez's motion for in forma pauperis (IFP) status and a motion to withdraw as counsel and appointment for new counsel under the CJA. The court held that Nunez has established that he was financial eligible for CJA counsel, and was no threshold showing of the merits of the appeal was required to obtain IFP and CJA counsel in direct criminal appeals. View "United States v. Kosic (Nunez)" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Second Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision affirming the IJ's determination that petitioner was removable and ineligible for cancellation of removal. The court held that petitioner's conviction under New York Penal Law 110.00, 130.45 for attempted oral or anal sexual conduct with a person under the age of fifteen constitutes sexual abuse of a minor, and was therefore an aggravated felony under the Immigration and Nationality Act. The court explained that petitioner's conviction under the New York statute did not encompass more conduct than the generic definition and could not realistically result in an individual's conviction for conduct made with a less than knowing mens rea. View "Acevedo v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Defendants appealed their convictions for conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, and wire fraud, as well as postjudgment orders. The Second Circuit held that there was sufficient evidence supporting the jury convictions; the district court did not err in giving the jury a "no ultimate harm" instruction; the district court did not plainly err in charging the jury on the elements of bank fraud; the district court did not abuse its discretion in giving a modified Allen charge to the jury; but the district court abused its discretion in ordering a restitution amount of over $18 million to be paid to the USDA because defendants did not proximately cause financial losses equating to that amount. Accordingly, the court reversed the restitution orders, vacated the conviction to the extent that they ordered defendants to pay restitution, and otherwise affirmed. View "United States v. Calderon" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Second Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for arson and possession of unregistered Molotov cocktails. The court held that defendant failed to demonstrate that the district court plainly erred in instructing the jury on attempt; even assuming instructional error, defendant failed to show prejudice; defendant's argument that New York's ban on Molotov cocktails made it impossible to comply with the federal law mandating registration was foreclosed by United States v. Shepardson, 167 F.3d 120, 123‐24 (2d Cir. 1999); the district court did not err in denying defendant's motion to suppress the custodial statements defendant made to law enforcement; and defendant's challenges to the district court's handling of his criminal history at sentencing were rejected. View "United States v. Williams" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Defendants Albarran and Vasquez pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to distribute heroin, and Albarran also pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. The Second Circuit affirmed Vasquez's 151 month sentence, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by assessing the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) sentencing factors and acted within its discretion when it sentenced him. The court also affirmed the district court's denial of Albarran's motion to withdraw his guilty plea where Albarran has not carried his burden of showing a fair and just reason for withdrawing his guilty plea. In this case, the district court did not abuse its discretion, because Albarran failed to sufficiently demonstrate his legal innocence or raise a significant question about the voluntariness of his original plea, and the judge reasonably concluded that granting Albarran's belated motion to withdraw would prejudice the government. View "United States v. Albarran" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Second Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for engaging in drug trafficking activity, and conspiring to do so, in violation of the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act. The court held that defendant waived his Confrontation Clause and jury trial right challenges to his conviction by pleading guilty. The court also held that the Due Process Clause did not require a nexus between the United States and the MDLEA violations that transpire on a vessel without nationality. The court explained that such prosecutions are not arbitrary, since any nation may exercise jurisdiction over stateless vessels, and they are not unfair, since persons who traffic drugs may be charged with knowledge that such activity is illegal and may be prosecuted somewhere. The court considered defendant's remaining arguments and found them meritless. View "United States v. Van Der End" on Justia Law

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Defendant petitioned for rehearing in light of Rehaif v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2191, 2194 (2019), which held that in prosecutions pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(5)(A) and 924(a)(2), the government must prove that the defendant not only knowingly possessed a firearm, but also knew that he or she was unlawfully in the United States. The Second Circuit held that the indictment's failure to allege explicitly that defendant knew he was unlawfully in the United States was not a jurisdictional defect. However, the court held that defendant demonstrated all four prongs of the plain error standard in the acceptance of his guilty plea, because the district court failed to advise defendant that the government would need to establish beyond a reasonable doubt at trial that he knew that he was illegally present in the United States, or to examine the record to determine whether there was a factual basis for finding such knowledge. View "United States v. Balde" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Defendant appealed the district court's denial of his challenge to an administrative forfeiture. In this opinion, the Second Circuit addressed and rejected defendant's argument that the Government failed to provide him with adequate notice of the administrative forfeiture action while he was in prison, in violation of his due process rights. The court affirmed the district court's judgment and held that the Government generally must demonstrate the existence of procedures reasonably calculated to ensure that a prisoner receives notice of the forfeiture action. The court agreed with the district court that the Government showed that its notice to the county jail where defendant was detained was reasonably calculated under all the circumstances to apprise defendant of the pendency of the cash forfeiture. View "United States v. Brome" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law