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

Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed defendants' sentences of mandatory minimum terms of life imprisonment applicable to convictions for murder in aid of racketeering. Defendants argued that because they were between the ages of 18 and 22 years old when the murders were committed, a mandatory life sentence was cruel and unusual in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The court held that defendants' age-based Eighth Amendment challenges to their sentences failed, because the Supreme Court has chosen to draw the constitutional line at the age of 18 for mandatory minimum life sentences. Furthermore, Defendant Lopez's argument that his sentence violates the Eighth Amendment because he did not commit the murders directly was foreclosed by Supreme Court precedent in Harmelin v. Michigan, 501 U.S. 957 (1991). View "United States v. Sierra" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of producing child pornography, and transporting and distributing child pornography. The court held that defendant's contention that the district court erred in ruling that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) Reports 1558963 and 1560137, generated from the two AOL complaints resulting from the challenged searches, were admissible based on its finding that he had consented to AOL's searching his emails, provides no basis for relief, regardless of whether there was consent, for the searches of those emails played no material role in the proceedings. Accordingly, the district court did not err by denying defendant's motion to suppress. The court also held that there was no error in the district court's conclusion that defendant could not establish that counsel's decision to not call a witness constituted deficient performance and, even if there was error, there was no reasonable probability that the outcome of defendant's trial would have been any different. Therefore, defendant's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel failed to satisfy either prong of Strickland v. Washington. View "United States v. DiTomasso" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions of multiple counts arising out of their roles in the operation of an illegal Bitcoin exchange and a scheme to use a federal credit union for illegal purposes. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to convict Defendant Lebedev of wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud; the court rejected Defendant Gross' evidentiary challenges; there was no constructive amendment of the indictment; Gross' claim that his due process rights were violated based on government intimidation of witnesses was meritless; and there was no cumulative effect of the district court's errors causing Gross to be deprive of a fair trial. The court also held that the district court did not clearly err by applying a four level sentencing enhancement for Gross' role as an organizer or leader in the criminal activity under USSG 3B1.1, for commercial bribery under USSG 2B4.1, and for abuse of a position of trust by use of a special skill under USSG 3B1.3. Finally, the district court's findings as to the restitution order were not clearly erroneous. View "United States v. Lebedev" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court held that the police did not violate defendant's Fourth Amendment rights by returning to search his car, because both searches of defendant's car were valid inventory searches; contrary to defendant's argument, the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to admit his post‐arrest statements denying ownership of the gun; and defendant's arguments regarding the inadmissibility of the evidence of his gang affiliation and willingness to assist the police either (a) failed because the evidence was properly admitted pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b) and was not unfairly prejudicial or (b) were waived. View "United States v. Williams" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of securities fraud and wire fraud, finding no errors in the district court's jury instructions, admission of lay testimony, and calculation of loss. The court also held that, as a matter of law, forfeiture is not limited to the amount of funds acquired through illegal transactions in an insider‐trading scheme; rather, forfeiture may extend to appreciation of those funds. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's forfeiture calculation and order. Finally, Lagos v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 1684 (2018), was decided after defendant's sentence and addressed the categories of fees recoverable under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act. Therefore, the court held that a limited remand to recalculate the restitution was appropriate. View "United States v. Afriyie" on Justia Law

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The four-level sentencing enhancement under USSG 2G2.2(b)(4) may be applied based on images of sexual activity that would cause the depicted minor to experience mental, but not physical, pain. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment on the question of the four-level enhancement but remanded to the district court for further consideration of defendant's special condition of supervised release that broadly prohibits him from having contact with minors without pre-approval from the Probation Office. In this case, the district court plainly erred by adequately justifying its imposition of the special condition. View "United States v. Bleau" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's order committing defendant to the custody of the Attorney General under 18 U.S.C. 4241(d) for psychiatric treatment and evaluation. Defendant alleged that the district court's order violated his due process rights because a forensic psychologist stated that his disorder was degenerative and would not significantly improve with treatment. The court held that, under 18 U.S.C. 4241 et seq., commitment to assess future competency is mandatory, and only the district court, and not a forensic psychologist, can determine whether defendant will regain competency in the foreseeable future. In the absence of such a decision, the court held that defendant's commitment to the custody of the Attorney General for treatment and further evaluation was reasonably related to determining whether defendant will regain competency in the foreseeable future. Therefore, the court held that the district court constitutionally applied section 4241(d)'s commitment procedures to defendant. View "United States v. Brennan" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit reversed the district court's grant of habeas relief to petitioner under 28 U.S.C. 2254 from a state murder conviction. The court held that there are no categorical limits on the types of evidence that can be offered to demonstrate actual innocence and therefore the district court did not err in considering impeachment evidence; the district court did not clearly err in finding some of the new evidence petitioner offered to support his actual innocence claim credible; and even deferring to that credibility finding, however, on de novo review, petitioner failed to make a compelling showing of actual innocence necessary for merits review of his procedurally barred Sixth Amendment claim. In this case, the credible new evidence showed only that a recanting trial witness did not view the shootout at issue in the charged crimes, not that petitioner did not or could not have committed those crimes. Furthermore, under the totality of the evidence, the court could not conclude that it was more likely than not that no reasonable juror would find petitioner guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Hyman v. Brown" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision affirming the IJ's finding that petitioner was removable and denial of his applications for cancellation of removal and adjustment of status. The court held that, because it has previously upheld the BIA's determination that child endangerment offenses fall within the Immigration and Nationality Act's (INA) crime of child abuse provision, the court agreed with the district court that New York law -- which criminalizes conduct that poses a likelihood of physical, mental, or moral harm to a child -- falls within the BIA's definition. Therefore, petitioner's New York convictions for endangering the welfare of a child were crimes of child abuse, child neglect, or child abandonment under the INA. View "Matthews v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for one count of unlawful possession of a firearm by an alien who is illegally unlawfully in the United States. The court held that the "in the United States" element of 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(5)(A) requires only that a noncitizen be physically present within the United States. The court rejected defendant's argument that a defendant must have "entered" the country as a matter of immigration law. The court also held that, in light of defendant's immigration status at the time of the conduct underlying his arrest, he was unlawfully present in the United States. The court rejected defendant's argument that he was not present "illegally or unlawfully" because he was effectively paroled into the country when he was released from detention in 2007. View "United States v. Balde" on Justia Law