Articles Posted in Criminal Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to sentence defendant under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) after he pleaded guilty to one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court held that defendant's two prior third degree assault convictions in violation of Minn. Stat. 609.223, subdiv. 1, qualified as violent felonies under the ACCA. The court also held that defendant's prior conviction for a Minnesota controlled substances offense in violation of Minn. Stat. Sec. 154.024, subdiv. 2(2), was a serious drug offense under the Act. Therefore, defendant had three qualifying felony convictions and was properly sentenced as an armed career criminal. View "United States v. Wadena" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed Defendant Sharkey and Burton's sentences after they pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. The court held that Sharkey's 140 month sentence was substantively reasonable and the district court did not abuse its discretion by considering an improper factor at sentencing; the district court did not clearly err in determining Burton was not entitled to a mitigating-role reduction under USSG 3B1.2(b); Burton's sentence was not substantively unreasonable where the district court did not abuse its discretion in expressing its views as to the seriousness of his prior offenses; the district court did not abuse its discretion by rejecting Burton's policy arguments regarding sentences in methamphetamine cases; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by not varying downward based on Burton's health issues and drug addiction. View "United States v. Sharkey" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed DNRB's conviction of a Class B misdemeanor for willfully violating two safety regulations and causing an employee's death. The court held that, because the employee was not connected to an anchorage point before he fell, there was sufficient evidence that DNRB violated 29 C.F.R. 1926.760(a)(l) and (b)(1); sufficient evidence supported the district court's finding of willful violation by the company; and the factual findings were sufficient to support a conclusion that DNRB's failure to comply with the safety standards caused the employee's death. The court rejected DNRB's challenges to other-acts evidence and FRE 404(b) evidence; the district court considered and applied the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors before imposing a $500,000 fine; and the district court could impose the maximum fine allowed by law even though it recognized the likelihood DNRB, which had ceased operations, might not be able to pay. View "United States v. DNRB, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's 600 month sentence after he pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a child and possession of child pornography. The court held that the district court did not dismiss defendant's history of victimization; defendant's within-the-advisory-guidelines sentence was not substantively unreasonable where the district court conducted an individualized assessment and considered the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors; the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding $3,000 in restitution to one of the victims; and the district court did not err by imposing two conditions of supervised release related to his use of pornography and erotica. View "United States v. Bordman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed Defendants Lomax and Gaines' sentences after they pleaded guilty to the federal crime of Conspiracy to Distribute Heroin. The court held that the district court did not err in applying a career offender enhancement to Lomax's Guidelines offense level based on his prior conviction for domestic abuse assault under Iowa Code Sec. 708.2A, because the offense had an element of physical force. The court also held that the district court did not err by applying a 21 level career offender enhancement under USSG 4B1.1(b)(3) as the starting point for Gaines's sentence, and his sentence was substantively reasonable where the district court varied downward from his Guidelines range and considered the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors. View "United States v. Gaines" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of one count of conspiracy to distribute a mixture or substance containing heroin and furanylfentanyl resulting in death and serious bodily injury and one count of the substantive crime. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to support the conspiracy conviction; the sentencing enhancement found in USSC 841(b)(1)(C) was sustainable on the record where expert testimony provided by medical professionals established beyond a reasonable doubt that two individuals would not have overdosed and would not have died but-for the use of the drugs; and nothing in Burrage v. United States, 571 U.S. 204, 210 (2014), or the plain language of the statute limits responsibility to only the last person to distribute the drug before the harm occurs. View "United States v. Lewis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's modification of defendant's terms of his supervised release to include a standard condition explicitly prohibiting the use of medical marijuana. The court held that the district court correctly concluded that defendant's use of marijuana, even for medical purposes, contravenes federal law. The court reasoned that, although some medical marijuana was legal in Minnesota as a matter of state law, the state's law conflicted with federal law. Therefore, the district court had no discretion to allow defendant to use medical marijuana while on supervised release. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in modifying defendant's terms of supervised release to provide clarifying language accurately depicting federal law. View "United States v. Schostag" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for distributing five or more grams of actual methamphetamine. The court rejected defendant's claims of evidentiary errors; the government did not impermissibly vary from the facts charged in the indictment; and the jury's verdict was supported by sufficient evidence and the district court properly denied defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal. The court also held that any procedural error at sentencing did not affect the calculation of defendant's criminal history score. Furthermore, defendant's sentence was substantively reasonable where the district court explained its sentencing decision, recounting defendant's long history of violent conduct and considered the need to protect the community. Therefore, the district court properly weighed the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors and did not abuse its discretion in sentencing defendant to 180 months in prison. View "United States v. Watson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment finding that Officers Martorano and Moton used excessive force in their apprehension and arrest of plaintiff and award of damages to plaintiff. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the deposition testimony of an unavailable medical expert witness where the expert qualified as an expert and had been extensively cross-examined during his deposition, he was unavailable, and defendants had notice; the district court did not err in submitting plaintiff's punitive damage claim to the jury and the award against Moton was supported by substantial evidence; and the district court did not err in denying the officers' Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) motion to deduct from the judgment amount sums plaintiff had received from pretrial settlements with other defendants. View "Fletcher v. Tomlinson" on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence of a lifetime of supervised release after he pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of a minor and his supervised release was revoked two times. The court held that the district court properly considered the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors and explained defendant's sentence. In this case, the district court imposed a much longer term of supervised release than first contemplated at the initial hearing based on the psychological examination, which the district court found alarming and very damaging to defendant. Therefore, there was no procedural error in sentencing where the district court provided a reasoned basis for the heightened sentence. The court also held that defendant's sentence was substantively reasonable where a lifetime term of supervised release was both statutorily permissible and within the Sentencing Guidelines range for defendant's offense. View "United States v. DeMarrias" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law