Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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Whether a conviction for a particular state offense qualifies as a basis for removability as an aggravated felony under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii) is a question of law under de novo review. The Eighth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's final order of removal. The BIA granted DHS's appeal of an IJ's order granting petitioner deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). The Eighth Circuit held that defendant's conviction for willful injury causing bodily harm was a crime of violence in satisfaction of 18 U.S.C. 16(a) and a valid basis for removal under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii) because it was impossible to cause bodily injury without applying the force necessary to cause the injury. The court held that the BIA conducted a logical, clear error analysis and reached a permissible conclusion. View "Jima v. Barr" on Justia Law

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After defendant pleaded guilty to two Iowa felonies in September 2016, but before his sentencing, he possessed two firearms. A grand jury returned an indictment charging defendant with being a felon in possession of a firearm. The district court determined that defendant's guilty plea constituted a conviction under Iowa law and found him guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The Eighth Circuit agreed with the district court's conclusion that defendant's guilty pleas constituted convictions under Iowa law. Under Rehaif v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2191 (2019), the court held that the Government did not prove that defendant knew he had been convicted of a felony at the time he possessed the firearms. Therefore, in light of Rehaif, the court vacated defendant's conviction and remanded for a new trial. View "United States v. Davies" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Defendant appealed his 125 month sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to two counts of cocaine distribution and one count of conspiracy to distribute 28 grams or more of cocaine. The district court determined that defendant's base offense level was 26, based on unchallenged drug quantity facts stated in the Presentence Investigation Report (PSR). The Eighth Circuit reversed in part, holding that the government failed to prove estimated drug quantity above base offense level 24 with information that "has sufficient indicia of reliability to support its probable accuracy." However, the court held that the district court did not err by imposing a two-level sentencing enhancement under USSG 2D1.1(b)(1) for possession of a dangerous weapon. Accordingly, the court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Sterling" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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At issue was whether the district court erred in concluding that it has no authority under 18 U.S.C. 3599 and the All Writs Act, 18 U.S.C. 1651(a), to order South Dakota prison officials to allow petitioner to meet with mental health experts retained by appointed counsel for purposes of preparing a clemency application. The Eighth Circuit held that circumstances underlying the issue have changed, and a decision on this narrow issue was no longer needed. The court held that, at the present time, with South Dakota clemency proceedings commenced and the time for granting or denying imminent, the issues raised by petitioner in this appeal were either moot or have not been fully exhausted. Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal. View "Rhines v. Young" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence and rejected the contention that the district court created unwarranted disparities contrary to 18 U.S.C. 3553(a)(6), when it refused to vary from a guidelines provision that other district judges disagree with as a matter of sentencing policy. In this case, defendant was essentially asking the court to compel the district court to disagree with a guidelines provision as a matter of sentencing policy because other sentencing judges have done so. View "United States v. Heim" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court rejected defendant's claim under Rehaif v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2191 (2019), and held that there was no plain error where defendant failed to show a reasonable probability that, but for the error, the outcome of the proceeding would have been different. Assuming without deciding that the district court erred in admitting a photo lineup identification in violation of defendant's Sixth Amendment right to confrontation, the court held that admission of such evidence did not affect defendant's substantial rights. The court also held that the evidence was sufficient for a reasonable jury to find defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Finally, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by imposing two special conditions for defendant's supervised-release term --requiring defendant to participate in anger management treatment and domestic violence treatment -- in light of defendant's behavior problems in the past. View "United States v. Hollingshed" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's appeal of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) registration requirements as a condition of his release. The court held that the plea agreement, in which defendant entered into knowingly and voluntarily, waived the issue presented and there was no miscarriage in enforcing it. View "United States v. Knight" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment on double jeopardy grounds. The court held that the same conduct can result in both a revocation of a defendant's supervised release and a separate criminal conviction without raising double jeopardy concerns. In this case, the imposition of defendant's sentence under 18 U.S.C. 3583(g) was a sanction rather than a punishment for a separate offense, and thus criminal prosecution did not violate double jeopardy. View "United States v. Wilson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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After defendant installed drain tile on his property in a manner consistent with the NRCS map but inconsistent with the FWS map, defendant was convicted of the lesser-included offense of disturbing property in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The Eighth Circuit vacated the conviction and held that the district court erroneously instructed the jury that the lesser offense was a strict liability crime when, in fact, the lesser offense requires proof of defendant's negligence. In this case, the evidence presented at trial would have been sufficient to allow a reasonable juror to convict defendant under the proper formulation of the lesser offense, but given the jury's acquittal of defendant on the greater offense of knowingly disturbing property, the court could not say that the evidence of his culpable mental state was so overwhelming that it rendered the erroneous instruction harmless. View "United States v. Mast" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Defendants Sayonkon and Samaan appealed their convictions for aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Defendant Sesay pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. All defendants appealed their sentences. The Eighth Circuit held that there was sufficient evidence to convict Sayonkon and Samaan for a single conspiracy to commit bank fraud; there was no variance between the indictment for a single conspiracy charged in the indictment and the proof at trial; the district court did not err in denying Samaan's motion to suppress evidence gathered when police examined the guest registry at a motel he was staying, because he had no legitimate expectation of privacy in the identification card that he provided when registering at the motel; the evidence was sufficient to support Samaan's conviction for aggravated identity theft where a reasonable jury could find that he knowingly used another person's identification and that "another person" includes both the living and deceased; the district court did not err by applying a sentencing enhancement under USSG 3B1.1 to Sayonkon for his role as a leader in the criminal activity; the district court properly calculated the loss amount for sentencing Samaan; and Sesay's below-guidelines sentence was not substantively unreasonable. View "United States v. Sesay" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law