Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to vacate his sentence. Defendant argued that he did not have the requisite three prior violent felony convictions under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) because his two Arkansas convictions for first-degree terroristic threatening were not violent felonies. The court held that it's decision in United States v. Myers, 896 F.3d 866 (8th Cir. 2018), that Section 5-13-301(a)(1)(A), the Arkansas first-degree terroristic threatening statute, is divisible and requires the modified categorical approach was controlling in this case where the state court documents that may be examined established that defendant was twice convicted of the ACCA violent felony of threatening to use physical force against another person. The court also held, in the alternative, that Descamps v. United States, 570 U.S. 254 (2013), and Mathis v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 2243 (2016), did not announce a new rule of constitutional law made retroactive to cases on collateral review. View "Martin v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant was convicted and sentenced for attempted exploitation of a child, attempted receipt of images depicting sexual exploitation of a child, possession of counterfeit obligations, two counts of attempted witness tampering, and attempted travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct. The Eighth Circuit rejected all of defendant's challenges to the convictions but one. The court held that there was insufficient evidence to support defendant's conviction for attempted travel. Therefore, the court remanded for resentencing based on the remaining five counts. View "United States v. Bernhardt" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for three counts of abusive sexual contact with A.W., a minor and enrolled member of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in applying Rule of Evidence 412 and refusing to admit testimony that the victim had been sexually assaulted by other men after the incidents involving defendant; defendant's right to present his defense was not unduly, nor unconstitutionally, hindered by his inability to cross-examine the witness and the interviewers about later-occurring sexual abuse by other adults; and the district court properly excluded the evidence under Rule 403. View "United States v. Hawkghost" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction of attempted aggravated sexual abuse of a child, aggravated sexual abuse of a child, aggravated sexual abuse of a child by force, and incest in Indian Country. The court held that Count 2 (aggravated sexual abuse of a child) and Count 5 (incest in Indian Country) required proof of different elements and were not multiplicitous; the district court properly refused to include defendant's jury instruction for aggravated sexual abuse of a child; the evidence was insufficient to support defendant's convictions for attempted aggravated sexual abuse of a child; the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's convictions for aggravated sexual abuse of a child; and the evidence was insufficient to support defendant's conviction for aggravated sexual abuse of a child by force. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "United States v. Robert Fool Bear, Sr." on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of petitioner's claim seeking post-conviction relief as untimely. Petitioner asserted that, in light of Johnson v. United States, the district court violated his rights under the Due Process Clause by sentencing him as a career offender based on the residual clause of USSG 4B1.2(a)(2). The court explained that whether Johnson restarted the one-year limitations period turns on whether Johnson "newly recognized" this asserted right. In this case, petitioner's asserted right was not dictated by Johnson. Rather, the better view was that Beckles v. United States, 137 S. Ct. 886 (2017), leaves open the question of whether the mandatory guidelines are susceptible to vagueness challenges. The court held that, because the question remains open, and the answer was reasonably debatable, Johnson did not recognize the right asserted by petitioner. Therefore, petitioner could not benefit from the limitations period in 28 U.S.C. 2255(f)(3), and the district court correctly dismissed his motion as untimely. View "Russo v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit held that the procedural element of the new substantive rule of constitutional law made retroactive in Montgomery v. Louisiana did not apply in this case and the district court did not err in denying successive habeas relief. The court held that petitioner's life sentence for conspiracy was based on conspiratorial conduct which extended well into his adult years and the sentence was imposed under an advisory guidelines regime that allowed the district court to consider his early participation as a juvenile, as well as other relevant mitigating factors. The court also held that petitioner's sentence of life plus 60 years did not violate the Eighth Amendment and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying more comprehensive resentencing after it vacated his mandatory life sentence on one count under Miller v. Alabama and resentenced him. View "Wright v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's revocation of defendant's supervised release. The court held that there was sufficient evidence to support the district court's judgment where defendant admitted to violating two of the special conditions of release. The court also held that the special condition prohibiting defendant from participating in any organizational financial activities was reasonably related to the 18 U.S.C. 3583(d) sentencing factors, and was not overbroad nor did it prohibit him from contributing financially to religious organizations. View "United States v. Henderson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of one count of transportation of a minor to engage in prostitution; two counts of attempted transportation of a minor to engage in prostitution; and six counts of transportation of an individual with intent to engage in prostitution. The court held that the search of defendant's van was warranted under the community-caretaker exception where police officers knew that a minor was missing; the officer developed probable cause to search the van under the automobile warrant exception when he opened the door and discovered marijuana and an apparently comatose young woman; and thus the district court properly denied defendant's motion to suppress evidence. The court also held that the district court did not err in admitting evidence that defendant had asked two of the women to have sex with him and provided drugs to them. Finally, the evidence was sufficient to enable a reasonable jury to find that defendant transported all six women in interstate commerce with the intent to have them engage in prostitution. View "United States v. Parks" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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A conspiracy to defraud financial institutions in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area involved cashing counterfeit checks. Participants, including 25 co-defendants, created the counterfeit checks using check-printing software and blank check stock. “Bank insiders” provided bank account information for use on counterfeit checks. "Runners" were enlisted to serve as payees and take the checks to the bank to cash or deposit. Conspiracy members acquired account information through various means. Using social media, participants searched the hashtag “#myfirstpaycheck” and found photographs of legitimate paychecks that unwitting victims had posted online. Bank insiders sometimes provided account information. Some conspirators used their own payroll or personal checks to be counterfeited. During the period between November 2007 and September 2013 alone, more than 500 runners negotiated over 1500 counterfeit or fraudulent checks. Gaye pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1344 and 1349, 20 counts of aiding and abetting bank fraud, and two counts of aiding and abetting aggravated identity theft, 18 U.S.C. 1028A. Fillie pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of aiding and abetting aggravated identity theft. Sumoso pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and four counts of aiding and abetting bank fraud. The Eighth Circuit affirmed sentences of (respectively) 144, 134, and 54 months’ imprisonment and restitution orders, rejecting arguments that the district court committed procedural error in applying the guidelines. View "United States v. Gaye" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of five counts of aiding and abetting mail fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit theft from a program receiving federal funds in connection with defendant's receipt of pay for a no-show job. The court held that the district court court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendant's request to provide the jury with a copy of the indictment without a limiting instruction; the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing defendant's proposed "good character" instruction; and the district court did not plainly err by giving a willful blindness instruction. The court also held that the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's conviction for mail fraud and conspiracy to commit theft from a federally funded program. View "United States v. Davis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law