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

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress in a case where defendant pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm. The court held that the evidence seized in reliance on the warrant is admissible based on the Leon good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule. The search uncovered a firearm, drugs, drug paraphernalia, and ammunition. In this case, the affidavit was not so lacking in indicia of probable cause as to render reliance on it as objectively unreasonable. View "United States v. Williams" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's 58 month sentence imposed after he was convicted of conspiracy to commit theft of public funds, theft of public funds, aggravated identity theft, money laundering, and mail fraud. Defendant's conviction stemmed from improper billing practices related to a federal program called the Child Care and Development Fund.The court held that the record supports the district court's conclusion that defendant was responsible for a loss amount between $250,000 and $550,000, and thus the offense level (and resulting guidelines range) was correct. In this case, defendant presented no evidence that he provided legitimate services or submitted legitimate bills. Furthermore, he provided no evidence differentiating legitimate from illegal billing. The court also held that the district court did not clearly err in concluding that the $536,833.75 paid to defendant's daycares by Missouri is the loss amount under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act. View "United States v. Karie" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's conviction; the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendant's motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence where the evidence was only impeachment evidence and not material, it is not probable that the newly discovered evidence would produce an acquittal at a new trial, and the evidence did not show that the government's witnesses perjured themselves; the district court did not clearly err in determining the drug quantity attributed to defendant; the district court did not abuse its discretion by applying a three-level manager or supervisor role enhancement under USSG 3B1.1(b) and a two-level enhancement for obstruction of justice under USSG 2D1.1(b)(16)(D); and the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining defendant's sentence by accepting the 10-to-1 pure meth mixture and pure meth mixture guidelines range. View "United States v. Lewis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's 190 month sentence imposed under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) after he pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm as a felon. The court held that revising a sentencing recommendation for a legitimate reason during a sentencing hearing is not prosecutorial vindictiveness and there was no prosecutorial vindictiveness in this case. Regardless, defendant cannot show that his substantial rights were affected where the district court considered the sentencing factors at length, stressing those important to the sentence.The court also held that the district court did not err by deciding that defendant's four prior serious drug offenses were "committed on occasions different from one another." Furthermore, defendant's argument that this determination is a fact to be decided by a jury, not the judge, is foreclosed by precedent. Therefore, defendant's Sixth Amendment rights were not violated. View "United States v. Williams" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In 2006, Cain was convicted of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine. Guideline changes reduced his sentence to 151 months. His five-year term of supervised release began in 2016. Within 14 months, he was revoked for testing positive for cocaine nine times over a six-month period. Cain pled guilty, in state court, to attempted possession of 19.7 grams of methamphetamine, indicating attempted sales because his addictions were to cocaine and alcohol, not meth. Cain admitted violating the terms of his supervised release. The district court sentenced him to 48 months' imprisonment.The Eighth Circuit upheld the sentence as substantively reasonable, rejecting Cain’s argument that the district court should have given more weight to the guidelines range of five-11 months and to his probation officer's recommendation of eight months plus 24 months of supervised release. The district judge, who had presided over his trial and prior revocation, used the court’s “wide latitude” to weigh the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors and to assign some factors greater weight. The court did not indicate that Cain’s revocation sentence is a punishment for his new criminal conduct but emphasized that his multiple violations demonstrate that he cannot be adequately supervised outside prison, where he can receive drug or alcohol treatment. The court mentioned the new criminal conduct only to show that the “conduct requiring revocation is associated with a high risk of new felonious conduct.” View "United States v. Cain" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Following a shooting, police went to Roberts’s apartment to execute a search warrant on the residence and a Durango vehicle. Officers found firearms. An officer stated Roberts was not under arrest. Roberts admitted he brought the guns into the residence from the Durango, where “Mike” had left them. The officers noted possible federal firearm charges because they knew Roberts was a felon. The officers did not arrest Roberts, but read his Miranda rights, despite Roberts saying “you don’t have to.” Officers asked if Roberts wanted to continue to talk. Roberts replied, “Not really,” but continued the interview. He admitted driving a man to the crime scene on the night of the shooting in the Durango. Roberts was arrested hours later. Roberts entered a conditional guilty plea to being a felon in possession of a firearm, reserving the right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, finding that the affidavit supplied with the search warrant application gave the judge probable cause to believe that Roberts drove the vehicle associated with a shooting on the night of the shooting and that evidence of the crime would be found in the truck or his residence. Roberts’s incriminating statements before receiving Miranda warnings were admissible; he was not in custody and the statements were voluntary. Roberts's prior Illinois and Iowa convictions were controlled substance offenses for purposes of sentencing under Guidelines 4B1.1(a). View "United States v. Roberts" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit held that the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant's motion for a new trial where the government's closing argument was permissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b); there was no error in admitting forensic testimony by the government's experts because their testimony on the absence of DNA and fingerprints on the firearms and ammunition was relevant and helpful to the jury; and there was no error in admitting a photo of defendant in handcuffs where the district court gave a cautionary instruction.The court further held that the district court did not err by sentencing defendant as a career offender under USSG 4B1.1(a); by imposing an enhancement under USSG 2D1.1(b)(12) for maintaining a drug premises; and by imposing an enhancement under USSG 3B1.1 for leadership role in the offense. Accordingly, the court affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence. View "United States v. Jefferson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's revocation sentence, holding that defendant's sentence was not substantively unreasonable. In explaining the revocation sentence it was imposing, the district court discussed defendant's history and characteristics, observing that his criminal history was "replete with violence and assaultive behavior," and assaultive incidents illustrated defendant's "impulsive and violent behavior." The district court also took into account and considered all the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors that apply in a revocation hearing, directly responding to the "disrespect" complaint in defendant's allocution. Therefore, the district court neither gave significant weight to an improper or irrelevant factor nor abused its substantial discretion by imposing a substantively unreasonable sentence. View "United States v. Porter" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit vacated defendant's sentence and remanded for resentencing before a different judge. Defendant alleged that, absent the district court's advice, he likely would have accepted the government's offer and received a lighter sentence. The government concedes that the district court plainly crossed the line as soon as it suggested, with a plea deal still on the table, that defendant could do better if he went to trial.The court held that there is a reasonable probability that defendant would have pleaded guilty but for the district judge's comments at the plea proceedings. In light of the circumstances, the court determined that the remedy that best balances the competing objectives is vacating defendant's sentence and remanding for resentencing before a different judge. View "United States v. Harrison" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence as an armed career criminal after he pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court held that the district court was entitled to treat the fact that defendant was convicted of the 1997 robbery offense as established where the government failed to produce the charging document. In this case, defendant did not object to the PSR's recitation that he was, in fact, convicted of the 1997 robbery offense.The court has held that a charging document can provide sufficient evidence to support a finding that the defendant was necessarily convicted of a violent felony offense, but no case has held that the government must produce the charging document to establish the fact of conviction. The court also held that precedent establishes that defendant's 1997 Missouri first degree robbery conviction categorically qualified as a violent felony under the Armed Career Criminal Act's elements clause. Therefore, the district court did not err in sentencing defendant as an armed career criminal. View "United States v. Witherspoon" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law