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

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's conviction because it showed defendant knowingly possessed the weapon and ammunition; the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting a pawn ticket in order to show knowledge and intent to possess the weapon, and the district court's instruction limited any prejudicial effect of the evidence; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting a dashcam video showing defendant escaping from an officer because flight was evidence of consciousness of guilt. Finally, the court held that defendant's prior Wisconsin conviction for armed robbery and North Dakota conviction for conspiracy to deliver ecstasy are qualifying offenses for Armed Career Criminal Act sentencing. View "United States v. Howard" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court held that, although defendant's prior Missouri conviction is not a predicate offense under the Armed Career Criminal Act, his 2003 conviction for possession of cocaine for resale, in violation of Tenn. Code Sec. 39-17-417(a)(4), was a serious drug offense for purposes of applying the ACCA enhancement. Therefore, defendant had the three requisite convictions that the ACCA requires. View "United States v. Coleman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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At issue in this appeal is what effect, if any, a guilty plea has on later denaturalization proceedings. In this case, defendant had pleaded guilty to violating and conspiring to violate Iraqi sanctions and to misusing his organization's tax exempt status and omitting relevant, material information from tax forms. Eight years after pleading guilty and eighteen years after first becoming a citizen, the government commenced proceedings to denaturalize defendant. The district court agreed with the government that defendant's failure to disclose his criminal activities called for denaturalization.The Eighth Circuit held that all three judicial estoppel factors favored applying the doctrine: first, the court stated that defendant's current position is clearly inconsistent with the one from his criminal proceeding; second, the district court had to accept the plea's factual basis, including defendant's statements during the plea colloquy; and third, defendant would derive an unfair advantage if he were allowed to change his position now. Therefore, the court cannot say that the district court abused its discretion in refusing to consider defendant's lack-of-knowledge defense. Finally, the court rejecting defendant's defense of laches because the doctrine of laches does not apply to the United States when it is acting in its sovereign capacity. View "United States v. Hamed" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motions to suppress in a case where defendant entered a conditional plea of guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute heroin and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.The court held that the GPS vehicle warrants were supported by probable cause and, even if the warrants lacked probable cause, the Leon good-faith exception applies to the warrants where the officers had an objectively reasonable belief in light of the totality of the circumstances; law enforcement needed a warrant based on probable cause to access cell phone location records; even if the cell phone orders lacked probable cause, the good faith exception applies; the evidence gathered over the course of the investigation was sufficient to establish probable cause; and, once the officers found heroin in defendant's car, they had probable cause to arrest him. The court also held that defendant's pre-Miranda statements were admissible because he was not in custody at the time; defendant's statements made while he was in custody were admissible under the public-safety exception; and other statements at issue were voluntary. Finally, the court denied defendant's motion for leave to file a pro se supplemental brief. View "United States v. Thompson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for sexual abuse of a minor under the age of twelve years old (count I); sexual abuse of a minor between the ages of twelve and sixteen years old (count III); and abusive sexual contact (count V).The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding evidence against the victim where any evidence of the victim's drug use would not have tended to prove the alleged motives of retaliation and avoiding punishment. The court also held that the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's conviction on count I. The court further held that the district court gave due consideration to defense counsel's well-thought-out, well-presented argument for a lesser-than-life sentence, and did not abuse its discretion in determining that defendant's age did not warrant a downward variance from the advisory Guidelines sentence. View "United States v. Free" 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 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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Years of litigation resulted from Debtor's spouse's personal guarantee of a lease of real property from Lariat. One suit resulted in a state court judgment holding Debtor and Debtor's spouse jointly and severally liable for fraudulent transfers from Debtor's spouse to Debtor. In Debtor's subsequent chapter 11 bankruptcy, Lariat asserted a claim for $1,030,916.74 based on that judgment. The bankruptcy court overruled Debtor's objection but found Lariat's claim was for damages resulting from the termination of a lease of real property (the lease Debtor's spouse had personally guaranteed) and was subject to 11 U.S.C. 502(b)(6)'s cap on such claims. The Eighth Circuit held that Lariat held a claim for $308,805.00 (plus interest). Lariat filed a complaint under 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(2)(A); the bankruptcy court excepted the Lariat claim from discharge, finding seven badges of fraudThe Eighth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel affirmed. The evidence supported findings that the transfer was to an insider; the debtor retained possession or control of the property after the transfer; before the transfer was made, the debtor had been sued or threatened with suit; the value of the consideration received by the debtor was reasonably equivalent to the value of the asset transferred or the amount of the obligation incurred; the debtor was insolvent or became insolvent shortly after the transfer; the transfer occurred shortly before or shortly after a substantial debt was incurred. View "Lariat Companies, Inc. v. Wigley" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy