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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for seven counts of aggravated identity theft stemming from his involvement in preparing personal income tax returns for his clients that obtained inflated refunds by falsely claiming dependents. The court held that the district court did not err in interpreting the term "uses, without lawful authority" under 18 U.S.C. 1028A(a)(1) where defendant knowingly used the names and social security numbers of falsely claimed dependents, including his own children, in committing wire fraud, and whether the minors "consented" to the use was irrelevant. Therefore, the district court did not err by denying defendant's motion for acquittal. The district court also did not abuse its discretion by rejecting a jury instruction incorporating defendant's interpretation of the statute. View "United States v. Gatwas" on Justia Law

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Blytheville police responded to a call. The suspect fled his vehicle on foot. A crowd gathered. While Officer Dannar was securing the scene, a man (Reddick) approached. Dannar told him to stop, stating, “the car, you’re not getting it.” Dannar later explained past experiences where persons who have no legitimate interest in a vehicle falsely claim ownership. Reddick did not remove his hands from his large, bulky coat pockets. Sgt. St. Laurent arrived and approached Reddick, who was standing slightly outside the crime scene with his hands in his pockets. St. Laurent thought Reddick was “evasive.” Reddick claimed not to have any identification on him. In response to St. Laurent's repeated requests to remove his hands from his pockets, Reddick would briefly comply but kept placing them back in his pockets. St. Laurent later testified that those carrying a weapon will frequently touch it. St. Laurent announced that he would pat Reddick down as a safety precaution and asked whether he had anything on him that an officer should know about. Reddick hesitated before saying, “No.” As Reddick turned around, his coat swung out, leading St. Laurent to believe that something of some substance was in Reddick’s pocket. St. Laurent found a .38 caliber revolver. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the denial of a motion to suppress and Reddick’s conviction as a felon in possession of a firearm. The officer conducted a valid “Terry” stop; the circumstances met the threshold minimal level of justification and supported the officers' reasonable suspicion that Reddick was engaged in criminal activity. View "United States v. Reddick" on Justia Law

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In 2016, Michael, age 35, pled guilty to possession of child pornography. The court determined that his sentencing guideline range was 97-120 months’ imprisonment. The prosecutor recommended a term of 40 months. A general and forensic psychiatrist had interviewed Michael in 2014, had interviewed Michael’s parents, and had administered psychological tests; he opined that: Michael has Asperger's Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, and that his psychosexual and psychological development plateaued around early teens. Before sentencing, Michael had been actively involved in a sex offender treatment program. The director of associates at that program testified that Michael’s continued participation in the program caused him to believe that Michael was at a lower risk of recidivism. The court imposed a five-year term of probation with detailed conditions, varying from the guidelines because it was “the best solution for [Michael’s] Asperger’s problem and mental status.” In 2017, Michael was arrested for alleged violations of probation conditions relating to possession of materials involving pornographic/erotic or sexually explicit conduct; participation in sex offender counseling; use of online access without his probation officer’s approval; and untruthful responses to the probation officer’s questions. Michael admitted to each violation. A new judge imposed a 96-month sentence. The Eighth Circuit vacated the sentence. There is no indication the court considered the Sentencing Commission’s policy statements before imposing sentence; it is unclear whether the court was sufficiently informed about the case. The court failed to explain its decision to impose a sentence seven years beyond the guidelines range. View "United States v. Michael" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Murray left a store and joined Robinson, who was arguing with the occupants of a van. The driver opened fire. Murray pulled out a handgun and returned fire. Murray was hit fell to the ground. Robinson picked up Murray’s weapon and shot at the fleeing van. The store clerk came out; she heard Murray tell Robinson to put his gun, drugs, and money in her vehicle. Officers later searched Robinson’s car and found the handgun, $95, and 15.14 grams of PCP. Murray pleaded guilty as a felon in possession of a firearm. At sentencing, Officer Whetro described smelling PCP when he approached Murray at the scene and explained that 15.14 grams of PCP is not consistent with personal use but constitutes a distributable amount. The court applied a four-level enhancement under 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) for using and possessing the firearm in connection with possession of a distributable amount of PCP. The application notes explain that this is warranted “in the case of a drug trafficking offense in which a firearm is found in close proximity to drugs.” Murray’s 51-month sentence fell at the high end of his guidelines range of 41-51 months. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. When the felony involves drug trafficking rather than simple possession, the guidelines mandate the enhancement “if guns and drugs are in the same location.” View "United States v. Murray" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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A Nebraska jury convicted Mayfield, a California resident, of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine (21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), and 846). The district court imposed the mandatory minimum sentence of 240 months’ imprisonment. At trial, three cooperating witnesses testified that their methamphetamine supplier, Love, purchased meth from the “Cali Boys,” brothers “Rob” Mayfield and Anthony “Duga” Harris. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that out-of-court statements Love made to the cooperators, and recorded calls that Harris made from jail to “Rob” at a California telephone number, were inadmissible hearsay. The statements were made during the course and in furtherance of the conspiracy; such statements are generally non-testimonial, and their admission does not violate the Confrontation Clause The court found the evidence sufficient to convict and upheld the imposition of an obstruction-of-justice sentencing enhancement based on defendant's act of making a throat-slashing gesture to testifying co-conspirator. View "United States v. Mayfield" on Justia Law

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Moore-Jones passed Arkansas State Trooper Quick’s marked police car. Quick checked and found her registration was expired and began a traffic stop, which was recorded on his dash-cam. Quick pulled behind Moore-Jones, activating his emergency lights, spotlight, and sirens at 8:23 p.m. She decelerated and pulled onto the shoulder, which was narrow and unlit. She returned to the road, accelerating to 35-38 MPH, her speed for the rest of the pursuit. The posted speed limit was 55 MPH. At 8:24, she continued past the last exit before the nearest city. After the exit, Quick began a Precision Immobilization Technique (PIT) maneuver, striking Moore-Jones's right-rear fender with his left-front bumper, causing her car to spin into a ditch, hitting a cement culvert. Moore-Jones and her child and were treated and released at a hospital. She was cited for expired tags and failure to yield to an emergency vehicle, both misdemeanors. She sued Quick for excessive force and assault and battery. The Eighth Circuit held that Quick is entitled to qualified immunity. The right to be free from a PIT maneuver in these circumstances was not sufficiently definite. From a reasonable officer’s perspective, Moore-Jones refused to comply with commands to pull over. At the time, Quick was justified in using some force to secure compliance. View "Moore-Jones v. Quick" on Justia Law

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An unpaid lobbyist unsuccessfully sued to enjoin enforcement of Mo. Rev. Stat. Sections 105.470 and 105.473 which require lobbyists to register and report certain activities. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The district court properly analyzed the claims under an intermediate or exacting level of scrutiny, rather than strict scrutiny, citing the “Citizens United” decision. Missouri has a sufficiently important governmental interest in government transparency to require both paid and unpaid lobbyists to register and report and the registration requirements in Sec. 105.473 are substantially related to Missouri's interest in transparency. The burden placed on the plaintiff is not disproportionate to Missouri's interest and the court did not err in finding the statute was constitutional as applied to the plaintiff. The court rejected a facial challenge to the word "designated" in the definition of a legislative lobbyist. The term is clearly defined, and the statute uses the word within its plain meaning; “people of ordinary intelligence” would have a “reasonable opportunity to understand” what “designated” means in the context of the statute. View "Calzone v. Hagan" on Justia Law

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Henderson, a 19-year-old black man, was attending a party at a Woodbury, Minnesota Red Roof Inn. Without warning, another young black male, Ballinger, pulled a gun, robbed the other guests, including Mark, and held them hostage. A woman called 911 and then hid her phone. Though the caller was unable to speak with the operator, the operator kept the line open and listened; the operator discerned an apparent confrontation between someone with a gun and another person with a knife. The person with the gun (Ballinger) demanded that the person with the knife (Henderson) give it up. The dispatcher alerted police. During the response, which involved Henderson trying to escape the hotel room while Ballinger fired shots, Henderson was shot by three officers who fired 17 rounds while he was lying on the ground. Henderson died. The district court rejected, on summary judgment, claims by his estate under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Eighth Circuit reversed. The resolution of the conflicting testimony between one officer's more or less contemporaneous statement to investigators and all of the officers' subsequent unified deposition testimony should be left to a jury; the district court erred in finding the defendants entitled to qualified immunity. View "Henderson v. City of Woodbury" on Justia Law

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In 2001, Nelson pled guilty to the kidnapping and unlawful interstate transportation of Pamela for the purpose of sexual abuse which resulted in her death. The government dropped a charge traveling across state lines with the intent to engage in a sex act with a female under the age of 12 which resulted in death. Days later, Nelson attempted suicide by ingesting prescription medicine. The penalty phase jury returned a death penalty verdict. The court allowed Nelson to address the court. Nelson, showing no remorse, blistered the court and the victim’s family with a profanity-laden tirade. The court imposed the death sentence. The Eighth Circuit affirmed; the Supreme Court denied certiorari. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the rejection of Nelson’s 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion. The jury heard substantial mitigating evidence and there was no reasonable probability that its death sentence verdict would have been different if the evidence produced at the habeas evidentiary hearing had been introduced during the penalty phase, so the district court did not err in denying Nelson's ineffective assistance of counsel claims concerning failure to conduct an adequate mitigation investigation, failure to adequately investigate his mental health and failure to advise Nelson to decline to submit to a mental health exam by a government examiner. View "Nelson v. United States" on Justia Law

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Missouri inmate Barr filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging that state-contracted health care providers violated the Eighth Amendment when they stopped administering his multiple sclerosis medication. Barr’s medical record indicated that he was being followed “for high suspicion of multiple sclerosis” but had discontinued taking Avonex “on his own due to undesirable side effects.” The Eighth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the Defendants. While inmates have a right to adequate medical care, they have no right to receive a particular or requested course of treatment. Defendants’ decision to halt Barr’s Avonex injections did not rise to a level akin to criminal recklessness and was probably not even negligent. Even if Barr did not refuse his injections, Defendants had good reason to end them. Three different health care providers wrote in Barr’s medical record that he had complained to them about side effects; it was well within Defendants’ independent medical judgment to stop administering Avonex. Barr does not allege that any harm occurred after the injections ended. After Barr’s injections were halted, Defendants continued to provide medical care—prescribing other medication, scheduling follow-ups, and requesting additional diagnostic tests. No rational trier of fact could find that Defendants were deliberately indifferent. View "Barr v. Pearson" on Justia Law