Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Defendant appealed his sentence after being convicted of illegal reentry. The court concluded that the district court did not err by applying a crime-of-violence (COV) enhancement under the sentencing guidelines based on defendant's conviction of rape in California. The court explained that the elements of conviction under the California Penal Code 261(a)(3) match the definition of forcible sex offense under the guidelines pursuant to USSG 2L1.2cmt. n.1(B)(iii). The court rejected defendant's arguments to the contrary and affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Alay" on Justia Law
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Defendant was charged with four counts of making false statements under penalty of perjury in a bankruptcy proceeding in violation of 18 U.S.C. 152(3), and convicted of Counts Two through Four. The court held that the indictment was not defective, and any prejudice introduced to the jury by the indictment's "used" language was harmless; the evidence was sufficient to support her convictions; and the district court did not err by applying USSG 2J1.3, the perjury guideline, to her offense where the gravaman of the charge was that defendant interfered with the bankruptcy court's administration of justice, not that she defrauded any creditors. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Grant" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine and importing 500 grams or more of methamphetamine. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's convictions where the jury determined beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant had the requisite knowledge to support his convictions for possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute and importing methamphetamine. In this case, the jury's verdict was supported by evidence that defendant controlled the tractor-trailer in which the methamphetamine was found; gave statements to Agent Santiago inconsistent with the evidence; gave implausible explanations regarding the fuel tank and the source of the methamphetamine; and was nervous during his interview. A rational jury could find this evidence, as well as the high amount and value of the methamphetamine hidden in defendant's tractor-trailer, demonstrated that defendant knew about the methamphetamine. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Lopez-Monzon" on Justia Law
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Defendant was convicted of seven counts of wire fraud and one count of making false statements to an FBI agent. Defendant's convictions stemmed from his involvement in a fraudulent scheme involving the alleged development of a Disney theme park in Celina, Texas. The court rejected defendant's evidentiary challenges, concluding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence that defendant met the individual who informed him of the Disney development at a methadone clinic because the true nature of the relationship that defendant had with the person he claimed to be his source for the Disney information was inextricably intertwined with the fraudulent scheme. The court also concluded that, even assuming that new information regarding the involvement of defendant's uncle, the uncle's participation does not undermine the conclusion that defendant was involved in the scheme. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant a new trial on these bases. Finally, the court rejected defendant's objections to the admission of portions of his deposition testimony through the summary-evidence testimony of a government agent. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Lucas, Jr." on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. On appeal, defendant argued that the evidence was insufficient to convict him of violating 18 U.S.C. 922(g). The court concluded that defendant's indictment was not constructively amended because the language of his indictment mirrored that of the statute of conviction; the government was not required to prove the legality, under Texas law, of defendant's possession of the firearms, because that was irrelevant to his conviction under Section 922(g); and the district court was not required to address whether defendant's rights had been restored in Texas such that he would be permitted to possess a firearm. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Massey" on Justia Law
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Petitioner was convicted and sentenced to death for murder for remuneration. In this appeal, petitioner claimed that the court erred in determining that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had denied his Wiggins claims on the merits rather than based on state procedural grounds. Petitioner appears to argue that there is a middle ground between the deferential standard necessitated by the state court's "on the merits" dismissal of his Wiggins claims and a finding that he had procedurally defaulted. The court explained that the Supreme Court has held that 28 U.S.C. 2254(d) applies even where the state court issues a summary denial without an accompanying statement of reasons. In this case, the court's holding that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed his petition on the merits necessarily triggered the deferential standard he faced under section 2254(d) when he returned six years later. Accordingly, the court denied petitioner's motion to withdraw the mandate. View "Ruiz v. Stephens" on Justia Law
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Defendant pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute fifty grams or more of methamphetamine and possession with intent to distribute gamma hydroxybutyric acid. The court concluded that defendant waived the right to challenge the denial of the motion to suppress because he entered a voluntary, unconditional plea of guilty. The court also concluded that the district court properly applied the career-offender enhancement under USSG 4B1.1 based on defendant's two convictions of possession for sale of methamphetamine in violation of California Health & Safety Code 11378. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Olson, II" on Justia Law
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Defendant Brewer and Boyd plead guilty to one count of bank robbery and were sentenced as career offenders in separate proceedings. In these consolidated appeals, defendants challenged the career-offender enhancement. The court agreed with its sister circuits that federal bank robbery is a crime of violence under USSG 4B1.2(a)(1), where defendants failed to present any cases showing that robbery by intimidation can be accomplished without at least an implicit threat to use force. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Brewer" on Justia Law
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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against three officers and the City of Fort Worth, alleging violations of his First and Fourth Amendment rights. Plaintiff's suit stemmed from his arrest after he was video recording a police station from a public sidewalk and refused to identify himself to officers. The district court granted the officers' motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity. The court concluded that all three officers are entitled to qualified immunity on the First Amendment claim because there was no clearly established First Amendment right to record the police at the time of plaintiff's activities. The court explained for the future that First Amendment principles, controlling authority, and persuasive precedent demonstrate that a First Amendment right to record the police does exist, subject only to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions. The court also concluded that Officer Grinalds and Dyess's initial questioning or detention of plaintiff before he was handcuffed was objectively unreasonable in light of clearly established law. Therefore, Grinalds and Dyess are entitled to qualified immunity on plaintiff's claim that they violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from detention absent reasonable suspicion. However, the court concluded that no objectively reasonable person in these officers' position could have believed that there was probable cause to arrest plaintiff and thus they are not entitled to qualified immunity on plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claim that the officers violated his right to be free from warrantless arrest absent probable cause. Finally, Lieutenant Driver is entitled to qualified immunity on plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claims where Driver acted objectively reasonably in light of the circumstances. Accordingly, the court affirmed as to this claim. View "Turner v. Driver" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of ten counts of sexual exploitation of a child and child pornography, sentenced to 600 months in prison and five years of supervised release, and ordered to pay criminal monetary penalties consisting of a $1000 special assessment and a $1000 fine. On appeal, defendant challenged the district court's order requiring the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to turn over as payment all but $1000 held in defendant's inmate trust account after he failed to pay the monetary penalties. The court affirmed the judgment, concluding that the Government's enforcement of the order against defendant's property, including surplus funds held in his inmate trust account, did not exceed the terms of the original judgment. View "United States v. Diehl" on Justia Law
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