Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of a petition for habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The court held that petitioner's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) motion was timely filed and tolled the deadline for filing a notice of appeal until the entry of the order disposing of the motion. The court also held that this case presented one of those "extreme situations" in which the court was justified in finding a violation of the Sixth Amendment based on implied juror bias during the punishment phase of his trial. Although petitioner's conviction for possession of methamphetamine must stand, his sentence of life imprisonment could not. Accordingly, the court remanded with instructions. View "Uranga v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of two counts of forced labor and two counts of harboring an illegal alien for profit. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the testimony of a government expert witness regarding trauma bonds; the district court did not err by permitting Mosaic Family Services to withhold documents from her under the psychotherapist-patient and attorney-client privileges; any error arising from the prosecutor's comments during rebuttal closing was harmless; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by applying the vulnerable victim sentencing enhancement under USSG 3A1.1(b)(1). View "United States v. Murra" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for his involvement in a drug trafficking conspiracy and for firearm offenses. The court held that defendant's convictions were supported by sufficient evidence. However, the court vacated defendant's sentence, holding that the mandatory minimum sentence of 120 months of imprisonment was inapplicable. In this case, the court could not say that the jury "surely" would have found that defendant possessed the shotgun in furtherance of a drug trafficking at the time alleged in the indictment. Therefore, the court exercised its discretion under the plain error standard of review to remand to the district court for resentencing. View "United States v. Suarez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's child pornography conviction and sentences. The court held that there was sufficient evidence to convict defendant of distributing child pornography; defendant's convictions and sentences for receiving child pornography were not multiplicitous; the district court did not reversibly err in calculating defendant's Guidelines range and applying a five-level enhancement under the 2015 version of USSG 2G2.2(b)(3)(B); the district court imposed a substantively reasonable sentence; and the court denied defendant's Sixth Amendment ineffective assistance of counsel claim without prejudice to collateral review. View "United States v. Barton" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of ten counts of willfully failing to account for and pay over to the IRS the federal income taxes he withheld from his employees, in violation of 26 U.S.C. 7202, and one count of willfully attempting to evade and defeat payment of payroll taxes, penalties, and interest due and owing to the United States, in violation of 26 U.S.C. 7201. The court joined the Second, Third, and Ninth Circuits, in holding that section 7202 is violated when one either willfully fails to account for or pay over taxes collected. In this case, the court held that there was sufficient evidence to convict defendant of the charges. View "United States v. Sertich" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated defendant's restitution order after he pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a child. The court held that, especially given the victim mother's inability to speak at sentencing, it was prudent to permit the district court to ask and decide whether special circumstances excused the government's failure to present evidence in the first instance regarding the amount of restitution. Accordingly, the court remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "United States v. Villalobos" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed Defendant Petras and Shaker's conviction for interfering with the performance of the duties of a flight crew by intimidation, in violation of 49 U.S.C. 46504. The court held that defendants failed to meet their burden of proving that the prosecution engaged in purposeful discrimination, and the district court did not clearly err in determining that the prosecutor did not strike two jurors based on race. The court also held that there was no error in the jury instructions, and section 46504, as construed, was constitutional. The court rejected defendants' First Amendment as-applied, overbreadth, and vagueness challenges. Finally, the evidence was sufficient to convict Shaker, and Petras's argument that the district court violated the Sixth Amendment by ordering restitution based on its own findings was foreclosed by precedent. View "United States v. Petras" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud (Count 1), wire fraud (Counts 2-15), harboring and concealing a person from arrest (Count 16), and assisting a federal offender (Count 17). The Fifth Circuit held that the convictions as to Counts 16 and 17 must be vacated, holding that defendant's conspiracy-furthering acts did not qualify as harboring acts simply because they provided a third party with a revenue stream that funded his life on the lam. In this case, the government has not shown that any of defendant's acts continued the harboring offense. The court affirmed in all other respects and remanded to the district court. View "United States v. Lanier" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for possession of firearms in furtherance of a crime of violence. The court held that the district court did not err by including the government's requested jury instruction. Although the court found that the addition unnecessarily confused the issue and should not have been included, it did not ultimately misstate the law and was therefore not reversible error. The court also held that there was sufficient evidence to convict defendant of possession of firearms in furtherance of the crime of extortion. View "United States v. Smith" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated defendant's conviction for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and possession of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime. The court held that the prosecutor's questioning of a detective admitted testimonial hearsay in violation of defendant's Confrontation Clause rights. Accordingly, the court remanded for a new trial. View "United States v. Kizzee" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law