Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's successive 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion for habeas relief. The court held that a prisoner bringing a successive section 2255 petition must show that it is "more likely than not" that the sentencing court relied on the residual clause to prove that his claim "relies on" Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551, 2563 (2015). In this case, petitioner failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that he was sentenced under the residual clause and therefore his claim relies on Johnson. Accordingly, the district court properly dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction. View "United States v. Clay" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions for conspiracy to commit health care fraud and several substantive counts of health care fraud. Defendants' charges stemmed from their involvement in a scheme to defraud Medicare. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant Bagoumian's conviction for conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute; the evidence was sufficient to support defendants' conviction for conspiracy to commit health care fraud and health care fraud; and the evidence was sufficient to support the counts against the doctor defendants for engaging in monetary transactions of property derived from specified unlawful activity. The court also held that any error in the jury instructions was harmless; the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendants' request for a good faith instruction; and defendants' evidentiary challenges were rejected. Finally, the court affirmed Bagoumian's sentence, holding that the district court did not prejudicially rely on her national origin, did not err in refusing to grant a downward adjustment, and did not impose a substantively unreasonable sentence. View "United States v. Martinez" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's federal application for post-conviction relief where he was sentenced to death for killing his great aunt. The court held that the Director did not waive her statute of limitations defense; the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining whether to equitably toll the limitations period; the state court did not abuse its discretion by holding that petitioner's confession was taken in contravention of Miranda v. Arizona, but that its admission was harmless error under the Supreme Court's decision in Chapman v. California; and the district court did not improperly deny petitioner investigative funding under 18 U.S.C. 3599(f). View "Jones v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's revocation of defendant's supervised release and imposition of a special condition of supervised release allowing probation officers to search his computers, cellular telephones, and all other electronics. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by crafting a special condition that was reasonably related to the nature and circumstances of his drug offense and the history and characteristics of defendant. In this case, defendant was convicted of a drug-trafficking offense and had multiple drug-related supervised release violations. The court held that the deprivation of defendant's liberty was not more than was reasonably necessary to advance deterrence, protect the public from him, and serve his correctional needs. Finally, the court rejected defendant's claim that the special condition was inconsistent with the Sentencing Commission's policy statements, and held that the special condition was consistent with USSG 5D1.3(d)(4), which addresses substance abuse. View "United States v. Hathorn" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit withdrew its previous opinion pending the en banc court's decision in United States v. Reyes-Contreras. After the en banc court decided Reyes-Contreras, the Supreme Court decided Stokeling v. United States, which held that Florida robbery qualified as a crime of violence under the Armed Career Criminal Act. The court held that these cases applied to defendant's sentence and governed the outcome of this case. Therefore, the court held that Texas robbery under Texas Penal Code 29.02(a) requires the "use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force" and affirmed defendant's increased sentence under the ACCA. View "United States v. Burris" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The mere use of a peer-to-peer network is not enough to trigger USSG's 2G2.2(b)(3)(F)'s enhancement; but that enhancement may apply if a defendant knows that his use of a peer-to-peer network made his child pornography files accessible to others online. The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to receipt and possession of child pornography. Although defendant did not plead guilty to the additional charge of distributing child pornography, the district court applied a two-level sentence enhancement under USSG 2G2.2(b)(3)(F) for such distribution. In this case, defendant knew that others online could access his child pornography files. View "United States v. Lawrence" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after she pleaded guilty to distributing a large volume of pills containing Fentanyl analogues. The district court used the total weight of all the pills as the attributable drug quantity. The court held, under the 2016 Sentencing Guidelines, the default rule for calculating the weight of a controlled substance is its mixture weight. Because Fentanyl analogues were not otherwise specified, it was subject to the mixture rule. Furthermore, mixture weight calculations did not violate Due Process when, as here, the drug could not be easily separated from the mixture and was intended for sale and consumption in the mixture. The court rejected defendant's argument that the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause right, as enunciated by the Supreme Court in Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004), should be extended to the sentencing phase. Finally, the court held that the findings of the lab reports provided an adequate evidentiary basis with sufficient indicia of reliability for the presentencing report to conclude that all of the pills contained Fentanyl analogues, and defendant failed to offer competent rebuttal evidence. View "United States v. Dinh" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed defendant's sentence and held that the district court plainly erred by denying defendant a chance to speak at his sentencing hearing. The court held that the right of allocution exists because counsel may not be able to provide the same quantity or quality of mitigating evidence as the defendant in sentencing. In this case, defendant's intended allocution was markedly different than his counsel's statements to the court and could have lessened his sentence. Therefore, the court exercised its discretion to remand the case. View "United States v. Figueroa-Coello" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit withdrew its prior panel opinion and substituted this opinion. The court held, consistent with its decision in United States v. Reyes-Contreras, 910 F.3d 169 (5th Cir. 2018) (en banc), that defendant's prior conviction for "Assault -- Family Violence" under Texas Penal Code 22.01(a)(1) and (b)(2) fell within the definition of a crime of violence under 18 U.S.C. 16(a). Accordingly, the court affirmed defendant's sentence. View "United States v. Gracia-Cantu" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's imposition of a 60 month term of probation and assessment of a fine to defendant, who was convicted of several counts of tax evasion and filing false income tax returns. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by departing downward from the recommended sentencing guidelines by considering defendant's lack of prior criminal history, that he acted alone, his age, physical condition, family responsibilities, charitable activity, work as a law enforcement officer, and voluntary service during the Vietnam era. View "United States v. Taffaro" on Justia Law