Federal Defenders of New York Second Circuit Blog


Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Second Circuit Vacates Denial of Sentence Reduction

United States v. Melendez, No. 16-1019 (2d Cir. Feb. 16, 2007) (Leval, Calabresi, Carney).

In this summary order, the Circuit vacated the denial of a motion for a sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). The Court ruled that the district court (Judge Hurley) clearly erred in deciding that the defendant (a client of Federal Defenders) was legally ineligible for a sentence reduction. Judge Hurley ruled that the defendant was ineligible because, at the original sentencing, conducted by Judge Platt, the court had found him responsible for 44.8 kilograms of heroin, a quantity that precluded him from receiving a sentence reduction. The Circuit held, however, that Judge Platt never adopted the PSR’s finding of 44.8 kilograms or otherwise made a specific quantity finding. The court merely said that the PSR’s range was “accurately computed,” which would have been true if the quantity was anywhere above 10 kilograms. Thus, the …


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Categories: 3582(c)(2), drug quantity, guideline

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Friday, January 27th, 2017

Jan. 25 Executive Order and Federal Defense of Immigrants

President Trump’s executive order titled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” signed on Jan. 25, may have significant impacts on non-citizens with open federal criminal cases in the relatively near term.  The order is only two days old and does not explicitly withdraw existing agency guidance on most issues it addresses, so it is not clear how soon DHS or DOJ will issue revised guidance to field offices regarding implementation. But federal criminal practitioners should be aware of several aspects of this order that may alter the landscape for noncitizen defendants and should closely monitor their implementation:

1) Some federal defendants who would not have been ICE enforcement priorities before may now be high priorities for removal even pre-conviction.  Obama’s DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson issued a 3-tiered system of ICE enforcement priorities in late 2014.  Once those took effect in 2015, 98 to 99% of all …

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Categories: deportation

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Categories: deportation

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Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Circuit affirms restitution order based on co-conspirator interview

In United States v. Pinto, the Second Circuit affirmed an order of restitution that was based, in part, on a government memorandum recounting an interview with a co-conspirator.  The District Court had refused to order the government to produce the QuickBooks records that were a partial basis for its restitution calculations.

The District Court has the discretion to decide the procedure it will employ in determining a restitution award “so long as the defendant is given an adequate opportunity to present his position.”  Order at 3. The court “is only required to ascertain by a preponderance of the evidence ‘a reasonable approximation of losses by a sound methodology.'” Id. (citing  United States v. Gushlak, 728 F. 3d 184, 196, and Paroline v. United States, 134 S. Ct. 1710, 1727-28 (2014)).…

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Categories: restitution

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Categories: restitution

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Circuit affirms sentence despite district court’s application of Guideline range that differed from parties’ plea agreement

In United States v. Byrd, the Second Circuit affirmed a sentence despite the District Court finding an applicable guideline range different from the one agreed to by the parties in a written plea agreement.  The Circuit held that although “district courts have the discretion to give effect to Guidelines calculations in plea agreements that result in downward departure from the correct Guidelines range,” there is no affirmative obligation that the district court give effect to such calculations.  Unless the district court misunderstood its authority to depart, the decision not to depart is generally unreviewable.…


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Categories: guideline, plea agreement

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In Summary Order, Circuit affirms use of low copy number DNA evidence at trial

In United States v. Morgan, the Second Circuit affirmed the conviction despite the defendant’s challenge to the use of Low Copy Number DNA evidence at trial.  The Circuit concluded that “although LCN analysis is supported by significantly weaker evidence of reliability than traditional DNA analysis, the district court did not abuse its discretion in this case in holding that the proffered expert evidence met the reliability standards of Rule 702: We cannot say that its ruling here was ‘manifestly erroneous.'” The Circuit did say that it expressed “no opinion on the propriety of admitting the results of LCN testing in other cases and note[d] that OCME is discontinuing its use of LCN testing in favor of newer technology that produces reliable results in most of the sensitivity range for which it previously employed LCN testing.”  Hopefully, this limits the already-limited applicability of this summary order in future cases.

The …

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Categories: DNA

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Categories: DNA

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Thursday, January 12th, 2017

New DOJ Guidelines for Photo Arrays

Earlier this month, the Department of Justice issued new guidelines for the use of photo array identification procedures.  You may find this useful in support your request for an expert in cases in which these procedures were not followed.

The ABA Journal has an update on the policy as well as links to the DOJ memo and other media coverage of the policy.

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/new_justice_department_guidelines_aim_to_ensure_reliability_of_photo_arrays…


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Categories: identification procedures, Uncategorized

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Monday, January 9th, 2017

Sentencing Commission’s Interactive Sourcebook

Have you ever wanted to know the average length of sentences for a particular criminal history category for a particular guideline?  Do you want to make an argument that cases involving MDMA see a higher rate of below-guideline sentences than other drug cases, either nationally, by circuit or by district?

Then this is the website for you!

The Sentencing Commission has an interactive Sourcebook that you can use to generate tables that are not available in the printed version of the annual Sourcebook.  You can use it to compare below-guideline sentences by each primary guideline across the district or circuit, to break down the average length of sentence by criminal history category for each primary guideline, or to find the rate of below-guideline sentences for drug offenses involving different drugs.

You can access the Interactive Sourcebook here:

http://isb.ussc.gov/Login

Our friends at the Sentencing Resource Counsel Project have shared this helpful,

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Categories: sentencing

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Thursday, December 15th, 2016

Good News and Bad News for a Defendant Sentenced under a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) Plea Agreement Who Subsequently Moved for a Sentence Reduction under 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(2)

In United States v. Jamahl Leonard, No. 15-2232-cr (Dec. 14,  2016) (Circuit Judges: Raggi, Chin, Droney), the Circuit, in a published opinion, vacates a district court’s ruling that the defendant is ineligible for a sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) and remands for further proceedings. But it also holds that the defendant cannot receive a sentence reduction to the extent he was seeking.

At the initial sentencing, the district court determined that the Guidelines range was 121 to 151 months. But the court sentenced Leonard under a plea agreement pursuant to  Fed.R.Crim.P.11(c)(1)(C) using an agreed-upon range of 97 to 121 months. Under Rule 11(c)(1)(C), the parties agree to a particular sentencing range (Fed.R.Crim.P.11(c)(1)(C)), but if the sentencing court rejects the agreement, it must “give the defendant an opportunity to withdraw the plea.” Fed.R.Crim.P.11(c)(5)(B).  Applying the range of the 11(c)(1)(C) agreement, the district court imposed a sentence of 114 …


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Categories: 3582(c)(2), harmless error

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Thursday, December 8th, 2016

60-year Sentence in Child Pornography Case Is Found Substantively Reasonable

On Tuesday, the Second Circuit issued a decision in United States v. Brown. The opinion presents an interesting debate about how the federal system punishes defendants accused of child pornography charges. I encourage defense attorneys to check out both the concurrence and dissent, for some powerful arguments about the risks of unreasonable sentences in child pornography cases.

The opinion examines defendant Nathan Brown’s 60-year sentence for procedural and substantive reasonableness. The defendant pleaded guilty to 3 counts of production of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a) and 2 counts of possession of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(5)(B).

The majority (J. Droney) begins with a recitation of some of the more egregious facts, which you can find on pp. 3-11. The basics: The defendant took sexually-explicit photos of girls, ranging in ages from 8 -12, who were in his care and then uploaded …


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Categories: child pornography, sentencing

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Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

“Exigent Circumstances” Includes Potential Sexual Exploitation of a Minor; Allows for GPS Cellphone Tracking

On 12/1/16, the Second Circuit (Newman, Winter & Cabranes) handed down a decision finding that exigent circumstances justified the warrantless GPS tracking of a suspected sex trafficker. In United States v. Gilliam, the defendant, who was suspected of prostituting an underage girl, was located thanks to GPS coordinates on his cellphone provided to the police by Sprint. The girl had been reported missing and her involvement in prostitution was confirmed through credible sources.  During the course of the investigation, the police obtained the GPS location for the defendant’s cellphone from Sprint by informing them that there were “exigent circumstances” and a “missing child.”  GPS tracking led police to the defendant and the girl on a street in the Bronx.

The defendant challenged the use of the GPS information that lead to his location and arrest. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision that the Stored Communications Act (18 …


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Categories: Fourth Amendment, sex offenses

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