Federal Defenders of New York Second Circuit Blog


Thursday, September 21st, 2017

Anthony Weiner’s Sentencing Memo

The Second Circuit’s most recent criminal opinions involve rather boutique issues. The Circuit has addressed, for example, whether a bail bond forfeiture must be vacated if a defendant dies while his appeal his pending (no), and whether the Circuit has jurisdiction to review a conviction when the defendant writes in the administrative section of the appeal form that he only seeking review of his sentence (yes).

Meanwhile, in the Southern District, Anthony Weiner’s attorneys have filed an interesting and detailed sentencing memorandum. The memo is instructive to attorneys representing defendants in child pornography cases. Of particular interest is the memo’s exhaustively researched argument section. Part I argues that the Guidelines provide an unreliable benchmark for determining the appropriate sentence in child pornography cases. Part II.A identifies aggravating factors that are often present in child pornography cases but which are absent from this case. The case discussion in …


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Categories: child pornography, forfeiture, sentencing, sentencing findings, sex offenses

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Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

New Circuit Opinion on Old Career Offender Residual Clause

Yesterday the Circuit re-decided United States v. Jones. The panel held that in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in United States v. Beckles, armed New York first-degree robbery is categorically a crime of violence under the residual clause of the pre-2016 Career Offender Guideline. See U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2 (2015). (The Guidelines have since been amended to remove the residual clause.) The opinion is available here.

In a concurring opinion, two of the panel’s three judges confirmed that New York robbery is not a violent felony under ACCA’s elements clause. Specifically, the concurrence observed that the Circuit’s decision in United States v. Spencer, 955 F.2d 814, 820 (2d Cir. 1992), which had held that New York attempted third-degree robbery was a crime of violence under the Career Offender Guideline’s elements clause, had been “abrogated” by Johnson v. United States, 559 U.S. 133 (2010) (“2010 Johnson


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Categories: career offender, categorical approach, crime of violence, Johnson, robbery, sentencing

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Monday, September 11th, 2017

Nuanced Second Circuit Opinion on Dissipated Probable Cause & McLaughlin Violations

The Second Circuit issued two criminal opinions today, both of which we will cover this week. In one, United States v. Pabon, the Circuit rejected a set of Fourth Amendment challenges where police obtained a CT scan which revealed that the defendant was body-packing narcotics. The opinion, available here, is as notable for what it does not hold as for what it does.

In Pabon, police obtained a search warrant authorizing an x-ray of the defendant’s lower abdomen to determine whether he was body-packing narcotics. Based on the x-ray, an emergency room physician reported that body-packing was “unlikely.” A detective nevertheless obtained a search warrant for a CT scan based on his testimony that the x-ray results were consistent with those he had observed in other body-packing cases. The CT scan suggested body-packing, and the defendant was given laxatives that led him to pass eight packages of …


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Categories: car stop, Exclusionary Rule, Fourth Amendment, probable cause, search warrant

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Friday, September 8th, 2017

Selective Enforcement and Fictitious Stash Houses: Important Third Circuit Case

Last week, in United States v. Washington, the Third Circuit held that selective enforcement claims against law enforcement officers are not subject to the insurmountable discovery standard that has long thwarted selective prosecution claims. This opinion is the product of a nationwide effort to challenge the racially selective use of fictitious stash house stings.

These stings permit the government to script its enforcement practices to trigger harsh mandatory minimums.  Troublingly, Columbia Law School professor Jeffrey Fagan has found powerful evidence that the government selectively targets people of color for these sting operations. As we have previously written, the University of Chicago Law School’s Federal Criminal Justice Clinic (FCJC) is working with attorneys nationwide to challenge this discriminatory practice.

With Washington, these attorneys scored an important victory.  Professor Alison Siegler, Director of FCJC, offers this writeup:

I’m writing to note a truly groundbreaking aspect of United States


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Categories: equal protection, selective enforcement, stash house

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Thursday, August 31st, 2017

Judge Caproni Dismisses § 922(g) Charge for Lack of Venue

Yesterday, Southern District Judge Valerie Caproni dismissed an indictment for lack of venue. The indictment charged a defendant with being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). Judge Caproni’s opinion, however, is valuable beyond the § 922(g) context as a concise primer on a difficult-to-parse set of venue cases.

The opinion and order are available here.

Section 922(g) makes it unlawful for a person convicted of a felony  to “possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition.” In this case, United States v. DeJesus, Port Authority police stopped the defendant at the New Jersey entrance to the George Washington Bridge and found a handgun while searching his car. The government conceded that Mr. DeJesus did not possess a firearm in New York, but contended that venue was proper in the Southern District because “he was about to use an instrumentality …


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Categories: 922(g), interstate commerce, venue

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Monday, August 28th, 2017

Second Circuit Vacates Sentence Based on Erroneous PSR

Today, in United States v. Genao, the Second Circuit vacated an illegal reentry sentence as procedurally unreasonable where the sentencing court relied on a factually erroneous presentence investigation report (PSR) to calculate the defendant’s Guidelines range. The opinion is notable both for its analysis of whether an offense under the New York burglary statute is a “crime of violence” and its determination that the district court failed to satisfy § 3553(c)’s requirement that it provide reasons for its sentence in open court.

You can access the opinion here.

Roman Bartolo Genao was convicted of illegal reentry, and had previously been convicted in New York state of first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary. At the time of Genao’s sentencing, the Guidelines imposed a 16-level enhancement for illegal reentry sentences where the defendant had previously been convicted of a “crime of violence.” (This Guideline has since been revised to impose enhancements based …


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Categories: 3553(c), Johnson, plain error, procedural reasonableness, sentencing

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Friday, August 25th, 2017

Second Circuit Relaxes “Personal Benefit” Requirement for Insider Trading Offenses

This week, in United States v. Martoma, the Circuit held that a “meaningfully close personal relationship” does not need to exist between an insider and a tippee in order to establish an insider trading violation under a “gift theory” of liability. The Circuit reached this conclusion on the ground that the Supreme Court abrogated the holding of United States v. Newman, 773 F.3d 438 (2d Cir. 2014), and thereby relaxed the “personal benefit” requirement necessary to support an insider trading conviction. You can access the Martoma opinion here.

Martoma was convicted of insider trading in violation of 15 U.S.C. §§ 78(b) & 78ff for trading on material, nonpublic information that he received from a neurologist concerning the results of a clinical drug trial. To establish an insider trading violation in this context, the government must prove that the insider stood to personally benefit, “directly or indirectly, from his …


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Categories: insider trading, jury instructions, securities law

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Monday, July 31st, 2017

Bail Reform Act Controls Whether Defendant Released Pretrial; ICE Cannot Detain A Defendant Held For Prosecution

In the first decision of its kind within the Second Circuit, Judge Caproni in the SDNY held that once a defendant has met the conditions of release imposed under the Bail Reform Act, ICE cannot detain that defendant unless it is actually taking steps to remove him.  You can read the opinion in United States v. Galitsa, 17 Cr. 324 (VEC), here.

Mr. Galitsa met the bail conditions set by Magistrate Judge Fox at presentment.  Because ICE had filed a detainer, he was transferred to ICE custody rather than released after meeting his bail conditions.  Six days later, the government had Mr. Galitsa transferred back to the MDC Brooklyn pursuant to a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum.  He moved to dismiss the indictment or, in the alternative, to compel his release from custody.  The government conceded that, since detaining Mr. Galitsa, ICE had taken no steps to …


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Categories: bail, ICE detention

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Monday, July 24th, 2017

Circuit Upholds Conviction Where Defendant “Never Submitted to Police Authority”

The Circuit affirmed the denial of a suppression motion today in United States v. Huertas.  You can access the opinion here.

A woman drove up to a patrol car and told the officer that “a man named Branden was nearby with a gun.”  The officer drove in the direction the woman pointed and saw Huertas, who was standing on a street corner holding a black bag.  The officer asked Huertas questions through his car window.  The questioning lasted about thirty-sixty seconds.  Huertas “stayed in a fixed position” and “answer[ed] the questions.”  When the officer got out of his car, Huertas ran away.  He was later found and arrested by other officers.

Relying on United States v. Baldwin, 496 F.3d 215, 219 (2d Cir 2007), the Circuit held that Huertas did not actually submit to police authority when he answered the officer’s questions because his actions were “evasive, …


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Categories: Fourth Amendment

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Friday, July 21st, 2017

Second Circuit Tosses Indictments Following Fifth Amendment Violation, Denies Rehearing in Jenkins

Earlier this week, in United States v. Allen, the Second Circuit reversed the defendants’ convictions and dismissed the indictments against them.  You can access the Circuit’s 81-page opinion here.  The Circuit considered whether a witness’s involuntary testimony that was compelled by a foreign government can be used against in a U.S. prosecution.  In its introduction, the Circuit outlined its four-step conclusion:

First, the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition on the use of compelled testimony in American criminal proceedings applies even when a foreign sovereign has compelled the testimony.

Second, when the government makes use of a witness who had substantial exposure to a defendant’s compelled testimony, it is required under Kastigar v. United States, 406 U.S. 441 (1972), to prove, at a minimum, that the witness’s review of the compelled testimony did not shape, alter, or affect the evidence used by the government.

Third, a bare, generalized denial of …


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Categories: child pornography, Fifth Amendment

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Limitations on In-Court Identifications

This article by the Marshall Project looks at recent efforts to limit in-court identifications. Led by the work of the Innocence Project, efforts to reduce wrongful convictions caused by in-court identifications are making progress.  Connecticut, for example, has prohibited in-court identifications unless the witness knew the defendant prior to witnessing the events at issue or previously picked the defendant out of a photo array or lineup.  Massachusetts has similarly revised its procedures for allowing in-court identification.  If you have a case in which the government is seeking to offer a first-time, in-court identification, the litigation and decisions related to the changes in Massachusetts and Connecticut can guide your efforts to preclude or limit such testimony.

 …


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Categories: identification procedures, Uncategorized

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