Federal Defenders of New York Second Circuit Blog


Friday, October 12th, 2018

The Second Circuit on Inadmissible Background Testimony

This week the Second Circuit issued an opinion, available here, in United States v. Demott, No. 13-3410 (2d Cir. 2018) (Leval, Pooler, Wesley) (appeal from N.D.N.Y). The opinion has three holdings. First, it rejects an as-applied vagueness challenge to the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act, 21 U.S.C. §§ 802(32)(A), 813. Second, with respect to mens rea, it holds the Analogue Act requires only that the defendant knew he was dealing with a controlled substance — not that the defendant knew he was dealing with a substance that is controlled under the Analogue Act itself.

Third, and of particular interest, the Circuit reversed the defendant’s conviction because the district court erroneously admitted impermissible hearsay evidence as “background testimony.” Slip op. at 35-50. Specifically, a detective testified for the government as to how he got involved in the criminal investigation that led to the defendant’s arrest. The detective …

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Categories: hearsay

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Categories: hearsay

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ACCA Oral Arguments in Stokeling & Stitt (and FDNY nondelegation argument in Gundy!)

This week the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two cases addressing whether specific state offenses are violent felonies within the meaning of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA): Stokeling v. United States (Florida robbery statute that punishes takings by slight force), and United States v. Stitt (state burglary statutes that punish vehicle break-ins). The statutes at issue are similar to the New York robbery and burglary statutes in their scope.

For a detailed analysis of the arguments in these cases, see Rory Little’s analysis at SCOTUSBlog.

The transcript in Stokeling is available here.

The transcript in Stitt, which featured a masterful oral argument by Jeffrey Fisher, is available here.

Speaking of masterful, the FDNY’s Sarah Baumgartel recently argued before the Supreme Court in United States v. Gundy on the question of whether SORNA’s delegation of authority to the Attorney General under 42 U.S.C. § 16913 …


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Categories: ACCA, burglary, categorical approach, robbery, Sex offender registration

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Friday, October 5th, 2018

§ 924(c)’s Residual Clause: The Circuit Split Deepens

Making Supreme Court review a virtual certainty, today the Eleventh Circuit joined the Second in holding that § 924(c)’s residual clause, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(B), is not unconstitutionally vague. See United States v. Ovalles (11th Cir. Oct. 4, 2018) (en banc), opinion available here.

There is now a 3-2 circuit split. Three Circuits have held that § 924(c)(3)(B) is unconstitutional in light of Dimaya. See United States v. Davis, __ F.3d __, 2018 WL 4268432 (5th Cir. Sept. 7, 2018); United States v. Eshetu, 898 F.3d 36 (D.C. Cir. 2018); United States v. Salas, 889 F.3d 681 (10th Cir. 2018). Two Circuits have now upheld the residual clause. See Ovales, ___ F.3d ___, 2018 WL 4830079; United States v. Barrett, ___ F.3d ___, 2018 WL 4288566 (2d Cir. Sept. 10, 2018).…


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Categories: 924(c), crime of violence, Johnson

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Inaccurate Barrett Dicta

The Second Circuit issued an opinion this week containing some facially incorrect, and substantively troubling, dicta concerning tits recent decision in Barrett. See United States v. Fiskeu, No. 17-1222 (2d Cir. 2018) (Cabranes, Lynch, Carney) (appeal from Engelmayer, J., S.D.N.Y.), opinion available here.

The narrow, fact-specific holding of Fiseku is that under the “unusual circumstances” presented in the case, police officers did not act unreasonably when they briefly restrained the defendant in handcuffs while conducting a investigatory stop. Slip op. at 18. However, the defendant also raised an ineffective assistance claim because his defense attorney failed to argue that his crime of conviction, conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, was not a crime of violence within the meaning of U.S.S.G. 4B1.2. The Second Circuit declined to address this claim on direct review.

In so declining, the panel offered this footnote:

In a recent decision, we determined that


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Categories: 924(c), conspiracy, crime of violence, Johnson

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Monday, September 10th, 2018

Second Circuit decides Barrett

On the heels of its Pereira-Gomez decision on Friday, the Second Circuit issued a new opinion in United States v. Barrett, which is available here.

In Barrett, the Circuit held that 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3)(B) is not unconstitutionally vague because “factfinding as to the violent nature of the predicate offense and the risk of physical force in its commission can be made by the trial jury in deciding the defendant’s guilt, thus avoiding both the Sixth Amendment and due process vagueness concerns at issue in Dimaya and Johnson.”  The Court held that the fact that Barrett’s jury did not make a finding regarding force was harmless error in light of the specific facts of his case.  The Circuit further held that a Hobbs Act Robbery conspiracy is a crime of violence because the object of the conspiracy, the Hobbs Act Robbery, is a crime of violence.  “[T]his …


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Categories: 924(c), conspiracy, crime of violence, Johnson

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Friday, September 7th, 2018

Second Circuit Holds that all Degrees of New York Robbery Are Crimes of Violence

A Second Circuit panel held today that, under the force clause of the subsequently revised U.S.S.G. § 2L1.2 (2014), all degrees of New York robbery are crimes of violence. United States v. Pereira-Gomez, No. 17-952 (2d Cir. 2018) (Cabranes, Carney, Caproni (SDNY)) (appeal from Azrack, J., EDNY), opinion available here. Despite this holding, practitioners are urged to preserve the argument that New York robbery is not a crime of violence under the force clause, as the Supreme Court will soon be deciding this issue in Stokeling v. United States, No. 17-5554.

Mr. Pereira-Gomez was convicted of illegal reentry, in violation of 8 U.S.C.§§ 1326(a) and 1326(b)(2). The version of U.S.S.G. § 2L1.2 then in effect provided for a sentencing enhancement if the defendant had a prior conviction for an offense that “has as an element the use,attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against …


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Categories: ACCA, categorical approach, robbery

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Monday, August 27th, 2018

Judge Gold Holds that New York Third Degree Robbery Is Not a Violent Felony Under the ACCA

Magistrate Judge Gold (SDNY) recently issued a Report & Recommendation (R&R), available here, concluding that third degree New York robbery, N.Y. Penal Law §160.05, is not a violent felony under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). See Baldwin v. United States, No. 16-CV-3350. Judge Korman has adopted the R&R.

Judge Gold’s reasoning will be familiar to those who have read opinions by the First Circuit, Judge Rakoff, and others reaching the same conclusion. Significantly, Judge Gold rejects the reasoning of a Sixth Circuit opinion, Perez v. United States, 885 F.3d 984, 990 (6th Cir. 2018), holding that third degree NY robbery is a crime of violence under the ACCA. The Sixth Circuit’s holding, Judge Gold explains, relies on a recent New York Court of Appeals case for the proposition that New York robbery cannot be “a taking” “by sudden or stealthy …


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Categories: ACCA, categorical approach, robbery

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Second Circuit Limits Scope of Conspiracy Liability Under the FCPA

Today the Second Circuit issued an opinion holding that a non-U.S. citizen, employed by a foreign company, could not be prosecuted for conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). See United States v. Hoskins, No. 16-1010 (2d Cir. 2018) (Katzmann, Pooler, Lynch). The opinion is a statutory interpretation tour de force. Of course, the case does not necessarily present a factual scenario that attorneys will often encounter while representing indigent defendants. However, Judge Pooler’s analysis and methodology provide an excellent template for for those arguing for limitations on the scope of conspiracy liability in other contexts. The opinion is available here.

The defendant in Hoskins does not fall within any of the categories of persons who are subject to prosecution under the FCPA. This fact did not, in itself, render him immune from prosecution for conspiracy to violate the statute. As a general principle, “[a]  person …


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Categories: conspiracy, FCPA, statutory construction, statutory interpretation

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Friday, August 17th, 2018

Judge Carter Issues Lengthy Opinion Justifying Bail Grant

If you’re looking for some inspiring beach reading this weekend, look no further than this opinion in United States v. Paulino. On appeal by the government, S.D.N.Y. Judge Andrew Carter upheld the Magistrate’s decision to set bail in Mr. Paulino’s case. The government appealed to the Second Circuit, which remanded with instructions for Judge Carter to elaborate his rationale for granting bail. Today, he issued this memorandum opinion discussing the history of bail in American courts; the presumptions, burdens and standards of proof that apply to bail decisions; and how imposing conditions of release can mitigate the risk of flight and danger to the community.

NB: The Federal Defenders represents Mr. Paulino.…


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Categories: bail, Uncategorized

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Wednesday, August 1st, 2018

Second Circuit Holds That NYPL § 220.31 (5th Degree Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance) Is Not A “Controlled Substance Offense” Under USSG 4B1.2(b)

Last week the Second Circuit held that NY Penal Law § 220.31 (fifth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance) is not a “controlled substance offense” under USSG 4B1.2(b). See United States v. Townsend, No. 17-757 (2d Cir. 2018) (Cabranes, Carney, Vilardo (W.D.N.Y.)) (appeal from Irizarry, C.J., E.D.N.Y.). The opinion is available here.

The upshot of Townsend is that any New York state statute that just uses the term “controlled substance” is not a controlled substance offense for purposes of the Career Offender Guideline. As our office’s Daniel Habib explains, the analysis in Townsend is straightforward:

(1) The term “controlled substance” in USSG 4B1.2(b) refers exclusively to those substances in the federal Controlled Substance Act (CSA), 21 USC § 802.

(2) NY Penal Law § 220.31 criminalizes the sale of a drug, human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), that is not included in the CSA.

(3) NY Penal Law § 220.31 …


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Categories: categorical approach

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Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

Second Circuit Narrowly Construes Appellate Waiver and Holds That Embezzlement Is Not a Continuing Offense

In a short and interesting opinion, available here, the Second Circuit held today that (1) a defendant did not waive her right to appeal a restitution order on the ground that it covered conduct outside the statute of limitations period, and (2) that violations of 18 U.S.C. § 641 (embezzlement of government property) are not continuing offenses, rendering the defendant liable for funds embezzled outside the limitations period. See United States v. Green, No. 16-3044 (2d Cir. 2018) (Cabranes, Carney, Goldberg (Ct. Intl. Trade )) (appeal from W.D.N.Y.). The second of these holdings, concerning the scope of  § 641, creates a circuit split.

The defendant in Green was charged under § 641 for drawing money out of a joint bank account between 2009 and 2011 in amounts similar to those of VA payments to her deceased mother that went into the account. She pled guilty, and …


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Categories: appeal waiver, forfeiture, property, statute of limitations, statutory construction, statutory interpretation

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