Author Archive | Anthony O'Rourke

Friday, November 9th, 2018

Judge Weinstein on Alcohol-Related Supervised Release Violations

Judge Weinstein issued an opinion this week terminating the supervised release of a defendant who violated a standard condition of release by consuming alcohol while in a drug treatment program. See United States v. Thomas, No. 15-cr-382, DE 575 (Nov. 6, 2018), available here. The opinion builds on Judge Weinstein’s more extensive opinion in United States v. Trotter concerning violations of supervised release for marijuana use. As Judge Weinstein urged in Trotter, practitioners should move to modify or terminate supervised release where the defendant’s only violations consist of minor infractions. (Indeed, Judge Weinstein suggests in Trotter that practitioners should move for termination of supervised release in all cases where the defendant has completed one year of supervision.)

As is customary with Judge Weinstein, the opinion’s introduction provides an excellent synopsis of its analysis:

The instant memorandum considers [an] important issue in supervised release: what to do with


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Categories: sentencing, sentencing findings, supervised release

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Friday, November 2nd, 2018

Second Circuit Upholds “Barbaric,” but Somehow Substantively Reasonable, Sentence

In a remarkably fatalistic opinion, the Second Circuit rejected a substantive reasonableness challenge to a 25 year sentence for child pornography sentence charges. The sentence, the panel explained, was “barbaric without being all that unusual.” United States v. Sawyer, No. 15-2276 (2d Cir. Oct. 6, 2018) (Jacobs, Pooler, Crawford (D. Vt.)), available here.

The defendant in Sawyer was initially sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment on charges of sexual exploitation and receiving child pornography. The defendant’s PSR documented that the defendant suffered a childhood of severe physical and sexual abuse. The district judge described this childhood as “horrific” and “nightmarish,” but admonished the defendant that “I can’t excuse that darkness in your heart and soul that made you prey upon two innocent children.” Slip op. at 3-4. (The defendant was prosecuted for having, but not distributing, graphic cellphone photos of two young girls with whom he had …


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Categories: child pornography, law-of-the-case doctrine, substantive reasonableness

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Thursday, October 25th, 2018

Interesting 9th Circuit Reverse Stash House Opinion

In a recent opinion, the Ninth Circuit held that selective enforcement claims in reverse stash-house sting operations are not subject to the nearly impossible-to-surmount discovery standard set forth in United States v. Armstrong, 517 U.S. 457 (1996).  See United States v. Sellers, 16-50061 (9th Cir. 2018), opinion available here.

Chief Federal Public Defender Jon Sands, who posts on the excellent Ninth Circuit Blog, has this summary:

In US v. Sellers, No. 16-50061 (10-15-18) (Nguyen w/Simon; Nguyen concurring; Graber dissenting), the panel majority held that in stash house reverse-sting cases, claims of selective enforcement are governed by a less rigorous standard than that applied to claims of selective prosecution under US v. Armstrong, 517 US 456 (1996). The 9th emphasizes the difference between selective prosecution and selective enforcement (9). The 9th stresses that the police do not enjoy the enforcement presumption of prosecutors and …


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Categories: equal protection, selective enforcement, stash house, sting

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Barrett Petition for Rehearing and the Growing 924(c)(3)(B) Circuit Split

A petition for rehearing, available here, has been filed in United States v. Barrett, No. 14-2641 (2d Cir. 2018), which held that § 924(c)(3)’s residual clause is not unconstitutionally vague and that conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery is not a crime of violence.  Practitioners with Johnson petitions pending in district courts should, in appropriate cases, consider requesting stays pending the resolution of this petition.

In addition, the First Circuit has recently held that 924(c)’s residual clause is not void for vagueness.  See United States v. Douglas, No. 18-1129 (1st Cir. Oct. 12, 2018), opinion available here. There is now a 3-3 circuit split on this question:

Three Circuits have held that § 924(c)(3)(B) is unconstitutional in light of Dimaya. See United States v. Davis, 903 F.3d 483 (5th Cir. 2018); United States v. Eshetu, 898 F.3d 36 (D.C. Cir. 2018); United States


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

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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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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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