Author Archive | Anthony O'Rourke

Friday, March 16th, 2018

SDNY: Venue for the World (St. Croix edition)

The Second Circuit held yesterday that venue in the SDNY was proper for defendants charged with a narcotics conspiracy that operated in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Florida. The only meaningful link to the SDNY was that, after arrest, a co-conspirator was transported to Manhattan and, at the behest of government agents, called some of his co-conspirators to inform them that he was “in New York.” See United States v. Tank Yuk et al., No. 15-131 (2d Cir. 2018) (Chin, Carney, Forrest (SDNY)) (appeal from Nathan, J., SDNY). Judge Chin wrote a short dissent that shows not only the peculiarity of this holding, but also how it expands the government’s power to charge defendants in any district they choose. The opinion—which also rejects Brady, sufficiency-of-the-evidence, Napue, and Guidelines claims—is available here.

The defendants in Tang Yuk were charged with a conspiracy involving the shipment of …

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Categories: conspiracy, venue

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Categories: conspiracy, venue

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Monday, March 12th, 2018

De Novo Review of Demeanor?

Last week, the Second Circuit reversed a decision suppressing a defendant’s incriminating, videotaped statements to a DEA agent in a case involving Fentanyl distribution resulting in death. See United States v. Haak, No. 16-3876 (Raggi, Hall, Carney) (appeal from WDNY), opinion available here. The substance of the decision is fact-specific and favors the government.  Interestingly, however, the Court’s approach to reviewing the videotaped interview could be advantageous to defendants in future cases.

Of course, when assessing whether a defendant’s statements to a law enforcement agent were voluntary, appellate courts typically defer to the district court’s assessment of the agent’s demeanor. Here, the panel accorded no such deference. Instead, without citing legal authority for the proposition, the panel categorically asserted that: “Because the . . . interview was video-recorded, this case presents no disputes of fact as to the actions taken, words spoken, or demeanor.”  Slip op. …


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Categories: custody, Fifth Amendment, findings

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Thursday, March 8th, 2018

Second-Degree NY Robbery Is A Crime of Violence Under the Pre-2016 Career Offender Residual Clause

Today, in a short opinion, the Second Circuit confirmed that second-degree robbery in New York is categorically a crime of violence under the residual clause of the pre-2016 Career Offender Guideline (COG). See U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2 (2015). The opinion in United States v. Smith, No. 15-3313 (2d Cir. 2018) (Winter, Cabranes, Restani) (appeal from Failla, J., SDNY), is available here.* (A separate panel reached the same conclusion, with less analysis, earlier this week in United States v. Dove.)

Its decision, the Smith panel held, was compelled by Jones II, where the Second Circuit held that under Beckles first-degree robbery is a crime of violence under the pre-2016 COG’s residual clause. See Smith, slip op. at 9-10 (“The rationale of Jones is directly applicable to this case. In New York law, the first element of second-degree robbery is the same as the first element of …


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

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Wednesday, March 7th, 2018

Second Circuit Rejects Constructive Amendment Challenge In Conspiracy Case

Yesterday, over a dissent by Judge Chin, the Second Circuit rejected what seemed to be a promising claim that the district court constructively amended the indictment in a drug conspiracy case. See United States v. Dove, No. 14-1150 (2d Cir. 2018) (Walker, Pooler, Chin) (appeal from Cogan, J., EDNY). The opinion in Dove, available here, is alarming in terms of the latitude it provides the government to effectively change its theory of the case at the close of trial in order to undermine a well-presented defense. It should be possible, however, for practitioners to argue that Dove’s holding is limited to its specific facts.

The superseding indictment in Dove charged the appellant and five other named defendants with engaging in a months-long conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine. This indictment separately charged Mr. Dove with one count of distributing cocaine on the last day …


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Categories: conspiracy, constructive amendment

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Monday, March 5th, 2018

Significant FDNY Cert. Grant Concerning SORNA

Today the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Gundy v. United States, No. 17-6086, to decide whether the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) violates the nondelegation doctrine by delegating authority to the Attorney General to issue regulations under 42 U.S.C. § 16913(d). The grant is particularly significant because, as Sentencing Resource Counsel Ada Phleger observed, there is no clear circuit split on this issue. The petition in Gundy is available here. (The Court granted cert on Issue # 4, at pages 17-19 of the petition.)

SORNA delegates authority to the Attorney General to decide whether the Act’s registration requirements apply to sex offenders who were convicted before SORNA was enacted.  This delegation, Mr. Gundy argues, unconstitutionally grants the Attorney General “unfettered discretion to determine who is subject to criminal legislation without an ‘intelligible principle.'”  Cert. Petition at 19.  Notably, Justice Gorsuch raised a similar concern in a …


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Categories: Sex offender registration, sex offenses

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Friday, February 23rd, 2018

New Opinion on When a § 3582(c) Guidelines Recalculation Leaves a Defendant’s Sentencing Range Unchanged

Yesterday, the Second Circuit held that a Guidelines recalculation pursuant to a motion to reduce a sentence must account for Guidelines’ grouping rules that, when applied, leave the defendant’s amended Guidelines range unchanged. See United States v. Carosella, No. 17-896 (2d Cir. 2018) (per curiam) (Walker, Lynch, Chin), opinion available here. Unfortunately, this holding  may affect a number of cases where a defendant seeks a sentencing reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c) in light of the 2014 changes to the Guidelines’ sentencing levels for drug offenses.

Mr. Carosella was convicted and sentenced in 2011 to three concurrent, 120-month terms of imprisonment for (1) conspiracy to distribute cocaine base and heroin, (2) conspiracy to commit armed robbery, and (3) conspiracy to burglarize pharmacies. In 2016, he moved to reduce his sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c), because Amendment 782 to the Guidelines lowered the base offense level for …

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Categories: 3582(c)(2), sentencing

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Categories: 3582(c)(2), sentencing

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Guilty Pleas Do Not Bar Appeals Challenging the Constitutionality of the Statute of Conviction

The Supreme Court held this week, in Class v. United States, that a guilty plea does not inherently bar a defendant from arguing on appeal that the statute of conviction violates the Constitution.  Amy Baron-Evans of the Sentencing Resource Counsel has the details:

The Supreme Court held in Class v. United States that a guilty plea does not inherently waive a constitutional challenge to the statute of conviction. Justice Breyer wrote for the majority of six (joined by Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, Roberts, Gorsuch), and Justice Alito wrote the dissent (joined by Kennedy and Thomas).

Class was indicted by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia for possessing firearms in his locked jeep in a parking lot on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, in violation of 40 USC 5104(e)(1). He moved to dismiss the indictment, claiming that “the statute violates [1] the Second Amendment and [2] the …

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Categories: guilty plea

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Categories: guilty plea

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Friday, February 16th, 2018

Second Circuit Holds that A Criminally Culpable Corporation Is Not Entitled to Restitution for Its Employees’ Criminal Conduct

The Second Circuit issued two opinions this week on third parties’ claims for restitution and shares of criminally forfeited property from defendants. See Federal Insurance Co. v. United States & United States v. Mazer (related cases), Nos. 16-2967 & 16-3402 (2d Cir. 2017) (Parker, Lynch, Carney) (appeal from Daniels, J., SDNY), opinion available here; United States v. Ohle, No. 16-601 (2d Cir. 2017) (Leval, Calabresi, Cabranes) (appeal from Rakoff, J., SDNY), opinion available here.

The lengthier of these opinions, in Federal Insurance, brings welcome news (or at least a sigh of relief) to the sort of low-level employees to whom corporate defendants are incentivized to shift blame in white collar prosecutions. Federal Insurance concerns a corporation’s entitlement to restitution and forfeiture payments from employees who were convicted for participating in a fraud for which the corporation is criminally culpable. In part, the opinion affirms …


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Categories: CVRA, forfeiture, fraud, MVRA, restitution, victims

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Friday, February 9th, 2018

VOSR Sentence Declared Procedurally Unreasonable on Plain Error Review

It’s been a slow week for the Second Circuit, but today it issued a summary order reversing a sentence for violations of supervised release as procedurally unreasonable. This holding is unremarkable in light of the district court’s failure to articulate any specific reasons for the defendant’s above-Guidelines sentence. Somewhat notable, however, is the panel’s discussion of why the sentence is reversible under plain error review. The summary order in United States v. Kalaba, No. 17-328 (Katzmann, Pooler, Droney) (appeal from Preska, J., SDNY), is available here.

While on supervised release, Mr. Kalaba was arrested and indicted for several counts relating to a narcotics distribution conspiracy. He was sentenced to 84 months’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to one count and being convicted of the others at trial. While awaiting trial, the Probation Office submitted a report charging four violations of supervised release. Two violations were established by the narcotics …


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Categories: 3553(c), plain error, procedural reasonableness, supervised release

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Thursday, February 1st, 2018

Plain Error Reversal of Supervised Release Condition re. Alcohol

Today the Second Circuit reversed a district court’s sentence imposing as a special condition of supervised release that the defendant refrain from using any alcohol whatsoever while on supervision. The summary order in United States v. Betts, No. 17-231-cr (Leval, Calabresi, Cabranes) (appeal from W.D.N.Y.) is available here.

The defendant in Betts was originally convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349. After release from prison, he pled guilty to a supervised release violation (pursuant to a plea agreement) for failing to notify his probation officer within 72 hours of arrest. The district court sentenced the defendant to ten months’ imprisonment and four months of supervised release. As a special condition of the supervised release, the court required that the defendant refrain from consuming any alcohol.

On plain error review, the Second Circuit held that the district court abused its discretion by …


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Categories: plain error, supervised release

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Friday, January 26th, 2018

Categorical Approach Updates from First and Ninth Circuits (Including on 2nd-Degree NY Robbery’s Status under the Career Offender Guideline)

Two valuable opinions have been published outside the Second Circuit in recent weeks:

(1) The First Circuit has  held that attempted second-degree robbery in New York is not a “crime of violence” for purposes of the Career Offender Guideline’s force clause, U.S.S.G. § 4B1.(2)(a)(1). The opinion in United States v. Steed, No. 17-1011 (1st Cir. 2018) (Barron, J.) is available here. The court’s reasoning in Steed should be familiar to those following the district court and (vacated) Second Circuit opinions reaching the same conclusion.

As its starting point, the court looked to First Circuit case law holding that purse snatching does not necessarily require the degree of force required under Johnson I. The court then considered whether, as of 2000 (the year of the defendant’s relevant conviction), such purse snatching was a violation of New York’s second degree robbery statute, NY Penal Law  § 160.10. After …


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Categories: career offender, categorical approach, conspiracy, crime of violence, drug distribution, Johnson

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