Archive | substantive reasonableness

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

How Severe is Too Severe (for Production of Child Porn)?

“Serious nonhomicide crimes may be devastating in their harm[,] but in terms of moral depravity and of the injury to the person and to the public, they cannot be compared to murder in their severity and irreovocability.”  So said the Second Circuit today in United States v. Brown, No. 13-1706-cr (June 14, 2016)  (quoting the Supreme Court decision in Graham v. Flordia, 560 U.S. 48, 69 (2010)), in remanding a 60-year sentence for production of child pornography on procedural grounds that look awfully substantive.  The opinion contains must-use language for advocates at sentencing for a less-than-extreme sentence in any non-homicide case.

The majority opinion (written by J. Pooler with J. Sack signing on) found that the District Court (J. Sharpe, NDNY) may have misunderstood certain facts in imposing a virtual life sentence for photographing and disseminating sexual images of three young girls and possessing thousands of other images of …


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Categories: child pornography, procedural reasonableness, sentencing, substantive reasonableness, Uncategorized

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Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Second Circuit affirms above-guideline sentence; declines to consider one IAC claim on direct review, but rejects another where record below was sufficiently developed on the point

In United States v. Pendergrass, 15-1965, the Second Circuit affirmed the conviction of Terrence Pendergrass, a former captain at Rikers Island, on one count of willfully violating the constitutional rights of an inmate, who died following the ingestion of cleaning supplies, by refusing to get him medical attention and prohibiting other guards from getting him medical attention.  Pendergrass raised three issues:  that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial, that the District Court improperly instructed the jury regarding willfulness and conscious avoidance, and that his above-guideline sentence was unreasonable.

With respect to the ineffective assistance of counsel claims, the Court declined to consider Pendergrass’s first claim (that Pendergrass’s attorney was ineffective because he failed to call witnesses that would have been material to the defense) because the record with respect to the witnesses’ potential testimony was insufficiently developed to be considered on direct review.  The Court did reach …


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Categories: conscious avoidance, ineffective assistance of counsel, jury charge, substantive reasonableness, willful causation

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Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

Woe Betide Those Who Park on the Wrong Side of the Street (and those who produce child pornography)

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No relevant opinions today; two summary orders.

In United States v. Grady, Syracuse police noticed that Grady’s car was parked in violation of the city’s odd/even street parking rules.  They approached the car, shone their flashlights inside and saw, in plain view, a bag of crack cocaine on Grady’s lap.  A loaded gun was also found in the car.

Assuming the officers’ approach of the car constituted a stop, the Court (Jacobs, Hall, Lynch, CJJ) held there was reasonable suspicion given the car’s being parked on the wrong side of the street.  Though a car isn’t “parked” if it’s stopped only to load or unload goods or passengers, the officers observed no such activity and the Court held they watched the car for long enough — 10 seconds — before deciding to approach.  “The officers were not required to conduct surveillance long enough to ‘rule out the possibility of …


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Categories: car stop, child pornography, expert witnesses, Fourth Amendment, reasonable suspicion, substantive reasonableness

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Saturday, October 27th, 2012

PC World

United States v. Oehne, No. 11-2286 (2d Cir. October 25, 2012) (Kearse, Katzmann, CJJ, Gleeson, DJ) (per curiam)

This latest per curiam looks at the pretrial ruling on a motion to suppress, and the long sentence imposed in a child pornography production and distribution case. Finding no error, the circuit affirms.

The suppression issue involved custodial statements.  Oehne claimed that he unequivocally invoked his right to counsel by telling the agents that he had an attorney in a separate, unrelated case. But the circuit reminded that the right to counsel is “offense specific.” And, since Oehne never requested counsel at all in the case he was being questioned about, he did not invoke his right to counsel.  Nor did he invoke his right to remain silent by not signing the Miranda waiver form. The record here showed not that he refused to sign it – although even that might not …


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Categories: Miranda, substantive reasonableness, Uncategorized

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Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

PC World

United States v. Perez-Frias, No. 10-1401-cr (2d Cir. March 31, 2011) (Jacobs, Calabresi, Lohier, CJJ) (per curiam)

Pedro Ruben Perez-Frias appealed his 42-month, below-Guideline illegal reenty sentence, arguing that it was substantively unreasonable. The circuit affirmed.

His case presented a particularly unsympathetic set of facts. In 1995, Perez-Frias was convicted of a drug-related manslaughter. He was selling marijuana at the time, and told his friends that he was having trouble with a rival dealer. This inspired someone else to kill the rival. Perez-Frias received a 7-to-21-year state sentence, and served about 14 years before being paroled to immigration authorities, who immediately deported him. He returned to the United States in August of 2009 and, two months later, was arrested for possessing marijuana. Within a few months he was in federal custody facing an illegal reentry charge.

Perez-Frias’ primary argument at sentencing was that a Guideline sentence was greater than necessary …


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Categories: illegal reentry, substantive reasonableness, Uncategorized

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Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Deconstruction Project

United States v. Dorvee, No. 09-0648 (2d Cir. May 11, 2010) (Cabranes, Parker, CJJ, Underhill, DJ)

In this first-of-a-kind opinion, the court (1) held that a within Guideline – albeit statutory maximum – sentence was substantively unreasonable and (2) found that an offense Guideline other than the crack Guideline was not the product of the Commission’s traditional empirical role and hence, under Kimbrough, was not entitled to deference.

Background

While chatting online with undercover officers posing as teenage boys, Justin Dorvee sent them computer files containing child pornography. He was arrested when set out to meet one of the boys. A search of his home revealed several thousand still images and more than 100 videos containing child pornography. He ultimately pled guilty to one count of distribution of child pornography.

Under a correct application of U.S.S.G. § 2G2.2, which prescribed a base offense level of 22 plus enhancements for such …


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Categories: child pornography, procedural reasonableness, substantive reasonableness, Uncategorized

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Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

A Matter of Substance

United States v. Rigas, No. 08-3485-cr (2d Cir. October 5, 2009) (Feinberg, Winter, Cabranes, CJJ)

When we last heard about the Rigas père et fils – former senior officers at Adelphia Communications who were convicted of conspiracy, securities, wire and bank fraud – the circuit affirmed the majority of their convictions, but reversed a single count of bank fraud for insufficient evidence. United States v. Rigas, 490 F.3d 208 (2d Cir. 2007). Probably because the court remanded the case for resentencing, the 2007 opinion did not address the defendants’ long prison sentences: twenty years for the father and fifteen for the son, where the Guideline recommendation for each was life.

This case is the appeal from the remand. The decision covers little new ground, but provides very helpful guidance from the court on the standard it applies when reviewing a sentence for substantive reasonableness.

To get there, however, the court …


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Categories: substantive reasonableness, Uncategorized

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Sunday, December 7th, 2008

Take It To The Banc

United States v. Cavera, No. 05-4591-cr (2d Cir. December 4, 2008) (en banc)

Gerard Cavera pled guilty to participating in a scheme in which guns were purchased in the South then transported to New York City for sale. At sentencing, the district court imposed a sentence six months longer than the top of the Guideline range, and an above-Guideline fine, based on two “location specific” concerns. The court held that firearms offenses are more dangerous in densely populated urban environments and that the need for deterrence was greater because New York’s strict gun laws made it one of the few places where gun-running was profitable.

On Cavera’s appeal, a panel of the court vacated the sentence as procedurally unreasonable (the case was blogged here twice, most recently in October 2007 under the title Location, Location, Location). The circuit then took up the case en banc. Although the court divided deeply …


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Categories: procedural reasonableness, substantive reasonableness, Uncategorized

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Saturday, June 14th, 2008

Allocution Lessons

United States v. Gonzalez, No. 07-4824-cr (2d Cir. June 11, 2008) (Newman, Walker, Pooler, CJJ)

In this case, the circuit sets out the procedure that a district court should follow when it realizes that it has sentenced a defendant without first giving him an opportunity to allocute. It also criticizes the imposition of the statutory maximum sentence.

1. Facts

Gonzalez admitted that he violated his supervised release by possessing marijuana. At a sentencing hearing, Judge Conti, visiting from the Northern District of California, heard from the probation officer, who reported that Gonzalez was released from prison in November of 2006. He was sent from there to immigration custody, and released by immigration about two weeks later. Although the officer sent him three notices, Gonzalez never reported to probation. The officer later learned that Gonzalez had been convicted of two petty offenses after his release.

With respect to the failure to …


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Categories: sentencing allocution, substantive reasonableness, Uncategorized

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Monday, March 24th, 2008

Fraud Man Out

United States v. Cutler, No. 05-2516(L) (2d Cir. March 17, 2008) (Jacobs, Kearse, Pooler, CJJ)

In this case, the government successfully appealed the exceptionally lenient sentences that Judge Preska imposed on two defendants convicted of a multi-million dollar fraud. The circuit found that the sentences were both procedurally and substantively unreasonable, and remanded the case for resentencing.

Facts

James Cutler was the CFO of a holding company that owned hotels; Sanford Freedman was its general counsel. Together, they helped the company and its principals cheat a number of banks out of more than $100 million. In very brief, the scheme worked like this:

In the 1990’s, the holding company restructured its debt, and its principals executed deficiency notes that made them personally liable for those debts. Around the same time, they sold key assets of their company to another company for stock worth more than $100 million. Although they therefore …


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Categories: procedural reasonableness, sentencing, substantive reasonableness, Uncategorized

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Thursday, November 29th, 2007

Have You Hugged A Sex Offender Lately?

United States v. Juwa, No. 06-2716-cr (2d Cir. November 28, 2007) (Walker, Calabresi, Sack, CJJ)

United States v. Baker, No. 05-4693-cr (2d Cir. November 16, 2007) (Summary Order)

The circuit has. Twice, but only once in a published opinion. In Juwa, the court found that a 90-month sentence was procedurally unreasonable because it might have been based on unsubstantiated pending state court charges.

Juwa pled guilty to possessing child pornography, and faced a 24 to 30 month range. At the time of his federal sentencing he was charged in state court with sexually abusing his nephew on multiple occasions, and had worked out a plea agreement under which he would plead to a single count in exchange for a 5-year sentence that would be concurrent to his federal sentence.

At his federal sentencing, however, the district court went way above the agreed-upon range “based on the information before” it about …


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Categories: procedural reasonableness, sentence, substantive reasonableness, Uncategorized

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