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Thursday, March 16th, 2017

An Honest Assessment of Preet Bharara’s Record

David Patton, the Executive Director and Attorney-in-Chief at the Federal Defenders of New York, published an opinion piece in yesterday’s New York Daily News.  Patton points out that while much of the press following Bharara’s firing focused on his reputation as the “sheriff of Wall Street” or the drainer of the Albany swamp, these high-profile cases do not reflect the bulk of the work of his office.  Patton contends that Bharara’s record must also be assessed in the context of his decision to exercise his discretion to prosecute poor people of color, including those caught up in sting operations, through an expansive use of conspiracy and racketeering statutes, and to seek unreasonably high sentences, contributing to unnecessary and unequal terms of punishment.

You can read Patton’s Op-Ed here.

 

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Thursday, January 12th, 2017

New DOJ Guidelines for Photo Arrays

Earlier this month, the Department of Justice issued new guidelines for the use of photo array identification procedures.  You may find this useful in support your request for an expert in cases in which these procedures were not followed.

The ABA Journal has an update on the policy as well as links to the DOJ memo and other media coverage of the policy.

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/new_justice_department_guidelines_aim_to_ensure_reliability_of_photo_arrays…


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Categories: identification procedures, Uncategorized

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Thursday, December 1st, 2016

The Unusual Nature of the Guidelines’ Fraud Loss Enhancements Is a Ground for Downward Variance

In an opinion written by Judge Newman, the Second Circuit today vacated the defendants’ sentences of 30 and 21 months, respectively, for food stamp fraud for the district court to consider imposing non-guideline sentences on the ground that the defendants’ Guidelines ranges were significantly increased by the loss enhancements, an unusual feature of the Guideline scheme. United States v. Algahaim, No. 15-2024(L)(2d Cir. Dec. 1 2016). The sentences here were “driven by the loss amount,” which increased the offense level from a 6-month base to levels 18 and 16 respectively. Slip op. at 9. The Court held: “Where the Commission has assigned a rather low base offense level to a crime and then increased it significantly by a loss enhancement, that combination of circumstances entitles a sentencing judge to consider a non-Guidelines sentence.” Id. at 11.

The Court acknowledged that the Commission had the authority to use loss amount …


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Categories: guideline, loss calculation, Uncategorized

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Monday, September 26th, 2016

Defense attorneys move to dismiss cases based on equal protection violations

Defense attorneys in Chicago have moved to dismiss cases on the basis that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (the ATF) violated the equal protection clause by targeting people of color for its fake stash house sting cases.  The Federal Defenders, CJA Panel attorneys, and the Federal Criminal Justice Clinic at the University of Chicago have moved to dismiss three cases and plan to move to dismiss seven more in the coming weeks.

The motions are supported by a study conducted by Columbia Law School Professor Jeffrey Fagan.  The study ruled out race-neutral reasons for the selection of individuals targeted for the stings.

You can read more about the challenges, and access Professor Fagan’s study, here.

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Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

Second Circuit Updates – August 10, 2016

The Second Circuit didn’t decide any criminal cases today. But for your daily dose of criminal justice info, check out this new report about the views of crime victims on incarceration and punishment. A study by the Alliance for Safety and Justice found that the vast majority of crime victims would prefer that the criminal justice system focus more on rehabilitation than on punishment: about 60% of victims think that the criminal justice system should attempt to rehabilitate people convicted of crimes rather than giving them long prison sentences, and 70% support alternatives to incarceration. Could these statistics bolster your next sentencing argument? Download the full report here.…


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Friday, July 29th, 2016

Petition to file a Second or Successive 2255 petition is granted by the Circuit –in a Career Offender case based on Johnson and the cert. grant in Beckles — and the district court has discretion to proceed without waiting for the Beckles decision.

Today the Circuit amended its decision in Blow v. United States, No. 16-1530 (Katzmann, chief judge; Wesley and Hall, circuit judges). It added a single line at the end of the opinion to say that the district judge has discretion to proceed on Blow’s  2255 petition and  is not required to hold the petition in abeyance until the Supreme Court decides  Beckles v. United States, No. 15-8544, 2016 WL 1029080 (U.S. June 27, 2016).

The Circuit’s initial opinion was filed about two weeks ago, on July 14, 2016. It granted Blow’s motion to file a Second or Successive 2255 petition. But it  “instructed” the district court to “hold Blow’s §2255 motion in abeyance pending the outcome of Beckles.

In Beckles,  the Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide whether Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015)  — which declared that the “residual clause” of the …


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Categories: 2255, career offender, Johnson, Uncategorized

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Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

SDNY Judge Pauley Suppresses Evidence Obtained Through Warrantless Use of Stingray Device

In the first opinion of its kind, SDNY Judge William A. Pauley suppressed evidence obtained through the warrantless use of a stingray device.

You can read Judge Pauley’s opinion in United States v. Lambis here.  The New York Times has coverage of the case here.

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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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Friday, June 3rd, 2016

Second Circuit Updates – June 3, 2016

No criminal cases were decided by the Circuit today.

But there is an interesting civil case resulting from the plaintiff’s arrest by NYPD detectives,  on charges that were later dismissed. The plaintiff brought a civil suit against the defendants — several named NYPD detectives — under 42 U.S.C.§ 1983 .

The case is Figueroa v. Mazza et al.,  No. 14-4116-cv  (2d Cir. June 3, 2016)  (Circuit Judges: Kearse, Walker, and Cabranes; Judge Kearse dissents from part of the opinion).

In the plaintiff’s civil suit under 42 U.S.C.§ 1983  and state law, he raised the following claims against the detectives: (1) false arrest, (2) excessive force, (3) assault, (4) failure to intervene (because the detectives did not stop an unidentified police officer from beating him as he sat in a  police car), and (5) unlawful entry.

Of interest is Circuit’s discussion of the unlawful entry claim because it involves a …

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