Federal Defenders of New York Second Circuit Blog


Monday, August 15th, 2005

Some Restitution Issues for the Well-to-Do Defendant

United States v. Bernard Jaffe. Jr., Docket No. 04-1278-cr (2d Cir. August 2, 2005) (Winter, Katzmann, Raggi) (Op. by Winter): This case addresses a host of related issues concerning restitution. Jaffe pled guilty to making false statements in connection with securing a $20 million loan from a bank, and the district court ordered restitution in the full amount of the victim’s loss, as required by the MVRA, 18 USC § 3663A et seq. Additionally, the district court imposed a schedule of restitution payments that, among other things, required a $1.5 million payment by September 2005 and subsequent payments of at least $150,000 each January. Jaffe objected to the schedule on numerous grounds, claiming inter alia that (1) the district court ignored his non-legal obligation to support a 43-year-old adult daughter; and (2) the schedule violated ERISA and Florida’s homestead exemption law because the only way that he could meet …

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Defendant in “Deadbeat Parents” Prosecution Cannot Collaterally Challenge Legitimacy of Underlying Child-Support Order, even on Jurisdictional Grounds

United States v. Clifford Kerley, Docket No. 04-4537-cr (2d Cir. 2005) (McLaughlin, Straub, Hall) (Op. by McLaughlin): This is a prosecution under the federal Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act, 18 U.S.C. § 228, and based on defendant’s failure to comply with a child-support order issued by a New York state court. The district court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss the indictment, agreeing with Kerley that a state hearing officer did not have “subject matter jurisdiction” to enter the underlying order of support because he failed to, as apparently required by New York law, first enter a temporary order of support.

The Circuit reversed, on 2 grounds. First and foremost, the Court ruled that “defendants charged with violating the DPPA cannot collaterally challenge the subject matter jurisdiction of the state court that entered the underlying support order.” Op. at 3. This ruling creates somewhat of a Circuit split, as the …

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Government Did Not Breach Plea Agreement Where Overall Circumstances Indicate that It Did Not Take Position Contrary to that Taken in Agreement

United States v. Allan F. Peters et al., Docket No. 03-1435-cr (2d Cir. July 26, 2005) (Walker, Leval, Katzmann) (Op. by Leval): This case primarily holds that so long as the Government’s conduct, when looked at in light of all the circumstances, does not reasonably appear to constitute an effort to influence the sentencing court in a manner inconsistent with the plea agreement, there will be no finding of a breach. It also contains some encouraging dicta concerning the applicability of the sophisticated means enhancement where the defendant himself did not know about the use of such means by other participants in the scheme.

Here, the Circuit found no breach despite the fact that (1) the Government initially told the court erroneously that it agreed with everything in the PSR — even though the PSR included 2 enhancements not included in the plea agreement; and (2) the Government’s subsequent …

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Saturday, July 23rd, 2005

Thank Goodness for Booker

United States v. Tammy Brady, Docket No. 04-0729-cr (2d Cir. July 22, 2005) (Cardamone, Cabranes, Sotomayor) (Op. by Cardamone): This case is a good illustration of how the pre-Booker mandatory Guidelines regime often produced irrational and unnecessarily harsh results that fail to comport with our basic sense of justice. At a pre-Booker sentencing, Judge Gleeson — no softie — granted a relatively small downward departure from a range of 12 to 18 months and imposed a sentence of 5 years’ probation with 3 months’ home detention. The departure was made under U.S.S.G. § 5H1.3 — as recommended by the EDNY Probation Office (also no bargain, as defense lawyers are well aware) — to account for (1) the horrific abuse that Ms. Brady suffered throughout her childhood and adolescence, which (2) created a mental disease or condition that (3) in turn contributed to her commission of the instant …

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Thursday, July 21st, 2005

Obstructive Conduct during State Investigation Triggers Obstruction Enhancement upon Federal Conviction for Different but Related Offense

United States v. Marshall Ayers, Docket No. 04-0103 (2d Cir. July 21, 2005) (Sack, Raggi, Hall) (per curiam): Some of us cynically speak of the “Rule of Severity” occasionally applied in criminal cases, especially when ugly facts are involved. The Rule is simple: Where a statute or rule can reasonably be interpreted in one of two ways, the Court will adopt the interpretation that results in greater punishment for the well-deserving defendant. Unlike its much better known cousin, the Rule of Lenity, the Rule of Severity does not of course officially exist. Yet its force is well-known to those who practice in this field.

The issue in this case is whether the defendant’s effort to obstruct the state‘s investigation of his crime, which preceded the federal investigation and prosecution of a different but related crime, triggers the obstruction enhancement of U.S.S.G. § 3C1.1 for purposes of the federal …

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An Interesting Decision Concerning Supervised Release

United States v. Germaine Robinson, Docket No. 04-6664 (2d Cir. July 20, 2005) (Jacobs, Pooler, and Hurd, D.J.) (Op. by Jacobs): This opinion contains some interesting discussion about several issues arising in the context of revocation of supervised release. First, it discusses the type of notice that a defendant (a “supervised releas-ee”?) must be provided with before revocation. Second, it quickly rejects a Booker challenge to the revocation scheme, but then adds some curious dicta that has piqued the interest of the blogosphere (see, e.g., Professor Berman’s site). Finally, it discusses the difference between simple possession of drugs and possession of drugs with intent to distribute (or simply distribution) as it affects the advisory range upon revocation.

The essential facts are simple. Robinson was convicted in 1999 of possession of cocaine base with intent to distribute. His Guidelines range was 33 to 41 months, and he was sentenced …

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The Heck with the Ninth Circuit: Second Circuit Rules that Crime of Attempted Reentry Following Deportation Is Not a Specific Intent Offense

United States v. Daniel Rodriguez, Docket No. 04-4157-cr (2d Cir. July 20, 2005) (Straub, Wesley, and Sessions, D.J.) (Op. by Straub): Ladies and gentlemen, we have a circuit split. In this decision, the Circuit rules that the crime of attempted reentry into the United States following deportation, in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1326(a), is not a specific intent offense, and thus that the Government need not charge or prove that the defendant knew that his conduct was unlawful, knew that he needed the permission of the Attorney General to reenter, or knew that he did not have such permission when he intentionally attempted to reenter. Rather, the Government need only prove that the defendant intentionally attempted to reenter (as opposed to, e.g., being transported into the good ol’ U.S.A. while in a comatose state against his will). This reading of the attempted reentry offense — in accordance with …

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Stop near Canadian Border Upheld; Reasonable Suspicion Found

United States v. Avtar Singh, Docket No. 04-3324-cr (2d Cir. July 19, 2005) (Walker, Cardamone, Jacobs) (Op. by Cardamone): This opinion breaks no new ground. It simply applies a well-established rule — that vehicle stops by roving patrols near an international border must be justified under the familiar “reasonable suspicion” standard, see, e.g., United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873, 881-82 (1975) — to a particular stop near the Canadian border. Those interested in the details can consult the opinion; suffice it to say that even to this defense-minded reader, the reasonable suspicion standard appears readily satisfied.

The opinion is otherwise of note only because it contains a folksy little map of the relevant geographic area (op. at 4), as well as a totally gratuitous mention of “the October 11, 1776 Battle of Valcour Island between the colonial Navy under General Benedict Arnold and a British squadron …

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Tuesday, July 19th, 2005

An Inoperable Gun Qualifies as a “Firearm” within Meaning of Felon-in-Possession Statute

United States v. Rivera, Docket No. 04-5480-cr (2d Cir. July 18, 2005) (Walker, Jacobs, Leval) (Op. by Walker): File this one under the category of “Gee, I sure hope the defendant didn’t go to trial just to preserve this issue for appeal.” In this short opinion, the Circuit concludes that an inoperable gun (specifically, one with both a broken firing pin and a flattened “firing-pin channel,” whatever that is) qualifies as a “firearm” within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), the felon-in-possession statute. Somewhat to our surprise, the Circuit had not previously answered this question. (Although, to our defense, several other Circuits — as well as several district courts within the Second Circuit — have answered it, and in the same way that the Court does in this opinion). The statutory language is unfortunately difficult to dispute: Section 921(a)(3) defines a “firearm” as “any weapon . . . …

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Friday, July 15th, 2005

Circuit approves of combining minority groups in a Batson challenge, but “race-neutral” justifications remain easily acceptable on habeas review

Green v. Travis, Docket No. 04-0426-pr (2d Cir. July 7, 2005) (Jacobs, Sotomayor, Hall) (Op. by Sotomayor): This case recognizes for the first time in this circuit that minority groups can be combined to form a “cognizable racial group” under Batson v. Kentucky. 476 U.S. 79, 86 (1986). Affirming the decision below, the Circuit found on habeas review that the state Appellate Division’s determination that Black and Hispanic venirepersons do not constitute a “cognizable racial group” was an unreasonable application of Batson.

During the defendant’s state trial for possession and sale of cocaine, defense counsel raised a Batson challenge after the prosecutor used three peremptory challenges to strike one Black man, one Black woman and one Hispanic woman during the first round of jury selection (leaving no minorities at the end of the round), and two peremptory challenges to strike one Black Man and one Hispanic woman during …

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