Federal Defenders of New York Second Circuit Blog


Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

EDNY Holds That ICE Can’t Detain a Defendant for Criminal Prosecution

Chief Judge Irizarry recently issued the first EDNY decision holding that once a defendant has been granted pretrial release under the Bail Reform Act, the defendant may not be detained by ICE while his prosecution is pending. In United States v. Rosario Ventura, 17-cr-418, Judge Irizarry held that “the Government must either release Defendant under the bond conditions set in this case and continue the instant prosecution, or dismiss the indictment without prejudice, forego its illegal reentry prosecution, and proceed with Defendant’s removal.” The decision is available here. (As we’ve reported, Southern District Judge Caproni recently issued a similar decision.)

Mr. Rosario Ventura met the bail conditions set by a magistrate judge pursuant to the Bail Reform Act. Immediately after his release from criminal custody, however, ICE detained Mr. Rosario Ventura and held him in immigration custody. He then filed a motion to compel ICE to release …

Posted by
Categories: bail, ICE detention

Posted By
Categories: bail, ICE detention

Continue Reading
Monday, November 13th, 2017

This Week’s Cert. Grants

The Supreme Court has recently granted certiorari in three First Amendment cases relevant to criminal practice:

Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Florida, No. 17-21
Question presented: Does the existence of probable cause defeat a First Amendment retaliatory-arrest claim as a matter of law?

Cert. papers and opinion below available here:

Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Florida

Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, No. 16-1435
Question Presented: Is Minnesota Statute Section 211B.11, which broadly bans all political apparel at the polling place, facially overbroad under the First Amendment?

Cert. papers and opinion below available here:

Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky

National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, No. 16-1140
Question Presented: Whether the Free Speech Clause or the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment prohibits California from compelling licensed pro-life centers to post information on how to obtain a state-funded abortion and from compelling …


Posted By
Categories: First Amendment, Fourth Amendment

Continue Reading
Friday, November 10th, 2017

Second Circuit Preserves Ban On Compelled Cross-Border Testimony

Yesterday the Second Circuit denied rehearing en banc of a case that places an important constraint on cross-border prosecutions. United States v. Allen, No. 16-898 (Cabranes, Pooler, Lynch), available here. As we previously wrote, the 81-page opinion in Allen holds that the Fifth Amendment prohibits the use of testimony in a U.S. criminal prosecution that was compelled by a foreign sovereign. This post elaborates on the substance and implications of this decision.

Allen involved a cooperative investigation by U.S. law enforcement and the U.K’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) into the LIBOR scandal. The FCA required the Allen defendants to be interviewed under oath. Had they refused, they would have risked imprisonment. (The FCA granted the defendants “direct use” immunity, but not “derivative use” immunity as is required if a witness is compelled to testify in the United States). The FCA subsequently brought an enforcement action …


Posted By
Categories: cross-border prosecution, Fifth Amendment

Continue Reading
Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

Inability to Pay Criminal Forfeiture

Today the Second Circuit vacated a criminal forfeiture order so that the district court could evaluate the defendant’s ability to pay in setting the amount. The summary order in United States v. Muzaffar, 16-579 (appeal from EDNY, Cogan, J.) is available here.

The Supreme Court, in United States v. Bajakaijan, 524 U.S. 321 (1998), identified four factors that a court must  consider to determine whether a punitive forfeiture is unconstitionally excessive: “(1) the essence of the crime and its relation to other criminal activity; (2) whether the defendant fits into the class of persons for whom the statute was principally designed; (3) the maximum sentence and fine that could have been imposed; and (4) the nature of the harm caused by the defendant’s conduct.” United States v. Viloski, 814 F.3d 104, 108 (2d Cir. 2016) (internal quotation marks omitted). In Viloski, the Second Circuit held …


Posted By
Categories: forfeiture, Uncategorized

Continue Reading
Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

A Promising Speedy Trial Decision

Today the Second Circuit upheld the dismissal with prejudice of two drug-related counts on constitutional speedy trial grounds. In U.S. v. Pennick, the government appealed a Western District judge’s order dismissing these counts after a six-and-a-half year delay between when the defendant was charged and when his trial began. Reviewing for abuse of discretion, the Circuit rejected the government’s challenge. The summary order, available here, is particularly valuable to practitioners seeking to raise speedy trial claims that are messy, but nonetheless meritorious.

The Circuit held that the district court appropriately balanced the four factors established in Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514 (1972), to assess whether a constitutional speedy trial violation has occurred. These factors are: (1) the length of the delay before the defendant was brought to trial, (2) the reason for the delay, (3) whether the defendant asserted his speedy trial right in advance of …

Posted by
Categories: speedy trial

Posted By
Categories: speedy trial

Continue Reading
Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

Letter in Support of Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Reform

Yesterday the Federal Defenders Legislative Reform Committee sent a letter in support of legislation to reform federal mandatory sentencing laws. The letter, available here, urges the Senate Judiciary Committee to support two modest attempts to reduce mandatory minimums and constrain unchecked prosecutorial charging power: (1) The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017 (S. 1917) and (2) The Smarter Sentencing Act of 2017 (S. 1933). In detail, the letter describes how mandatory minimums are used to coerce low-level offenders into forgoing their trial rights, while enabling more serious offenders to avoid the punishments that Congress.

The letter’s subject headings offer a helpful synopsis of the Legislative Reform Committee’s position:

I.  The Human and Financial Costs of the Current Mandatory Minimum Laws Are  Unjustified.

II. Real Reform Is Necessary to Prevent the Use of Mandatory Minimums for Purposes for Which They Were Not Intended.

A. Sentences Intended for Kingpins and


Posted By
Categories: mandatory minimum, sentencing

Continue Reading
Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

Circuits Rule that Hobbs Act and 924(c) Convictions Are Not Predicates Under the ACCA and COG.

This month two circuits held, respectively, that offenses cannot serve as predicates under the Career Offender Guideline or the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) because they can involve force against property as well as against persons.

The Tenth Circuit held that robbery under the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1951, is not a crime of violence under the Career Offender Guideline (COG), U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2. See United States v. O’Connor. The enumerated clause of the COG identifies “robbery” as a crime of violence. The Tenth Circuit held that the elements of this generic offense include the use or threatened use of force against a person, but not against property. Hobbs Act robbery, by contrast, can involve “actual or threatened force, or violence, or fear of injury, immediate or future, to . . . [a] person or property.” 18 U.S.C. § 1951(b)(1) (emphasis added). The COG’s definition of robbery …


Posted By
Categories: 924(c), career offender, categorical approach, crime of violence, Johnson, robbery, sentencing

Continue Reading
Friday, October 27th, 2017

A Bizarre Entrapment-by-Estoppel Case

Today in United States v. Georgescu—a case with truly peculiar facts—the Second Circuit upheld a somewhat unorthodox jury instruction on the entrapment-by-estoppel defense. This defense is available when “a government agent authorizes a defendant to engage in otherwise criminal conduct and the defendant, relying thereon, commits forbidden acts in the mistaken but reasonable, good faith believe that he has in fact been authorized to do so.” United States v. Gil, 297 F.3d 93, 107 (2d Cir. 2002) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted). In Georgescu, the Circuit decided by summary order that the district court did not err by additionally instructing that “the defendant must prove that affirmative conduct or statements of a government official caused him in good faith to believe that he was authorized to engage in the charged conduct.” Opening Brief at 15. This instruction, though understandable in the context of Georgescu, may …


Posted By
Categories: entrapment by estoppel, jury instructions

Continue Reading
Monday, October 16th, 2017

Today’s Cert. Grants

Today the Supreme Court granted certiorari in two criminal cases:

Dahda v. United States, No. 17-43
Question Presented: Whether Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, 18 U.S.C. 2510-2520, requires suppression of evidence obtained pursuant to a wiretap order that is facially insufficient because the order exceeds the judge’s territorial jurisdiction.

Cert. papers and opinion below available here:

Dahda v. United States

Currier v. Virginia, No. 16-1348
Question Presented: Whether a defendant who consents to severance of multiple charges into sequential trials loses his right under the Double Jeopardy Clause to the issue preclusive effect of an acquittal.

Cert. papers and opinion below available here:

Currier v. Virginia

Based on the cert. petitions — but not verified by independent research — it appears that the Second Circuit has not weighed in on the question presented in either case.…


Posted By
Categories: double jeopardy, wiretaps

Continue Reading
Friday, October 13th, 2017

What Does a Guilty Plea (Inherently) Waive?

It’s been a slow criminal law week in the Second Circuit. Last week, however, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Class v. United States on the question of “[w]hether a guilty plea inherently waives a defendant’s right to challenge the constitutionality of his statute of conviction.” The stakes of this decision may be low in the plea bargaining context, where the government can insist on a waiver of the right to challenge the constitutionality of the charged offense. When the defendant takes an open plea, however, the inherent waiver question matters.

Interestingly, the petitioner’s certiorari petition highlights an apparent conflict in the Second Circuit’s case law on this question.

From the petitioner’s brief:

“In United States v. Curcio, 712 F.2d 1532 (2d Cir. 1983), Judge Friendly’s opinion for the court correctly summarized the Blackledge/Menna rule: “[A] defendant who has been convicted ona plea of guilty may challenge his …

Posted by
Categories: waiver

Posted By
Categories: waiver

Continue Reading
Friday, October 6th, 2017

Judge Engelmayer Issues a Significant 404(b) Opinion

Yesterday, Southern District Judge Paul Engelmayer issued a carefully reasoned and highly instructive opinion holding that a defendant’s prior drug offenses were inadmissible under Fed. R. Evid. 404(b) to prove his intent to distribute crack cocaine. The short opinion, available here, is a must-read.

The defendant in United States v. Robinson, 17-cr-249, is charged with one count of possessing crack cocaine with intent to distribute. He concedes that he possessed an 18-gram rock of crack cocaine, but argues that the possession was for personal use. To rebut this argument, the government sought to introduce the defendant’s four prior, crack-related convictions. Judge Engelmayer determined, however, that these convictions were not sufficiently similar to the charged conduct to be admissible.

Rule 404(b)(1) provides that “[e]vidence of a crime, wrong, or other act is not admissible to prove a person’s character in order to show that on a particular occasion the …


Posted By
Categories: drug distribution, intent, rule 404(b)

Continue Reading