Federal Defenders of New York Second Circuit Blog


Monday, January 11th, 2021

Rehaif Heads Back to the Supreme Court

In a prosecution under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), “the Government must prove [] that the defendant . . . knew he belonged to the relevant category of persons barred from possessing a firearm.”  Rehaif v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2191, 2200 (2019).  Usually, this means proving the defendant knew he’d previously been convicted of “a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.”  § 922(g)(1).  Prior to Rehaif, no such knowledge was believed necessary– and scores of convictions were thus obtained without any allegation, evidence or finding of the Rehaif element.

What happens now in such cases (at least, the ones still on direct appeal)?  The Supreme Court will tell us in two cases granted review this past Friday, United States v. Gary, Sup. Ct. 20-444 (guilty pleas) and Greer v. United States, Sup. Ct. 19-8709 (trial convictions).

As for pre-Rehaif guilty …

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Categories: 922(g), Rehaif

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Categories: 922(g), Rehaif

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Friday, January 8th, 2021

Second Circuit rejects application of the categorical approach for determining an “offense against property” under the MVRA.

In United States v. Razzouk, No. 18-1395 (2d Cir. Jan. 4, 2021), the Second Circuit, in an opinion by Judge Carney, joined by Judge Walker and District Judge Koeltl, held that in determining whether a conviction is for an “offense against property,” such that restitution is required under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act (“MVRA”), 18 U.S.C. § 3663A(c)(1)(A)(ii), a court may consider the facts and circumstances of the specific crime committed—not just the generic elements of the offense. The appellant had argued that his bribery conviction, which was based on a statute that does not refer to “property” or necessarily implicate its involvement, should not be subject to mandatory restitution. The Circuit rejected this, finding that an analysis based on the categorical approach was unwarranted and concluding that the facts of his case supported that it was an “offense against property.”

Defendant-appellant Sassine Razzouk pleaded guilty to one count …


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Categories: bribery, categorical approach, MVRA, restitution

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Monday, December 21st, 2020

Second Circuit Rejects Rule 11 Challenge Based on District Court’s Confusing Explanation of the Mandatory Minimum on the Ground that the Circumstances Made it Unlikely that a More Precise Explanation Would Have Changed Defendant’s Decision to Plead Guilty.

In Pedro Garcia-Hernandez, No. 19-2504 (2d Cir. Dec. 18, 2020)(summary order), the Second Circuit rejected a Rule 11 claim that the guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered because the district court’s explanation of the sentence the defendant faced was confusing. The district explained at the plea colloquy that the defendant was subject to a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence and that his Guidelines range was 70 to 87 months. Applying plain error review, the Court of Appeals concluded that the district court effectively conveyed to the defendant that 10 years “was the actual and inevitable sentence,” citing United States v. Johnson, 850 F.3d 515, 524 (2d Cir. 2017). The Court relied on the following facts to conclude that there was no basis to believe that a “more precise explanation” of the sentence he faced would have affected the defendant’s decision to plead guilty: when told …


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Categories: knowing and voluntary plea, Rule 11

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Second Circuit Affirms Guideline Sentence For Illegal Re-entry Based the Guideline Enhancement for A Felony Conviction After Reentry.

In United States v. Daniel Antonio Salas-Miranda, No. 20-734 (2d Cir. Dec. 18, 2020)(summary order), the Court of Appeals rejected an argument that the 24-month guideline sentence, imposed for illegal reentry in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1326(a), was substantively unreasonable. The sentence was imposed to run consecutively to a 10-year state sentence imposed for a state crime committed after the defendant re-entered. The 24-month guideline sentence was based on a 10-level enhancement under U.S.S.G.  2L1.2(b)(3)(A) that applies where the defendant has been convicted of a felony committed after the illegal reentry and sentenced to five years or more. Salas-Miranda argued that this enhancement was arbitrary because it only applied where the defendant was convicted of the state offense before his sentencing for the re-entry and would not have applied if he been sentenced in federal court first. The Court rejected that argument on the ground that …


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Wednesday, December 16th, 2020

Pity the poor taxpayer: Appellant goes to a federal building to get tax forms and has an argument with “aggressive” “court security officers (‘CSOs’),” resulting in a misdemeanor conviction that is affirmed in United States v. Wasylyshyn, 979 F.3d 165 (2d Cir. Nov. 3, 2020) (Chief Judge Livingston; Circuit Judge Carney; District Judge Richard M. Berman).

The Appellant in United States v. Wasylyshyn, 979 F.3d 165 (2d Cir. 2020) was convicted of creating a loud noise and nuisance at the Binghamton federal courthouse, in violation of  41 C.F.R. § 102-74.390(a), after getting into an argument with two court security officers (“CSOs”). Id.  at 168. Although the Circuit was “troubled by [the] aggressive treatment” that Appellant received “at the hands of the CSOs[,]” it nevertheless affirms the conviction. 979 F.3d at 177.

Facts

a. The trip to the federal courthouse

“Near noon on February 14,  2017, Dr. Marina Wasylyshyn” — a “surgical oncologist” specializing in the treatment of breast cancer and melanoma — went to the U.S. Courthouse in Binghamton, New York, “to collect tax forms” from a “self-service rack” in a hallway off the building’s lobby. This is what “she had done in previous years.” 979 F.3d at 169; see 2018 WL 4191137 at *8 …

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Categories: mens rea, vagueness

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Categories: mens rea, vagueness

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Second Circuit affirms conviction for conspiracy to distribute synthetic cannabinoids, under the Analogue Act, 21 U.S.C. § 813(a). United States v Requena, 980 F.3d 30 (2d Cir. Nov. 4, 2020) (Livingston, Chief Judge; Kearse and Walker, Circuit Judges).

Defendants Brian Racine and Andrew Raymond ran a business producing and selling synthetic marijuana between 2013 and 2015. At the time, “synthetic” cannabinoids weren’t listed on the federal controlled substances schedules. Instead, the government charged that these substances were “controlled substance analogues” under the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986 (“Analogue Act”), 21 U.S.C. § 813. See 980 F.3d at 35-36.

“The Analogue Act identifies a controlled substance analogue as a substance with chemical and pharmacological properties substantially similar to those of a substance listed on schedule I or II, 21 U.S.C. § 802(32), and directs, in part, that these substances—if intended for human consumption—be treated[ ] for the purposes of any Federal law as a controlled substance in schedule I[.]” Requena, 980 F.3d at 35 (citing id. § 813(a)). “In turn, 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b) (1)(C) prohibit the distribution of schedule I controlled substances and …


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Categories: mens rea, sufficiency, vagueness

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Monday, November 23rd, 2020

Second Circuit affirms conviction of payday-loan lender on RICO and Truth in Lending Act (“TILA”) charges. United States v. Moseley, __F.3d__, No. 18-2003-cr, 2020 WL 6437737 (2d Cir. Nov. 3, 2020) (Circuit Judges: Kearse, Carney, Bianco).

In  United States v. Moseley, No.18-2003, 2020 WL 5523210 (2d Cir. Nov. 3,  2020) , the Second Circuit holds that the choice-of-law provisions in the defendant’s payday-loan agreements — which named  3 jurisdictions that don’t have usury laws — were unenforceable under New York law, so  the usury laws of New York applied in the case of loans to New York residents. And, here, the RICO counts were based on New York domiciled  borrowers . The agreements also didn’t sufficiently disclose the total payments the borrower would have to make on the loans, as required by TILA.

The loans

Richard Moseley operated a payday-loan business, between 2004 and 2014,  in which he “lent money to borrowers in New York and other states at interest rates exceeding —by many multiples—the maximum legal interest rates allowed in those states; in its loan documents, it failed to meet TILA disclosure requirements; and …


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Categories: due process, hearsay, RICO, Sixth Amendment

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Second Circuit affirms the convictions of two N.Y. correction officers for civil rights conspiracy and false records charges, under 18 U.S.C. §§ 241 and 1519, based on an assault of an inmate. United States v. Scott, __F.3d__, No. 18-2882-cr, 2020 WL 6494642 (2d Cir. Nov. 5, 2020) (C.J.J. Kearse, Sullivan, Park).

Defendants-Appellants Kathy Scott and George Santiago, Jr. are former correction officers with the New York State Department of Correction and Community Supervision (“DOCCS”) at the Downstate Correctional Facility in Fishkill, New York.

The evidence at their jury trial was that “Scott and Santiago, along with other officers of DOCCS, assaulted Kevin Moore, an inmate at the Downstate Correctional Facility in Fishkill, New York.” Scott, 2020 WL 6494642 at *1.  In addition, “[t]he evidence –  which included the testimony of [two] fellow DOCCS officers …  – further revealed that Defendants took numerous steps to cover up the assault, including falsifying the initial use-of force incident report.” Id.

Scott and Santiago were convicted of conspiracy to deprive a person of civil rights, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 241; deprivation of civil rights, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242; conspiracy to falsify records, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371; …

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Wednesday, November 18th, 2020

Assaulting a federal officer under 18 USC 111(b) is categorically a crime of violence.

Last week, the Circuit closed the door on any Davis issue relating to 18 U.S.C. § 111(b), holding that 18 U.S.C. § 111(b) is a crime of violence. Even though this was a matter of first impression for the Circuit, it issued a per curiam decision without ordering full briefing (or indeed any briefing by the government). Instead, it simply denied a motion for a certificate of appealability to Mr. Gray finding that the “use” of a dangerous weapon and the infliction of bodily injury in the course of a § 111(b) assault or battery necessarily involves the use of physical force as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(A).

Only one bit of small good news: the Court did not address whether 18 U.S.C. § 111(a) is a crime of violence, so that remains open.…

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Tuesday, November 17th, 2020

International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act includes refusing to bring your children back to the US

Last week, the Circuit rejected an argument that the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act was unconstitutionally vague as applied to a father who refused to bring his United States-citizen children to the US from Yemen to visit with their mother, even though the children had been living in Yemen for a number of years and he had not abducted them.

The facts, briefly

Mr. Houtar and his ex-wife have two daughters who were born in the United States. Both parents left their daughters in Yemen for some time, while they returned (separately) to the United States. While here, Mr. Houtar’s ex-wife sought custody of the girls, and the Family Court ordered Mr. Houtar to bring them back to the United States to visit with their mother. Instead, Mr. Houtar returned to Yemen himself. He might have remained there had he not applied for a new United States passport, triggering an …

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Monday, November 16th, 2020

Maximum supervised release sentence upheld. (Also, don’t forget to make your bed).

In a decision on Thursday, the Second Circuit upheld Betsy Ramos’s two-year sentence for a violation of supervised release, finding that a district court may take recidivism enhancements into account in determining whether the maximum potential term of imprisonment for a crime is more than 20 years, qualifying the crime as a Grade A violation, under 7B1.1 (a)(1)(B).

The facts underlying the Circuit opinion in this case are tragic. In 1998, Ms. Ramos was on supervised release following a drug courier conviction when her boyfriend, who physically abused Ms. Ramos, shot and killed a police officer. Her abusive boyfriend was also killed. For reasons the Circuit opinion does not fully explain, Ms. Ramos was convicted of reckless manslaughter and served more than 20 years in state custody. When Ms. Ramos was granted parole, she was charged with a violation of her supervised release based on the manslaughter conviction, and sentenced …

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