Federal Defenders of New York Second Circuit Blog


Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

Another Court Rules Attempted Hobbs Act Robbery is NOT a “Crime of Violence”

As blogged about here, Judge Johnson of the E.D.N.Y. has ruled that attempted Hobbs Act robbery is not a “crime of violence” under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c).

He’s just been joined by Judge Telesca of the W.D.N.Y.  “[A]ttempted Hobbs Act robbery does not categorically entail the use, threatened use, or attempted use of force.”  Lofton v. United States, 2020 WL 362348, at *9 (W.D.N.Y. Jan. 22, 2020).  That is because the “requisite categorical approach,” by “which a court must examine ‘the minimum criminal conduct necessary for conviction,’” shows that the crime can be committed “‘without any use, attempted use, or threatened use of violence.’”  Id. at *7 (citations omitted).

As briefed in a pending case, United States v. Pica, E.D.N.Y. 08-559, the minimum conduct for attempted Hobbs Act robbery is surveilling a target with the intent to rob him but not actually use force: in short, to bluff.  …


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Categories: 924(c), crime of violence, Hobbs Act, robbery

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Rehaif Claims — Keep ‘Em Comin’!

To convict someone of unlawful gun possession under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), “the Government must prove both that the defendant knew he possessed a firearm and that he knew he belonged to the relevant category of persons barred from possessing a firearm.”  Rehaif v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2191, 2200 (2019).  For the most commonly charged § 922(g) violation, that means proving the defendant was subjectively aware of the fact — at the moment he possessed the gun — that he had “been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.”  § 922(g)(1).

The mere fact of having a felony conviction is not enough.  There must be proof the defendant was subjectively aware of the conviction at the moment he possessed the gun.  Judge Sullivan explained this in a ruling blogged about here.  See also Rehaif, 139 S. …

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Friday, January 17th, 2020

Circuit Holds That New York Offense of Possession of a Sexual Performance By a Child (N.Y. Penal Law §263.16) Categorically Matches 18 U.S.C §2252(a)(4)(B) and Is an Aggravated Felony Under the INA.

In Quito v. Barr, __ F.3d __ 2020 WL 218590 (2d Cir. Jan. 15, 2020) (Wesley, Livingston, Bianco),  the Second Circuit held that attempted possession of a sexual performance by a child under N.Y. Penal Law §263.16 is an aggravated felony under the INA because it categorically fits the definition of the federal offense of possessing child pornography under 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(4)(B), an enumerated aggravated felony. The Court rejected petitioner’s arguments that the New York statute sweeps more broadly because it does not require knowledge of the minor’s specific age and does not include the affirmative defense to §2252(a)(4)(B) for someone who possessed fewer than three images and promptly destroyed them or turned them over.

The Court ruled, as a threshold matter, that it was not bound by its previous holding in Weiland v. Lynch, 835 F.3d 207 (2d Cir. 2016),  that  a “nearly identical” New York …


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Categories: aggravated felony, categorical approach, child pornography

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Friday, January 10th, 2020

EDNY: Attempted Hobbs Act Robbery Is Not A § 924(c) Crime of Violence.

In United States v. Tucker, 2020 WL 93951 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 8, 2020), the district court (Johnson, J.), held that attempted Hobbs Act robbery is not a crime of violence under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), and granted defendant’s pretrial motion to dismiss a § 924(c) count predicated on that offense.

Tucker reasons as follows: An attempt requires only a substantial step toward completing the object crime, and for Hobbs Act robbery, “the Second Circuit has found ‘reconnoitering the place contemplated for the commission of the crime’ or possession of ‘paraphernalia to be employed in the commission of the crime’ to be sufficient to constitute a ‘substantial step.’” Tucker, 2020 WL 93951, at *5 (quoting United States v. Jackson, 560 F.2d 112, 120 (2d Cir. 1977)). Such conduct is not necessarily forceful or violent:

“[A] person may engage in an overt act—in the case of robbery, for example, … …


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Categories: 924(c), crime of violence, Hobbs Act, robbery

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Thursday, January 9th, 2020

Circuit Vacates Sentence Based on District Court’s Misunderstanding of Authority to Impose Anticipatory Concurrent Sentence; Declines to Enforce Appeal Waiver Where Government Consents to Partial Remand.

In United States v. Anderson, ___ F.3d ___, No. 18-1839 (2d Cir. Jan. 9, 2020) (Jacobs, Sack, Hall), the Circuit vacated and remanded a 120-month sentence based on two errors: (1) the district court misunderstood its authority to order that the federal sentence run concurrently with a yet-to-be-imposed state parole violation sentence; and (2) the district court misunderstood its authority to reduce the federal sentence below the mandatory minimum to account for time already served on an undischarged state sentence for relevant conduct. In doing so, the Circuit declined to enforce the appeal waiver in the defendant’s plea agreement, based in part on the government’s consent to a partial remand.

This decision arises from one of the most confusing areas of federal sentencing: the interaction of federal and state sentences for related conduct. While on parole for a Pennsylvania state drug conviction, defendant was arrested and charged …

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Categories: mandatory minimum, sentence

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Thursday, January 2nd, 2020

Circuit Panel Affirms Fraud Convictions, Over Dissent

In an opinion expanding the scope of federal criminal liability for “insider trading,” a two-Member majority of the Second Circuit affirmed several securities and fraud convictions in United States v. Blaszczak, 18-2811 (2d Cir. Dec. 30, 2019). Judge Kearse dissented from the decision.

This multi-defendant case involved a so-called expert services network: defendant Blaszczak was a political intelligence consultant, who provided clients with information about contemplated rule changes by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a government agency. Prosecutors charged that a CMS employee disclosed confidential agency information to Blaszczak (ahead of announcements of rule changes), who in turn shared this information with employees at hedge funds. The CMS employee, Blaszczak, and two hedge-fund employees were charged.

Although this high-profile prosecution was presented as an “insider trading” case, the defendants were acquitted of all of the traditional insider trading charges (the Title 15 offenses). However they were …

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Friday, December 27th, 2019

A two-judge majority finds a 17-year sentence “shockingly low”

Mincing no words, Judge Cabranes, writing for a two-judge majority, proclaimed today that a 17-year sentence was so “shockingly low [ ] that, if upheld, [it] would damage the administration of justice in our country.” Judge Hall, however, disagreed, saying that, “I fear the majority would prefer to substitute its sentencing preferences for that of the District Court.” Hall, who dissented in part and concurred in part, did not find the sentence shockingly low, and noted that the district court could give a similar sentence on remand. The decision is available here.

No surprise that these strong judicial reactions come in the context of a terrorism case. In brief: Fareed Mumuni, who was only 21 years old, pleaded guilty to an indictment charging him with, most seriously, conspiring to provide material support to ISIS and attempting to murder a federal agent. After considering numerous aggravating and mitigating factors, including …

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Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

A district court’s order granting a criminal defendant bail under the Bail Reform Act (“BRA”), doesn’t preclude immigration authorities from then detaining that person under the Immigration and Naturalization Act (“INA”). United States v. Lett, No. 18-749-cr, __ F. 3d__, 2019 WL 6752763 (Dec. 12, 2019).

The Second Circuit joins the Third, Sixth, and D.C. Circuits and holds “that immigration authorities may lawfully detain a criminal defendant ordered to be released under the BRA  pursuant to their authority under the INA to detain aliens seeking admission into the United States who are not ‘clearly and beyond a doubt entitled to be admitted[.]’”United States v. Lett, 2019 WL 6752763 at *1, *2 (2d Cir. Dec. 12, 2019) [18-749_Documents] (quoting 8 U.S.C. § 1225(b)(2)(A)); see also 18 U.S.C. § 3142 (bail reform act); 8 U.S.C. § 1101, et seq. (immigration and naturalization act).

Several district courts in this Circuit and around the country had held “that pretrial release under the BRA forecloses detention under the INA” — including the district court in Lett’s case.  2019 WL 6752763 at *3.  But the Circuit holds to the contrary. It rejects the argument that a person granted …

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Categories: bail, detention, immigration, INA

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Categories: bail, detention, immigration, INA

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Wednesday, December 11th, 2019

The Second Circuit issues an amended opinion in United States v. Pugh, No. 17-1889-cr, __F.3d__, 2019 WL 6708812 (Dec. 10, 2019) (“Pugh II”), a material support to terrorism case. As in the initial opinion — that was discussed in this blog on Sept. 3, 2019 — the Circuit affirms the convictions, but vacates consecutive prison sentences (totaling 420 months) as procedurally unreasonable because of the inadequate statement of reasons for the sentences.

Yesterday, the Circuit issued an amended opinion in United States v. Pugh. The initial decision issued on August 29, 2019 (United States v. Pugh, 937 F.3d 108) and was discussed in this blog. See infra, posting of Sept. 3, 2019.

The Amended Opinion reaches the same results as the initial opinion. The Circuit  (1) rules against the defendant on the marital communications privilege, Pugh II, 2019 WL 6708812 at *2-*4 ; (2) finds sufficient evidence of an “attempt” to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization (18 U.S.C. § 2339B(a)(1)), id. at *4-*6; and (3) finds sufficient evidence of obstruction and attempted obstruction of an “official proceeding” (18 U.S.C. §§ 1512(c)(1),  (c)(2)), id. at *6-*7 ; but (4) vacates consecutive sentences totaling 420 months’ imprisonment because of the inadequacy of the Judge’s explanation for the consecutive sentences. Id. at *8-*12.

The Amended Opinion corrected …


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Categories: 3553(c), evidence, marital communications privilege, Material Support, material support statute, obstruction of justice, official proceeding, sentencing, sentencing allocution, terrorism

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Tuesday, December 10th, 2019

Second Circuit restates its holding that Connecticut’s simple robbery statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-133, qualifies as a violent felony under ACCA’s force clause. Estremera v. United States, No. 17-831-pr, __ F. 3d__, 2019 WL 6690775 (Dec. 9, 2019).

In Shabazz v. United States, 912 F.3d 73 (2d Cir. 2019), the Circuit held that Connecticut’s simple robbery statute, Connecticut General Statute § 53a-133, qualifies as a violent felony under the force clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1) (“ACCA”). Id. at 78.

Here, the Circuit holds that Shabazz “resolves” Petitioner Nelson Estremera’s claims that his Connecticut convictions for first-degree robbery and attempted robbery, in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 53a-134(a)(3) and 53a-49, and for second-degree robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery, in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 53a-135(a)(1) and 53a-48 do not qualify as ACCA predicates. Estremera, 2019 WL 6690775 at * 2.  [17-831_Documents.]

All Connecticut first-degree robbery offenses — the Circuit holds — are qualifying ACCA predicates. It states that although Connecticut’s first-degree robbery statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-134(a), enumerates different ways of committing first-degree robbery, “every …

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Categories: ACCA, Johnson, violent felony

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Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

Factual basis for § 924(c) plea insufficient where proffer showed only that defendant “possessed the gun while simultaneously engaging in [] drug trafficking” and did not establish “specific nexus” between gun and drug-trafficking offense necessary for “in furtherance” element

In United States v. Luis Rosario, a summary order, the Circuit vacated a guilty plea to a § 924(c) count, charging Mr. Rosario with possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-distribution conspiracy, on the ground that the factual basis for his plea was insufficient. The essential facts are that Mr. Rosario participated in a drug conspiracy for about two months; that he occasionally used a white van during this time frame; and that a gun was later found inside the van. After arrest, Mr. Rosario said that he “carries the gun for protection.”

These were the only facts on the record when Mr. Rosario pleaded guilty. But as the Court summarized, “th[is] evidence . . . established only that Rosario possessed the gun while simultaneously engaging in a drug-trafficking conspiracy” and did not show a ‘specific nexus’ between the gun and the drug-trafficking offense . . . [as] …


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Categories: 924(c), guilty plea, Rule 11, Uncategorized

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