Author Archive | Darrell Fields

Monday, June 24th, 2019

In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court holds that in prosecutions under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) and § 924(a)(2), “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, Sup. Ct. No. 17-9560, __ S.Ct.__, 2019 WL 2552487 (June 21, 2019).

The Supreme Court holds that, to convict a defendant of violating § 922(g) and § 924(a)(2),  the government must show not only that the defendant knew he possessed a firearm, but “also that he knew he had the relevant status when he possessed it.” Opinion (“Op.”)  at 1. The Court states: “We conclude that in a prosecution under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) and § 924(a)(2), 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.” See Opinion (“Op.”) at 11 (emphases added).

This holding was reached in a 7-2 decision in Rehaif v. United States, Sup. Ct. No. 17-9560, 2019, __S.Ct.__, WL 2552487 (June 21, 2019), authored by Justice Breyer. Justice Alito filed a dissenting opinion joined by Justice Thomas.

Petitioner Ali Rehaif came to the United States “on …

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Categories: 922(g), mens rea

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Categories: 922(g), mens rea

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The Supreme Court reverses death sentence for State inmate because of violations of Batson v. Kentucky (proscribing racially based exercises of peremptory challenges in jury selection): Flowers v. Mississippi, No. 17-9572, __S.Ct. __, 2019 WL 2552489 (June 21, 2019).

In Flowers v. Mississippi, No. 17-9572, __U.S.__ , 2019 WL 2552489  (June 21, 2019), the Court reversed a death sentence because of a violation of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), which prohibits the racially discriminatory use of peremptory challenges.

Curtis Flowers was tried in six separate trials, by the “same lead prosecutor” for an offense that occurred in 1996. The first trial was reversed for prosecutorial misconduct; the second and third trials involved judicial findings of Batson violations;  and after the fourth and fifth trials resulted in hung juries, in the sixth trial, the prosecutor struck five of the six black prospective jurors, and Flowers was convicted. Op. at 1-2.  In a 7-2 decision, authored by Justice Kavanagh, the Court reversed the decision of the Mississippi Supreme Court affirming the conviction.

The Court cited four critical facts that taken together required reversal. “First, in …


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Categories: Batson, government misconduct, jury selection

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Friday, June 21st, 2019

A SCOTUS plurality holds that Congress authorizing the U.S. Attorney General  “to specify the applicability” of  SORNA’s registration requirements to people convicted before SORNA was enacted (in 2006), is not an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority under Article I, § 1 of the Constitution.

Yesterday, in Gundy v. United States, Sup. Ct. No. 17-6086, 2019 WL 2527473 (June 20, 2019), a case out of the Second Circuit, a plurality of the Supreme Court held that 34 U.S.C. § 20913(d) — which authorizes the U.S. Attorney General “to specify the applicability” of the registration requirements of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”) to people convicted before the statute’s enactment (in 2006) — is not an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority.

The lead opinion was written by Justice Kagan, joined by Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor. See Opinion (“Op.”) at 1-18. Justice Alito filed a short, one-page, opinion “concurring in the judgment.” Concurrence, Alito, J., at 1. And Justice Gorsuch filed a dissenting opinion that was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Thomas. Dissent, Gorsuch, J., at 1-33. Justice Kavanaugh did not participate in the decision since he was not on the …


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Categories: delegation, Sex offender registration

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Favorable decision in a First Step Act case, concerning the defendant’s eligibility for relief and the nature of the proceeding under the Act: United States v. Rose, No. 03-CR-1501, _F.3d_, 2019 WL 2314479 (S.D.N.Y. May 24, 2019)

Section 404 of the First Step Act of 2018,  Pub. L. No. 115-391, 132 Stat. 5194 (2018),  empowers district courts to “impose a reduced sentence” on people who were convicted of certain cocaine base (crack cocaine) offenses before August 3, 2010, when the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 was enacted. It makes retroactive — to defendants sentenced before August 3, 2010 — the provisions of the Fair Sentencing Act that raised from 50 to 280 grams, the quantity of crack cocaine necessary to trigger the enhanced penalties of § 841(b)(1)(A); and raised from 5 grams to 28 grams the quantity of crack cocaine necessary to trigger the enhanced penalties of § 841(b)(1)(B).

The two movants in  United States v. Rose, No 03-CR-1501,  __F.3d__,   2019 WL 2314479 (S.D.N.Y. May 24, 2019) (VEC), had been convicted at a trial, in 2005, of conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of crack …


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Categories: fair sentencing act, First Step Act of 2018

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Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

Supreme Court declines to overturn the dual sovereignty doctrine

In Gamble v. United States, No. 17-646, decided on June 17, 2019, the Supreme Court declined to overturn its “dual-sovereignty” doctrine — in the face of a Double Jeopardy challenge — in a 7-2 decision written by Justice Alito. Gamble v. United States, No. 17-646, 2019 WL 2493923 (June 17, 2019).

Terance Gamble was convicted in Alabama under the state’s felon-in-possession-of-a-firearm statute, after local police found a gun in his car during a traffic stop. He was sentenced to 1 year in prison (10 years’ imprisonment with all but 1 year suspended). He then was subjected to a second prosecution for the same conduct “by the United States under its own felon-in-possession law. ” Op. at 1. After Gamble’s motion to dismiss on double jeopardy grounds was denied, he pleaded guilty to the federal offense and was sentenced to 4 years in federal prison. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed …

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Categories: double jeopardy

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Categories: double jeopardy

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Thursday, December 15th, 2016

Good News and Bad News for a Defendant Sentenced under a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) Plea Agreement Who Subsequently Moved for a Sentence Reduction under 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(2)

In United States v. Jamahl Leonard, No. 15-2232-cr (Dec. 14,  2016) (Circuit Judges: Raggi, Chin, Droney), the Circuit, in a published opinion, vacates a district court’s ruling that the defendant is ineligible for a sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) and remands for further proceedings. But it also holds that the defendant cannot receive a sentence reduction to the extent he was seeking.

At the initial sentencing, the district court determined that the Guidelines range was 121 to 151 months. But the court sentenced Leonard under a plea agreement pursuant to  Fed.R.Crim.P.11(c)(1)(C) using an agreed-upon range of 97 to 121 months. Under Rule 11(c)(1)(C), the parties agree to a particular sentencing range (Fed.R.Crim.P.11(c)(1)(C)), but if the sentencing court rejects the agreement, it must “give the defendant an opportunity to withdraw the plea.” Fed.R.Crim.P.11(c)(5)(B).  Applying the range of the 11(c)(1)(C) agreement, the district court imposed a sentence of 114 …


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Categories: 3582(c)(2), harmless error

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Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

Tax Attorney’s Conviction Affirmed

The single opinion the Circuit issued today is United States v. Daugerdas, No. 14-2437-cr  (Circuit Judges: Kearse, Walker, and Cabranes).

The defendant was a Certified Public Accountant and tax attorney. He and others designed tax shelters (for wealthy clients) in which the transactions underlying the shelters focused on the transactions tax consequences, not on their profitability. And the tax shelters “generally did not generate meaningful returns.” The defendant was convicted by a jury of seven counts related to the tax shelters (i.e., 1 count of conspiracy to defraud the IRS [§371] ; 4 counts of client tax evasion [26 U.S.C. § 7201]; 1 count of IRS obstruction [id. 7212(a)]; and 1 count of mail fraud [18 U.S.C. § 1341] ).

Interesting though, the jury acquitted Mr. Daugerdas of the 3 counts that charged him with personal tax evasion based on his use of  the tax shelters …

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Categories: fraud, hearsay, tax evasion

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Categories: fraud, hearsay, tax evasion

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Thursday, August 25th, 2016

Follow up on third opinion from August 24, 2016

Note, this is a follow up on the third of three opinions issued yesterday that we blogged about; see original teaser post here.

Hobbs Act robbery (the interstate commerce element); Rule 16 violation (late disclosure of defendant’s statement); defense counsel’s summation comment (case agent is an interested witness); sequestration of a witness (the case agent).

United States v. Hisan Lee, et al., Nos.11-2539; 11-2543; 11-2834; 11-4068 (Aug. 24, 2016) (Circuit Judges: Cabranes, Pooler, and Lynch).

A) A robbery that affects the “intrastate” sale of marijuana satisfies the interstate commerce element of Hobbs Act robbery (18 USC § 1951)

The defendants were part of a group (called the DeKalb Avenue Crew) that robbed dealers of cocaine and marijuana. Relying on the Circuit’s prior caselaw, the several defendants argued that evidence of an effect on interstate commerce was insufficient “because there was no evidence that any marijuana involved in the …

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Categories: Hobbs Act, summation

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Categories: Hobbs Act, summation

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Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

Second Circuit Updates – August 24, 2016 – Part 2

I. A state court’s ruling denying collateral review of a “mixed claim” of  ineffective assistance of counsel (involving matters on the record and outside of the record),  on the procedural ground that the claim was not raised on direct appeal, was not “adequate” to bar federal habeas corpus review (28 U.S.C. § 2254).

Pierotti v. Walsh, No.15-1944-pr (Circuit Judges: Pooler, Livingston, and Lohier), holds that a state prisoner’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel (“IAC”) was not procedurally barred under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 .

A. The state trial

Petitioner Pierotti has been hearing impaired since childhood. He “wears hearing aids in both ears,” and “the only hearing aid he had with him in jail broke.”  At a pretrial hearing, his lawyer asked for a continuance to make “some accommodation for his hearing loss.”  The judge denied the request saying “this is a very small courtroom” and suggesting that …


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Categories: ineffective assistance of counsel, supervised release

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Second Circuit Updates – August 24, 2016 – Part 1

The Circuit issued three Opinions today that are relevant to people litigating issues of criminal law.  Below is a brief description, which will be followed up with more discussion later.

I. In Pierotti v. Walsh, No.15-1944-pr (Circuit Judges: Pooler, Livingston, and Lohier), the Circuit ruled in favor of a State prisoner. It holds that his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, presented under 28 U.S.C. § 2254,  is not procedurally barred.

The petitioner in the case was hearing impaired since childhood and required two hearing aids.  His last hearing aid was destroyed while he was in jail awaiting trial.  The ineffective assistance of counsel (“IAC”) claim was that his trial lawyer did not take measures to ensure his hearing disability was accommodated at trial, so he could not understand much of what was occurring.

The IAC claim was not raised on direct appeal.  But it was presented in a …


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Categories: Hobbs Act, ineffective assistance of counsel, interstate commerce

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Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

Court reporter’s inability to provide a complete transcript of the guilty plea allocution does not, in itself, warrant vacating a guilty plea.

United States v. Jiamez-Dolores, et al., No. 14-1840(L), 14-1842 (CON) (Circuit Judges:  Hall, Lynch, Chin).

In addition to today’s decision in Elvin Hill, the Circuit also issued this Opinion in United States v. Jiamez-Dolores, et al.

Incomplete transcript of the guilty plea.   Here, only a partial transcript of the Rule 11 colloquy was produced by the court reporter. “Both the government and the defendant agree[d] that a considerable portion of the transcript of the Rule 11 proceedings is unavailable despite their diligent efforts to locate it.” Op. at 3. Missing from the transcript were the parts of the Rule 11 proceeding that would have concerned inquiries about the defendant’s competence, his knowing waiver of various trial and constitutional rights, and his understanding of the nature of  the charges.

The defendant argued that “the absence of a complete transcript makes it impossible for this Court to determine whether …


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Categories: plea allocution, Rule 10(c), Rule 11

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