Author Archive | Darrell Fields

Wednesday, September 16th, 2020

Second Circuit: On a motion under the First Step Act, a court isn’t obligated to “recalculate” the Sentencing Guidelines range to account for new Guidelines provisions “or new judicial interpretations of existing Guidelines.” Only Guideline-changes “that flow from the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010” have to be considered. But there’s an acknowledged circuit split. United States v. Moore, __F.3d__, No. 19-1390-cr, 2020 WL 5523205 (2d Cir. Sept. 15, 2020).

In United States v. Moore, No. 19-1390-cr (available here), the Circuit (Nardini, joined by Chin and Sullivan), holds that, on a motion for a sentence reduction under Section 404 of the First Step Act, a court isn’t required to “recalculate” the Guidelines range under the current law, unless (and only to the extent) the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 changed the Guidelines range.

Here, the district court found Moore eligible for relief under the First Step Act, as indeed he was: he was sentenced in 2009 for  “possessing with intent to distribute more than 5 grams of crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(B).” Op. at 4.  The district court  nevertheless declined to exercise it’s discretionary authority, under the Act, to reduce the (188-month) sentence. The Circuit affirmed that decision. Op. at 2, 26-27.

Moore’s argument was that the district court miscalculated the Guidelines …


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Categories: career offender, First Step Act, guideline

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Thursday, June 25th, 2020

Remedy for a violation of the prompt-presentment rules of Fed.R.Crim.P. 5(c)(2) (concerning the “initial appearance” of someone arrested in a district “other than where the offense was allegedly committed”) isn’t “dismissal of the criminal case,” but an evidentiary sanction. In addition, a magistrate judge’s failure to sign the jurat on the last page of the supporting affidavit of the criminal complaint doesn’t render the complaint invalid, under Fed.R.Crim.P. 3, because the magistrate signed the criminal complaint, thereby attesting that the affiant’s assertions had been sworn before the magistrate. United States v. Peeples, No. 18-2309-cr, __F.3d__, 2020 WL 3406445 (June 22, 2020).

I.  Remedy for a violation of Fed.R.Crim.P. 5(c)(2)

Fed.R.Crim.P. 5(c)(2) governs the place for the “initial appearance” of someone “arrested in a district other than where the offense was allegedly committed” and the circumstances permitting the person’s transfer to a district outside the place of arrest. See Fed.R.Crim.P. 5(c)(2).

In United States v. Peeples, No. 18-2309-cr,  __F.3d__, 2020 WL 3406445  (June 22,  2020),  the government violated Fed.R.Crim.P. 5(c)(2) by removing Peeples from the district where he was arrested (the N.D.N.Y.) to the district of the crime  (the W.D.N.Y.) ,  without arranging for his “initial appearance” before a magistrate in the district of arrest (the N.D.N.Y.). The Circuit holds, however, that the remedy for this violation isn’t dismissal of the indictment, but the exclusion of prejudicial post-arrest evidence. And here, the government didn’t introduce Peeples’ post-arrests statements at the trial.

Peeples robbed a bank in Rochester, N.Y., located in the …


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Categories: Fed.R.Crim.P. 3, Fed.R.Crim.P. 5(c)(2), identification procedures

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Wednesday, June 10th, 2020

In a felon-in-possession case (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)), a person charged in a single count with possessing a firearm on two separate dates, during a six-day period, isn’t entitled to an instruction that the jury “must agree unanimously on a particular date or dates on which he possessed a firearm.” Rather, possession of a firearm “is a continuing offense,” so the jury only needs to find “unanimously that the defendant possessed the firearm at any point” during period of the alleged possession.  United States v. Estevez, No. 17-4159-cr, 2020 WL 3022983 (June 5, 2020).

In Estevez, the sole count of the indictment alleged that Estevez possessed a firearm on two different dates: on February 21, 2016 and February 26, 2016. The charge was based on two separate shooting incidents, on those days. But a puzzling aspect of the Opinion is that it makes no reference to last years’ Supreme Court decision in Rehaif in discussing the elements of a § 922(g) offense. That hole in the Opinion is discussed at the end of this blog entry.

The unanimity instruction

At trial, Estevez requested “a particularized, rather than a general, unanimity instruction.” He  insisted that “all [12] jurors needed to agree either that he possessed the Firearm on February 21 or that he possessed it on February 26 (or that he possessed it on both dates)[.]”  2020 WL 3022983 at *4. The district court denied the request and gave a “general unanimity instruction[.]” Id.

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Categories: 922(g), Rehaif

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Categories: 922(g), Rehaif

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Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020

The Second Circuit vacates and remands for resentencing because of the erroneous application of the Sentencing Guidelines enhancements for possessing a “dangerous weapon” (§ 2B3.1, cmt. n.2) and “physical restraint” (§ 2B3.1(b)(4)(B)) – – which increase the offense level for robbery offenses. United States v. Taylor, No. 18-1710,  __F.3d__, 2020 WL 2745536  (May 27,  2020). 

In United States v. Taylor, the Circuit interprets two provisions of the Sentencing Guidelines that increase the offense level for robbery. It concludes that the sparse facts “set forth in the Presentence Report (PSR), upon which the district court relied at sentencing, are insufficient to support the application of either enhancement.” 2020 WL 2745536 at *1.

First, the Circuit holds that a defendant’s “hand” doesn’t become an “object” qualifying for the “dangerous weapon” enhancement when he gestures (with his hand) that he has a gun in his belt, but he’s actually unarmed and doesn’t have an object that “resembles” a gun. See U.S.S.G.§ 2B3.1(b)(2)(E).

Second, on the physical restraint enhancement, the Circuit holds that a robber’s act of ordering  a person to move from one room into another room — without actually retraining the person or locking the person in a room — doesn’t qualify as “physical[] restrain[t]” under …

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Categories: breach, guideline, robbery

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Categories: breach, guideline, robbery

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Monday, March 9th, 2020

The evidence sufficiently proved the defendant “had a reasonable opportunity to observe” the underage victim, under 18 U.S.C. § 1591(b)(1) (sex trafficking of minors). And it wasn’t procedural error when the court used the defendant’s “false [trial] testimony” as an aggravating factor under § 3553(a) — in imposing a substantially below-Guidelines sentence — without finding the testimony qualified as perjury under Guidelines § 3C1.1. United States v. Almonte, No. 18-3769, __F.3d__, 2020 WL 1056786 (March 5, 2020).

1. Sufficiency of evidence of sex trafficking involving underage victim

The defendant was convicted, after trial,  of several offenses, including  sex trafficking of a minor who was less than 14 years old, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a) and (b)(1).  She moved unsuccessfully for a judgment of acquittal (Fed.R.Crim.P. 29), arguing the evidence didn’t  establish she “had a reasonable opportunity to observe” the underage victim as required by 18 U.S.C. § 1591(c).  The Circuit affirms the district court’s denial of the Rule 29 motion. Almonte, 2020 WL 1056786 at *1.

Section 1591(c) states that in a prosecution for sex trafficking under § 1591(a)(1), “in which the defendant had a reasonable opportunity to observe the [underage victim] . . ., the Government need not prove that the defendant knew, or recklessly disregarded the fact, that the person had not attained the age of 18 years.” 18 U.S.C. § 1591(c). …


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Categories: 3553(a), obstruction of justice, procedural reasonableness, sex offenses, substantive reasonableness

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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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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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Categories: ACCA, Johnson, violent felony

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Monday, October 7th, 2019

Second Circuit reverses district court’s grant of a new trial in securities fraud case: United States v. Gramins, No. 18-2007-cr, __ F. 3d__, 2019 WL 4554521 (Sept. 20, 2019).

This was a government appeal from the district court’s grant of a new trial motion, under Fed.R.Crim.P. 33, on a count of conspiracy to commit security fraud,  in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. See 15 U.S.C. § 78j(b) (securities fraud).  The Circuit, however, reversed the district court and remanded “with instructions to reinstate the conviction and proceed to sentencing.” 2019 WL 4554521 at *1.

The case concerned the distinctive market of Residential Mortgage Backed Securities (“RMBS”). The district court granted the defendant’s Rule 33 motion on the only count on which the jury convicted (out of 9 total counts), on evidentiary grounds relying on  United States v. Litvak, 889 F.3d 56 (2d Cir. 2018) (“Litvak II”), which concerned the same RMBS market. The district court found that —  similar to what occurred in Litvak II  — a government witness misstated relevant agency law in a way …


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Categories: fraud, Rule 403, securities law

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Thursday, September 19th, 2019

Second Circuit vacates and remands for fact-finding on claim the government breached a plea agreement by its oral representations during plea negotiations, despite the agreement’s “merger clause” (saying the written agreement is “the total agreement” between the parties). United States v. Feldman, Nos. 17-2868-cr, 17-2869-cr,  __F.3d__, 2019 WL 4419378  (Sept. 17,  2019). 

In United States v. Feldman, an opinion authored by Judge Pierre Leval, the Circuit addresses the government’s obligations under a plea agreement based on oral representations “made by the government to the defendant in the course of plea negotiations[.]” 2019 WL 4419378 at *1.

The defendant in this case wasn’t seeking vacatur of his guilty plea. He sought rather to vacate and stay a writ of execution that the government obtained to seize his retirement account and use for restitution. But the government had made representations during plea negotiations indicating the retirement account would be safe. The district court denied the defendant’s motion to vacate and stay the writ of execution on the account. The Circuit, however, vacated the district court’s order denying the defendant’s motion, and remanded for “factfinding and reconsideration of Feldman’s motions.” The Opinion provides an important discussion of the government’s obligations concerning plea agreements.

Facts

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Categories: breach, plea agreement

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Categories: breach, plea agreement

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Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019

Second Circuit affirms convictions arising from a person’s alleged attempt to join ISIS in Syria. But it vacates consecutive prison sentences (of 420 months) as procedurally unreasonable because of the judge’s deficient statement of the reasons for the sentence.

Second Circuit affirms convictions arising from a person’s alleged attempt to join ISIS in Syria.  But it vacates consecutive prison sentences (of 420 months) as procedurally unreasonable because of the judge’s deficient statement of the reasons for the sentence: United States v. Pugh, No. 17-1889-cr, __F.3d__, 2019 WL 4062635  (Aug. 29, 2019). 

In United States v. Pugh, the Second Circuit rules (against the defendant) on the marital communications privilege. And it finds there was sufficient evidence of an “attempt” to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization (18 U.S.C. § 2339B(a)(1)), and of obstruction and attempted obstruction of an official proceeding (18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(1) and (c)(2)).

The Circuit does, however, vacate the (consecutive) sentence because of the inadequacy of the Judge’s explanation. In addition, a separate concurring opinion explicates concern about the overuse of obstruction of justice charges. Pugh, 2019 WL 2019 WL 4062635 at …


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

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