Author Archive | Yuanchung Lee

Friday, June 7th, 2019

Let’s wait a bit on the non-delegation argument …

The Circuit today affirmed the defendant’s conviction in United States v. Michael O’Brien, which principally rejects, on fact-specific credibility grounds, his 4th and 5th Amendment arguments concerning Miranda and an alleged consent to search. Judge Kearse’s typically thorough opinion lays out the details; no legal ground is broken.

The only issue of note is the Court’s rejection of O’Brien’s additional claim that the substance he was accused of distributing — methylone (a.k.a. Molly) — was improperly placed on the federal list of controlled substances. O’Brien argues that Congress unconstitutionally delegated its legislative power by authorizing the Attorney General (who in turn re- or sub-delegated that authority to the D.E.A.) to determine whether a substance belongs on the federal schedule of controlled substances.

Judge Kearse rejected this argument on procedural and substantive grounds. First, it was untimely because he did not make this argument until after he was convicted. …

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Monday, June 3rd, 2019

Pretrial detention later credited against a term of imprisonment imposed upon conviction tolls period of supervised release under § 3624(e)

Section 3624(e) of Title 18 of the U.S.C. provides that “[a] term of supervised release does not run during any period in which the person is imprisoned in connection with a conviction for a Federal, State, or local crime unless the imprisonment is for a period of less than 30 consecutive days.” The question sometimes arises as to whether pretrial detention similarly tolls the term of supervised release. Although pretrial detention is not, on first look, a “period in which the person is imprisoned in connection with a conviction” for a crime, things look murkier when considered retrospectively. This is because courts often, upon the defendant’s subsequent conviction for the offense for which he was detained pretrial, credit that period of detention against the term of imprisonment ultimately imposed. Indeed, § 3585(b) requires such credit in federal cases.

Today the Supreme Court ruled in Mont v. United States, Sup. Ct. …

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Categories: supervised release

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Supreme Court to decide whether plain-error review applies when defendant does not object to sentence as substantively unreasonable at sentencing

Today the Supreme Court granted cert. in Holguin-Hernandez v. United States, S. Ct. No. 18-7739, to resolve the earth-shattering question of whether plain-error review applies to an appellate claim of substantive unreasonableness (i.e., “The sentence is too damn long!”) when defense counsel did not object to the sentence’s unreasonableness at sentencing. The case comes out of the 5th Circuit, the only Circuit to apply plain-error review in this situation. Eight Circuits have held that a post-sentence objection is not required to invoke regular ol’ “substantive reasonableness” review (i.e., abuse of discretion review) on appeal. The Second Circuit has dodged this question, concluding every time that it need not resolve the issue because the challenged sentence is proper even under ordinary reasonableness review. See, e.g., United States v. Nesbitt, 757 F. App’x 13, 14 (2d Cir. Nov. 26, 2018).

 

As we breathlessly await The Nine’s …


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Categories: plain error, Rule 52, substantive reasonableness

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Thursday, October 20th, 2016

Bribery Convictions Affirmed Notwithstanding McDonnell Error

In United States v. Vincent Tabone and Malcolm Smith, Docket Nos. 15-2351 (L) & 15-2433 (Con), the Court (Newman, Lynch & Droney) in a summary order affirmed the convictions of both defendants, thus concluding (at least at the Circuit level) the saga of Democrat Malcolm Smith’s attempt to run for Mayor of New York City as the Republican Party nominee by way of a “Wilson-Pakula Certificate,” which can be issued upon the approval of at least three of the five Republican Party chairs representing the five NYC boroughs (co-appellant Tabone was the de facto head of the Queens Republican Party). Earlier this year, the Court affirmed the conviction of another member of this scheme. See United States v. Daniel Halloran, 821 F.3d 321, 337 (2d Cir. 2016). As discussed below, the Panel here relies on Halloran to dispose of many of the appellants’ claims. The only issues worth …

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Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

Sooner or Later, the Career Offender Guideline Will Get You

In United States v. Anthony Lewis, Docket Nos. 15-3245-cr (L) & 15-3307-cr (CON), an unpublished summary order, the Court (Calabresi, Livingston & Rakoff (by designation)) rejected two appeals by Mr. Lewis from two denials of two § 3582(c)(2) motions for a reduced sentence based on two retroactively applicable Guideline amendments, one in 2010 and the other in 2014. The case is of interest principally for demonstrating the see-saw application of the Career Offender Guideline vis-a-via the Drug Guideline (§ 2D1.1) in the context of § 3582(c)(2) motions.

Mr. Lewis was originally sentenced in 2004. Under the drug table in § 2D1.1, his total offense level (based on distributing 1.5 KG or more of cocaine base) was 37, and at Criminal History Category VI, the range was 360 months to life. He also qualified as a Career Offender under § 4B1.1, but that determination resulted in a total offense …


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Categories: 3582(c)(2), career offender

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Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

Existence of “Second or Subsequent” § 924(c) Conviction Remains a Mere “Sentencing Factor” after Allyne

In United States v. Boykin, Docket Nos. 14-851-cr & 14-1033-cr, the Court (Walker, Calabresi, Hall) in a per curiam opinion rejected defendant Simmons’s argument that under Allyne v. United States, 133 S. Ct. 2151 (2013), the fact of whether he had a “second or subsequent” conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) (for using or carrying a firearm during either a crime of violence or a drug trafficking offense), which triggers an enhanced mandatory consecutive sentence of 25 years, must be submitted to and found by a jury. The Court thus re-affirmed United States v. Anglin, 284 F.3d 407 (2d Cir. 2002), which held that the existence of a “second or subsequent” § 924(c) conviction is a mere sentencing factor, falling under the Almendarez-Torres exception (523 U.S. 224 (1998)) to the rule of Apprendi (530 U.S. 466 (2000)), and thus need not be submitted to or found by …

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Thursday, August 25th, 2016

Court rejects IAC claim because defendant cannot show that he would not have pleaded guilty absent counsel’s mis-advice about guidelines range

Only one summary order from the Circuit today in the criminal realm: In United States v. Jeremy Viles, Docket No. 15-885-cr, the Court (Livingston, Carney, Stanceu), rejected the defendant’s claim that he should be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea based on then-counsel’s allegedly erroneous advice regarding the advisory Guidelines range he would face at sentencing. Under Circuit law, in order to meet Strickland’s prejudice component in this context, the “‘defendant must show that there is a reasonable probability that were it not for counsel’s errors, he would not have pled guilty and would have proceeded to trial.’” Order at 2 (quoting United States v. Arteca, 411 F.3d 315, 320 (2d Cir. 2005)). Viles fails to do so.

Even assuming that counsel erred in telling him that he faced a range of 27 to 33 months (rather than a slightly lower range), Viles cannot show that he …


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Categories: guideline, ineffective assistance of counsel

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Friday, July 8th, 2016

Defendant Not “in Custody” When Questioned During Execution of Search Warrant at Her Home

In United States v. Danielle Faux, Docket No. 15-1282-cr, the Circuit (Jacobs, Hall, Restani), in an opinion by Judge Jacobs, reversed on the Government’s interlocutory appeal the district court’s grant of defendant Faux’s suppression motion, based on the claim that she was “in custody” when law enforcement agents questioned her (without providing Miranda warnings) while executing a search warrant of her home. The ultimate question in such cases — whether, taking into all the circumstances, “a reasonable person would have understood his freedom of action to have been curtailed to a degree associated with formal arrest,” Op. at 12 — is necessarily fact-specific. And while the Court acknowledges that this is a very close case – “[t]he Government stepped right up to the limits of constitutionally permissible conduct and . . . just managed to toe the line” – it ultimately concludes that “the circumstances did not rise to …


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Categories: interlocutory, Miranda, search warrant

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Thursday, July 7th, 2016

Second Circuit Updates – July 7, 2016

Pre-2009 Bank Fraud Convictions Vacated Where Evidence Showed Only that Defendant Intended to Defraud a Non-Federally Insured Mortgage Lender

In United States v. Michael Bouchard, Docket No. 14-4156-cr, the Circuit (Parker, Lynch, Lohier) in an opinion by Judge Lohier vacated on sufficiency grounds three bank-fraud related convictions, based on conduct occurring between 2001 to 2007, because the Government proved only that defendant Bouchard intended to defraud a mortgage lender (BNC Mortgage) that was not a federally insured financial institution. This was the case even though BNC was a wholly owned subsidiary of Lehman Brothers, a federally insured financial institution, since the Government concedes that “there was no evidence that Bouchard specifically intended to defraud Lehman Brothers or was even aware of Lehman Brothers’ role in the transactions involving BNC.” Op. 16. In so concluding based on Circuit precedent holding that “the Government must show that a defendant intended to …


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Categories: bank fraud, plea withdrawal, right to counsel

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Thursday, June 30th, 2016

When Opinion Testimony Is Proper Lay Testimony

The Circuit issued no relevant published decisions today and only two short summary orders, one of which (marginally) bears wider interest. In United States v. Mobutu Thornhill, Docket No. 15-2147-cr, the Circuit (Jacobs, Calabresi, Raggi) affirmed Thornhill’s conviction, following a jury trial, for being a felon in possession of a firearm. The sole issue discussed in the summary order is Thornhill’s argument (not made below and thus reviewed here for plain error) that the trial court “improperly allowed a lay witness to offer expert testimony concerning the identification of the weapon[,] in violation of Rule 701 of the Federal Rules of Evidence.” Order at 1.

The challenged testimony was by a lay eyewitness who told the jury that “he saw the defendant with what appeared to him to be a ‘[.]22 long rifle target pistol.’” (NB: The Internet informs that this is a target pistol that uses a …

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Categories: Rule 701

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Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

Defendant Not Eligible for Second § 3852(c)(2) Reduction when New Amendment Does Not Lower the Sentencing Range Determined by Prior Amendment

In United States v. Leroy Derry, Docket No. 15-1829-cr, which was issued yesterday but amended today, the Circuit (by Judge Parker, joined by Judges Pooler and Livingston) ruled as a matter of statutory interpretation that Derry was ineligible for a second sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) because the new 2015 amendment (under which he was seeking the second reduction) did not lower the range determined by a prior Guideline amendment in 2011, under which Derry received a lower sentence (though not to the bottom of the amended range), even if this range was lower than the range employed at the original sentencing in 1999.

Here are the essential facts. Derry was convicted in 1998 of multiple offenses, including drug trafficking (crack), racketeering, and murder. When calculating the applicable sentencing range, the Probation Office determined that there were at least three “groups.” The group including the drug trafficking …

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