Archive | procedural reasonableness

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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Friday, May 4th, 2018

Second Circuit Vacates Imposition of Lifetime Supervised Release

It’s been a busy week for the Second Circuit. On Wednesday, the Circuit reversed a sentence imposing a life term of supervised release for a defendant who had initially been convicted of drug offenses. See United States v. Brooks, No. 16-4063 (2d Cir. 2018) (per curiam) (Parker, Lynch, Chin) (appeal from Kaplan, J., SDNY). The opinion, available here, contains great language for use at sentencings and appeals.

The defendant in Brooks had initially pled guilty to distributing and possessing with intent to distribute cocaine and heroin, in violation statutes including 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). After release from prison, he was charged with numerous supervised release violations, and pled guilty to violating three conditions related to drug use. At his revocation hearing, the defendant’s attorney noted the defendant’s “serious drug problem” as a “huge underlying and contributing factor” to his violations. Neither the government nor Probation recommended a specific …

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Categories: drug distribution, procedural reasonableness, sentencing, substantive reasonableness, supervised release

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Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

Second Circuit Reverses Conviction and Reassigns Case Concerning Brady Violations, CJA Resources, and More

Though upstaged by Dimaya, the Second Circuit issued a remarkable summary order yesterday–one that calls attention to potential Brady violations in the EDNY, and to the CJA resources necessary to detect such violations. See United States v. Djibo, No. 16-3956 (2d Cir. 2018) (Sack, Hall, Droney) (appeal from Johnson, J, EDNY). In Djibo, the Circuit vacated the denial of a Rule 33 motion based on late Brady/Giglio disclosures, and held that the district judge abused his discretion by refusing to grant the CJA resources necessary to review those disclosures. The panel also determined that the defendant’s sentence was procedurally unreasonable, and reassigned the case “to preserve the appearance of justice.” The order in Djibo, available here, is worth reading in its entirety. Here is a lengthy summary (with some facts drawn from the briefs):

Mr. Djibo was convicted following a jury trial of four counts related …

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Categories: Brady, procedural reasonableness

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Friday, February 9th, 2018

VOSR Sentence Declared Procedurally Unreasonable on Plain Error Review

It’s been a slow week for the Second Circuit, but today it issued a summary order reversing a sentence for violations of supervised release as procedurally unreasonable. This holding is unremarkable in light of the district court’s failure to articulate any specific reasons for the defendant’s above-Guidelines sentence. Somewhat notable, however, is the panel’s discussion of why the sentence is reversible under plain error review. The summary order in United States v. Kalaba, No. 17-328 (Katzmann, Pooler, Droney) (appeal from Preska, J., SDNY), is available here.

While on supervised release, Mr. Kalaba was arrested and indicted for several counts relating to a narcotics distribution conspiracy. He was sentenced to 84 months’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to one count and being convicted of the others at trial. While awaiting trial, the Probation Office submitted a report charging four violations of supervised release. Two violations were established by the narcotics …

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Categories: 3553(c), plain error, procedural reasonableness, supervised release

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Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

Second Circuit Reverses Denial of USSG §3E.1.1(b) Sentencing Reduction

Today the Second Circuit vacated a sentence as procedurally unreasonable because the sentencing judge withheld the third point of a Guideline reduction for acceptance of responsibility. The summary order in United States v. Reyes, No. 16-2936 (Winter, Lynch, Droney) (appeal from Townes, J., EDNY), is available here.

Mr. Reyes was sentenced to life imprisonment after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and second-degree obstruction of justice murder. The government consistently stated that he deserved a full three-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility under U.S.S.G. § 3E1.1. The district court granted a two-level reduction under § 3E1.1(a), but denied an additional one-level reduction under § 3E1.1(b) on the ground that Mr. Reyes lied during his sentencing testimony about whether he was present when the murder was committed. (The defendant maintained at sentencing that he hired someone to kill a witness to a bank fraud scheme, but told …

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Categories: acceptance of responsibility, procedural reasonableness

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Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

Second Circuit Vacates Above-Guidelines Illegal Reentry Sentence As Procedurally and Substantively Unreasonable

Today the Second Circuit issued an opinion vacating a 60-month illegal reentry sentence as both procedurally and substantively unreasonable. The opinion in United States v. Latchman Singh, No. 16-1111 (Kearse, Hall, Chin) (appeal from Forrest, J., SDNY), is available here. Judge Chin’s opinion touches on a number of recurring sentencing issues, and includes an important analysis of the distinction between presenting mitigating evidence and avoiding responsibility for one’s crimes.

Mr. Singh pleaded guilty to one count of illegal reentry after being removed following an aggravated felony conviction, see 8 U.S.C. § 1326(b). His record includes a number of convictions for non-violent offenses, several of which occurred more than a decade ago. The 15-21 Guidelines range for Mr. Singh’s sentence reflected a 3-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility. Prior to sentencing, he wrote a letter to the district court expressing remorse his actions and explaining the pressures that …

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Categories: acceptance of responsibility, illegal reentry, procedural reasonableness, sentencing, sentencing findings, substantive reasonableness

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Monday, August 28th, 2017

Second Circuit Vacates Sentence Based on Erroneous PSR

Today, in United States v. Genao, the Second Circuit vacated an illegal reentry sentence as procedurally unreasonable where the sentencing court relied on a factually erroneous presentence investigation report (PSR) to calculate the defendant’s Guidelines range. The opinion is notable both for its analysis of whether an offense under the New York burglary statute is a “crime of violence” and its determination that the district court failed to satisfy § 3553(c)’s requirement that it provide reasons for its sentence in open court.

You can access the opinion here.

Roman Bartolo Genao was convicted of illegal reentry, and had previously been convicted in New York state of first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary. At the time of Genao’s sentencing, the Guidelines imposed a 16-level enhancement for illegal reentry sentences where the defendant had previously been convicted of a “crime of violence.” (This Guideline has since been revised to impose enhancements based …

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Categories: 3553(c), Johnson, plain error, procedural reasonableness, sentencing

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Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

How Severe is Too Severe (for Production of Child Porn)?

“Serious nonhomicide crimes may be devastating in their harm[,] but in terms of moral depravity and of the injury to the person and to the public, they cannot be compared to murder in their severity and irreovocability.”  So said the Second Circuit today in United States v. Brown, No. 13-1706-cr (June 14, 2016)  (quoting the Supreme Court decision in Graham v. Flordia, 560 U.S. 48, 69 (2010)), in remanding a 60-year sentence for production of child pornography on procedural grounds that look awfully substantive.  The opinion contains must-use language for advocates at sentencing for a less-than-extreme sentence in any non-homicide case.

The majority opinion (written by J. Pooler with J. Sack signing on) found that the District Court (J. Sharpe, NDNY) may have misunderstood certain facts in imposing a virtual life sentence for photographing and disseminating sexual images of three young girls and possessing thousands of other images of …

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Categories: child pornography, procedural reasonableness, sentencing, substantive reasonableness, Uncategorized

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Sunday, March 4th, 2012

Rehab? No, No, No.

United States v. Gilliard, No. 11-1088 (2d Cir. February 16, 2012) (Wesley, Lohier, CJJ, Rosenthal, DJ)

Tapia v. United States, 131 S.Ct. 2382 (2011), held that the district court cannot impose or lengthen a prison sentence based on the defendant’s rehabilitative needs. Here, the circuit joins the national trend of reading Tapia narrowly.

Troy Gilliard, sentenced before Tapia came down, faced a 57 to 71 month range for heroin trafficking; both the defendant and the government sought a within-guideline sentence, and probation recommended 65 months, also within the range. In imposing sentence, the court mentioned Gilliard’s criminal history, the seriousness of the offense, the need for specific deterrence, and also mentioned Gillard’s rehabilitative needs – he had both substance abuse and medical issues – while in custody, noting that it was “important” that he be “sentenced in such a way that you are able to address those problems.” Taking into …

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Categories: procedural reasonableness, rehabilitation, Uncategorized

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Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Thoroughly Unappealing

United States v. Buissereth, No. 09-5358-cr (2d Cir. March 15, 2011) (Cabranes, Chin, CJJ, Crotty, DJ)

This decision found great fault with a sentencing that “left much to be desired.” The district court “failed to (1) rule on the numerous filed objections to the PSR; (2) rule on the requests for downward departures and a variance; (3) adopt the findings of the PSR; (4) mention, much less articulate its consideration of, the relevant factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a); or (5) calculate an applicable sentencing range under the Sentencing Guidelines.”

Nevertheless, the sentence was within the range specified in the plea agreement’s waiver clause, and the waiver was otherwise valid. The court accordingly dismissed the appeal. But it did note that,= the waiver did not “relieve the District Court of its responsibility to follow the procedural requirements related to the imposition of sentence,” even if it “preclude[d] this …

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Categories: appeal waiver, procedural reasonableness, Uncategorized

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Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Land of Enhancement

United States v. Tutty, No. 09-2705-cr (2d Cir. July 16, 2010) (Calabresi, Pooler, Chin, CJJ)

In United States v. Dorvee, 604 F.3d 84 (2d Cir. 2010), the court held that the child pornography Guidelines are entitled to less deference because they are not the product of an “empirical approach,” and because they “provide for a series of enhancements that apply in virtually every case,” resulting in enormous sentences “even in run-of-the-mill cases.” See Deconstruction Project, posted May 23, 2010. Here, following on the heels of Dorvee, the court found procedural error in the district court’s refusal to consider a broad-based policy challenge to those Guidelines.


Defendant Jason E. Tutty pled guilty to possessing digital images of child pornography that he had received and distributed over the Internet using a file sharing program. He had no criminal history and no know history of sexual contact with a child. At sentencing, …

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Categories: child pornography, procedural reasonableness, Uncategorized

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