Archive | sentencing

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, October 29th, 2019

Circuit Strikes Supervised Release Condition Based on Variation from Pronounced Sentence

A criminal defendant has the right to be present at the pronouncement of sentence. “Therefore, after a sentence has been pronounced, the written judgment may clarify the terms of the spoken sentence, but may not add to them.” If there is a substantive difference between the spoken and written versions of a sentence, the spoken version ordinarily controls.

Based on this rule, in United States v. Dodd, 18-2320 (2d Cir. Oct. 28, 2019), the Second Circuit ordered the district court to strike a condition of supervised release that the court had added to the written judgment, but which it had not imposed orally at sentencing. The condition prohibited the defendant from maintaining or opening any bank or financial accounts without approval from his probation officer. Because the condition had not been part of the oral sentence, on appeal the government conceded that it must be vacated.

In the same …


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Categories: sentencing, supervised release, Uncategorized

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Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019

Second Circuit affirms application of Sentencing Guidelines enhancement under § 2D1.1(b)(16)(E) for criminal conduct committed as part of a livelihood, addressing for the first time what constitutes “a substantial period of time” in this context and what it means for criminal activity to be engaged in as a “primary occupation.”

On October 22, 2019, the Second Circuit, in an opinion by Judge Chin (joined by Judge Cabranes and concurred with, in part, by Judge Calabresi), affirmed the application of two Sentencing Guidelines enhancements, including one for committing an offense as part of criminal conduct engaged in as a livelihood. With regard to that enhancement, the Court addressed several issues of first impression in this Circuit. Judge Calabresi concurred in the result but not the discussion of the criminal livelihood enhancement.

In United States v. Moran (reported case name United States v. Pristell), __ F.3d __, 2019 WL 5382053 (2d. Cir. 2019), Lamont Moran was sentenced, following a guilty plea, to 84 months’ imprisonment for conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(B), and 846. Before sentencing, Moran challenged both the managerial/supervisory role enhancement and the …

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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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Second Circuit vacates a sentence as procedurally unreasonable because the district court’s “calculation of drug quantity” wasn’t supported by a preponderance of the evidence

Second Circuit vacates a sentence as procedurally unreasonable because the district court’s “calculation of drug quantity” wasn’t supported by a preponderance of the evidence: United States v. Burks, No. 18-1361-cr, __ F. App’x__, 2019 WL 4049857  (Aug. 28, 2019). 

In a summary order, the Second Circuit vacates and remands “for sentencing” because the evidence didn’t support the district court’s drug-quantity calculation.  United States v. Burks, 2019 WL 4049857 at *3.

Local police executed a search warrant at Burks apartment and recovered “1.21 grams of cocaine residue from various narcotics packaging and processing materials at the apartment and an adjoining unit.” Id. at *1. “In the Plea Agreement,” Burks admitted that, before the police search, he had “distributed cocaine in 1//2 ounce and one ounce amounts.” Id. And the drug quantity that “could be readily proven by the government” “was less than 50 grams,” resulting in a Sentencing Guidelines …


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Categories: drug quantity, sentencing, sentencing findings

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Monday, August 19th, 2019

Second Circuit Vacates Excessive Community Service Condition

Today in United States v. Parkins, No. 18-1019 (2d Cir. Aug. 19, 2019), the Second Circuit—for the second time—reversed a district court’s imposition of more than 400 hours of community service as a special condition of supervised release.

Back in 2017, the defendant was sentenced to time served and three years of supervised release for his role in bank and health care fraud conspiracies. As a special condition of supervised release, the district court imposed 300 hours of community service per year, for a total of 900 hours.

The defendant appealed, arguing that this amount of community service violated 18 U.S.C. § 3583(d) because it was not reasonably related to any legitimate statutory purpose of supervised released; it involved a greater deprivation of liberty than reasonably necessary; and it was inconsistent with Sentencing Guidelines Section 5F1.3 Application Note 1, which states that community service “generally should not be imposed …


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Friday, August 16th, 2019

Second Circuit Remands For Resentencing Because of Uncertainty About Whether the Judge Understood That he Could Consider the Severity of Mandatory Consecutive Minimum Sentences In Sentencing for the Predicate Offenses.

In United States v. Brown, No. 18-834 (2d Cir. Aug. 16, 2019), the Court of Appeals reversed a 39-year sentence and remanded for resentencing because it was uncertain whether the judge understood his discretion, after the Supreme Court’s decision Dean v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 1170 (2017), to consider the severity of the mandatory consecutive minimum sentences required by §924© in determining the sentence for the predicate offenses. The case involved two robberies and two §924(c)brandishing counts, which, before the First Step Act, required 7 years for the first and 25 years for the second §924(c)count. Defense counsel had asked for one day on the predicate robberies because the mandatory consecutive sentences were so severe. Before Dean, the Second Circuit’s decision in United States v. Chavez, 549 F.3d 119 (2d Cir. 2017)had precluded such consideration. Neither case was mentioned below but the court imposed 84 months …


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Categories: 924(c), First Step Act, sentencing

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Thursday, April 11th, 2019

Enhancement under U.S.S.G. 2A6.2(b)(1)(A) for “violation of a court order of protection” does not apply if the defendant was not served as required by law

In United States v. Thompson, the Second Circuit remanded for resentencing. At sentencing, the District Court determined that the two-level enhancement under U.S.S.G. 2A6.2(b)(1)(A) for “violation of a court order of protection” applied because Mr. Thompson had been “on notice of the issuance” of an order of protection. But Mr. Thompson had not been served with the order in compliance with state law. A state court ex parte order of protection may provide the basis for the application of the enhancement where that order was issued: (1) by a court with personal jurisdiction over both the petitioner and the respondent; (2) by a court with jurisdiction over the subject matter; (3) in compliance with federal procedural due process protections; and (4) in compliance with state time limits regarding notice and opportunity to be heard. Opinion at 8. Here, the court that issued the order of protection did not have …

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Friday, November 9th, 2018

Judge Weinstein on Alcohol-Related Supervised Release Violations

Judge Weinstein issued an opinion this week terminating the supervised release of a defendant who violated a standard condition of release by consuming alcohol while in a drug treatment program. See United States v. Thomas, No. 15-cr-382, DE 575 (Nov. 6, 2018), available here. The opinion builds on Judge Weinstein’s more extensive opinion in United States v. Trotter concerning violations of supervised release for marijuana use. As Judge Weinstein urged in Trotter, practitioners should move to modify or terminate supervised release where the defendant’s only violations consist of minor infractions. (Indeed, Judge Weinstein suggests in Trotter that practitioners should move for termination of supervised release in all cases where the defendant has completed one year of supervision.)

As is customary with Judge Weinstein, the opinion’s introduction provides an excellent synopsis of its analysis:

The instant memorandum considers [an] important issue in supervised release: what to do with


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Tuesday, July 10th, 2018

Judge Weinstein Urges More Frequent Termination of Supervised Release (Including for Marijuana Users)

Last week Judge Weinstein issued a remarkable opinion, available here, terminating supervised release for a defendant who, apart from habitual marijuana use, has committed no crimes since his release from prison. See United States v. Trotter, No. 15-cr-382, DE 543 (E.D.N.Y. July 5, 2018). The lengthy-but-readable opinion is worth reading in its entirety, particularly for those not intimately familiar with the law governing supervised release.

The opinion in Trotter made headlines for Judge Weinstein’s commitments to avoid punishing supervisees for marijuana use, and to terminate supervised release for marijuana users who are otherwise rehabilitated.  Equally relevant to practitioners, however, is Judge Weinstein’s more general critique of excessive supervision. Particularly important is Judge Weinstein’s suggestion that the defense bar move more frequently for termination of supervised release in the interest of justice pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3583. Indeed, Judge Weinstein urges practitioners to move for termination of supervised release …


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Categories: marijuana, sentencing, sentencing findings, supervised release

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Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

Plain Error Under Rosales-Mireles

Though it disgraced itself today, the Supreme Court issued a hopeful opinion last week in Rosales-Mireles v. United States concerning the scope of plain error review for unobjected-to Guidelines miscalculations at sentencing. One of the most significant parts of this opinion is a footnote where the Court confirms that “proof of a plain Guidelines error” will ordinarily be sufficient for a defendant to meet the burden of showing that the error “seriously affected the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings.” Slip op. at 11 n.3. The opinion, worth reading in its entirety, is available here.

The defendant in Rosales-Mirales was sentenced (for illegal reentry) based on an incorrect Guidelines range resulting from an incorrect calculation of his criminal history score. He was sentenced at the low end of the incorrectly calculated Guidelines range, but squarely in the middle of the correct Guidelines range. The defendant did not …

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