Federal Defenders of New York Second Circuit Blog


Friday, January 10th, 2020

EDNY: Attempted Hobbs Act Robbery Is Not A § 924(c) Crime of Violence.

In United States v. Tucker, 2020 WL 93951 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 8, 2020), the district court (Johnson, J.), held that attempted Hobbs Act robbery is not a crime of violence under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), and granted defendant’s pretrial motion to dismiss a § 924(c) count predicated on that offense.

Tucker reasons as follows: An attempt requires only a substantial step toward completing the object crime, and for Hobbs Act robbery, “the Second Circuit has found ‘reconnoitering the place contemplated for the commission of the crime’ or possession of ‘paraphernalia to be employed in the commission of the crime’ to be sufficient to constitute a ‘substantial step.’” Tucker, 2020 WL 93951, at *5 (quoting United States v. Jackson, 560 F.2d 112, 120 (2d Cir. 1977)). Such conduct is not necessarily forceful or violent:

“[A] person may engage in an overt act—in the case of robbery, for example, … …


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Categories: 924(c), crime of violence, Hobbs Act, robbery

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Thursday, January 9th, 2020

Circuit Vacates Sentence Based on District Court’s Misunderstanding of Authority to Impose Anticipatory Concurrent Sentence; Declines to Enforce Appeal Waiver Where Government Consents to Partial Remand.

In United States v. Anderson, ___ F.3d ___, No. 18-1839 (2d Cir. Jan. 9, 2020) (Jacobs, Sack, Hall), the Circuit vacated and remanded a 120-month sentence based on two errors: (1) the district court misunderstood its authority to order that the federal sentence run concurrently with a yet-to-be-imposed state parole violation sentence; and (2) the district court misunderstood its authority to reduce the federal sentence below the mandatory minimum to account for time already served on an undischarged state sentence for relevant conduct. In doing so, the Circuit declined to enforce the appeal waiver in the defendant’s plea agreement, based in part on the government’s consent to a partial remand.

This decision arises from one of the most confusing areas of federal sentencing: the interaction of federal and state sentences for related conduct. While on parole for a Pennsylvania state drug conviction, defendant was arrested and charged …

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Categories: mandatory minimum, sentence

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Thursday, January 2nd, 2020

Circuit Panel Affirms Fraud Convictions, Over Dissent

In an opinion expanding the scope of federal criminal liability for “insider trading,” a two-Member majority of the Second Circuit affirmed several securities and fraud convictions in United States v. Blaszczak, 18-2811 (2d Cir. Dec. 30, 2019). Judge Kearse dissented from the decision.

This multi-defendant case involved a so-called expert services network: defendant Blaszczak was a political intelligence consultant, who provided clients with information about contemplated rule changes by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a government agency. Prosecutors charged that a CMS employee disclosed confidential agency information to Blaszczak (ahead of announcements of rule changes), who in turn shared this information with employees at hedge funds. The CMS employee, Blaszczak, and two hedge-fund employees were charged.

Although this high-profile prosecution was presented as an “insider trading” case, the defendants were acquitted of all of the traditional insider trading charges (the Title 15 offenses). However they were …

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Friday, December 27th, 2019

A two-judge majority finds a 17-year sentence “shockingly low”

Mincing no words, Judge Cabranes, writing for a two-judge majority, proclaimed today that a 17-year sentence was so “shockingly low [ ] that, if upheld, [it] would damage the administration of justice in our country.” Judge Hall, however, disagreed, saying that, “I fear the majority would prefer to substitute its sentencing preferences for that of the District Court.” Hall, who dissented in part and concurred in part, did not find the sentence shockingly low, and noted that the district court could give a similar sentence on remand. The decision is available here.

No surprise that these strong judicial reactions come in the context of a terrorism case. In brief: Fareed Mumuni, who was only 21 years old, pleaded guilty to an indictment charging him with, most seriously, conspiring to provide material support to ISIS and attempting to murder a federal agent. After considering numerous aggravating and mitigating factors, including …

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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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Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

Factual basis for § 924(c) plea insufficient where proffer showed only that defendant “possessed the gun while simultaneously engaging in [] drug trafficking” and did not establish “specific nexus” between gun and drug-trafficking offense necessary for “in furtherance” element

In United States v. Luis Rosario, a summary order, the Circuit vacated a guilty plea to a § 924(c) count, charging Mr. Rosario with possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-distribution conspiracy, on the ground that the factual basis for his plea was insufficient. The essential facts are that Mr. Rosario participated in a drug conspiracy for about two months; that he occasionally used a white van during this time frame; and that a gun was later found inside the van. After arrest, Mr. Rosario said that he “carries the gun for protection.”

These were the only facts on the record when Mr. Rosario pleaded guilty. But as the Court summarized, “th[is] evidence . . . established only that Rosario possessed the gun while simultaneously engaging in a drug-trafficking conspiracy” and did not show a ‘specific nexus’ between the gun and the drug-trafficking offense . . . [as] …


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Categories: 924(c), guilty plea, Rule 11, Uncategorized

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Friday, November 22nd, 2019

You’re not paranoid enough….and neither are your clients

The first challenge to a new breed of warrants is pending in the Eastern District of Virginia. Law enforcement is using “geofence” warrants to sweep up large amounts of data on all the cell phones in a particular geographic area. Rather than seeking a warrant for information about one person or one cell phone, these warrants seek information about all the cell phones that passed a location at the time of the crime. Paranoid yet?

Here, a bank robbery was committed, and the government had no suspects, so they got a warrant for Google to turn over data related to all smart phones that passed by a bank over the course of 2 hours one afternoon. Right by the bank was also a hotel, restaurant, mega church, and retirement home. Getting the early bird special at the Ruby Tuesday’s in Richmond? The government learned about it.

In a motion to

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Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

Who is “indigent”? $5,000 special assessment issue to watch out for

The Second Circuit today issued a Jacobson remand for the district court to explain how it decided that a person represented by the Federal Defenders office was still “non-indigent” under Section 2014(a). (See the summary order in United States v. Rosario). For those who haven’t encountered this issue yet, section 2014(a) is the “Justice for Victims Trafficking Act,” which mandates a $5,000 – rather than $100 – special assessment for any “non-indigent” person convicted of certain sex offenses. “Indigent” isn’t defined. Although there do seem to be some good proxies the court could use – qualification for appointed counsel or a determination that a fine is inappropriate – so far, the Circuit has offered little guidance. Maybe they will when Rosario comes back before the panel.

In the meantime, object to the $5,000 special assessment if you have any argument your client is indigent. It may seem like a …


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Categories: restitution, sex offenses

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Friday, November 15th, 2019

Second Circuit Holds that a Foreign National in a Stateless Vessel Can Be Convicted Under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act Where the Offense Has No Nexus to the United States.

In United States v. Van Der End, No. 17-2926 (Nov. 14, 2019) the Court of Appeals affirmed the drug trafficking conviction of a Netherlands national intercepted at sea with cocaine bound for Canada. The defendant challenged the court’s subject matter jurisdiction and the constitutionality of the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (“MDLEA”), and the government moved to preclude the defense from arguing at trial that the vessel was not subject to U.S. jurisdiction. The district court ruled for the government on all three issues, holding that there was subject matter jurisdiction, that the MDLEA was constitutional, and that the jurisdiction issue could not be presented to the jury. With no defense, the defendant entered an unconditional guilty plea, but raised these claims on appeal.

The Court of Appeals held that the defendant’s guilty plea waived his right to challenge the government’s proof that the vessel was subject to U.S. …

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Categories: jurisdiction, MDLEA

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