Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of wire fraud, extortion under color of official right, conspiracy to commit such offenses, and two counts of perjury. The court held that the district court did not err by denying defendant's motion for acquittal where there was sufficient evidence to support the four convictions arising from his bribery schemes and the honest-services wire fraud convictions; the substantive Hobbs Act extortion conviction was not duplicitous and there was no constructive amendment; and there was sufficient evidence to support the perjury convictions. Finally, the district court did not err in denying defendant's motions for a new trial based on inadmissible testimony, newly discovered evidence, and the jury's failure to fully deliberate. View "United States v. Burfoot" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision and held that the Board correctly determined that petitioner was convicted of a conspiracy related to the distribution of a controlled substance; the conviction rendered him inadmissible under the Controlled Substance Provision; and he was subject to removal under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(1)(A). The court also held that section 1229a(c)(3)(B) did not prohibit the Board from considering petitioner's indictment. Finally, the court was without jurisdiction to address a new argument to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence because petitioner did not raise it before oral argument. View "Shaw v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal, on remand, of petitioner's juror bias claim. The court held that the district court failed to recognize the applicability of Supreme Court precedent requiring a hearing in these circumstances; erected inappropriate legal barriers and faulted petitioner for not overcoming them; and ignored judicially-recognized factors in determining whether a hearing was necessary. The court also concluded that the district court erred in Porter I by dismissing petitioner's separate but related juror bias claim pursuant to McDonough Power Equipment, Inc. v. Greenwood, 464 U.S. 548 (1984). Accordingly, the court remanded with instructions for the district court to allow discovery and hold an evidentiary hearing on petitioner's two separate juror bias claims. View "Porter v. Zook" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's restitution order after defendant was convicted of postal theft. Defendant, a mail handler for the postal service, was convicted of stealing video game discs sent by GameFly. The court held that fair market value was the appropriate measure of value for restitution and the Government failed to sufficiently demonstrate the victim's loss. In this case, the district court abused its discretion by relying on the victim's unsupported estimate of its replacement costs. The court held that the video games that GameFly lost were fungible and nothing in the record indicated that the stolen games had any unique or personal value to GameFly that fair market value could not adequately capture. View "United States v. Steele" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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After defendant was convicted of bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank and mail fraud for her role in a fraudulent mortgage scheme, the district court ordered her to forfeit over $1 million to cover proceeds that her coconspirators had received and dissipated. The Fourth Circuit originally affirmed the district court's judgment. The Supreme Court subsequently issued Honeycutt v. United States, 137 S. Ct. 1626 (2017), and vacated the court's original decision in this case, remanding for reconsideration under Honeycutt. In light of Honeycutt, the court held that 18 U.S.C. 982(a)(2) precludes joint and several forfeiture liability. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's forfeiture orders and remanded for reassessment of the appropriate forfeiture amount. The court reaffirmed the district court's judgment in all other respects. View "United States v. Chittenden" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit granted Ergon's petition for review challenging EPA's denial of Ergon's application for an extension of the small refinery exemption from the renewable fuel standard program. The court held that EPA's decision was arbitrary and capricious because EPA relied on DOE's facially-deficient recommendation to an unexplained and unknown degree, and EPA failed to properly address Ergon's petition with regard to renewable identification number costs. View "Ergon-West Virginia, Inc. v. EPA" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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18 U.S.C. 2339B prohibits anyone from knowingly providing or attempting to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization. Defendants were found guilty of conspiracy to provide and of providing on numerous occasions material support to al-Shabaab, a designated foreign terrorist organization, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2339B. The Fourth Circuit rejected defendants' contention that the district court erred in denying their motion to suppress evidence obtained pursuant to warrants issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) because the evidence was obtained unconstitutionally in light of FISA's ex parte and in camera judicial review process. The court held that the district court's adoption of a test to determine whether someone was part of a foreign terrorist organization for purposes of section 2339B was unnecessary and resulted from a misunderstanding of what section 2339B required in the context of this case. However, the district court appropriately found both defendants guilty of violating section 2339B. Finally, the district court did not err in applying sentencing enhancements under USSG 2M5.3(b)(1)(E) for support of a foreign terrorist organization with the intent, knowledge, or reason to believe it would be used to assist in the commission of a violent act. View "United States v. Dhirane" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's 24 month sentence after he admitted to four violations of the conditions of his supervised release. The court held that the record amply demonstrated that the district court, in reaching its decision to impose the recommended sentence, considered defendant's arguments for a downward variance and addressed several of them, while highlighting the seriousness of the violations, as well as defendant's extensive criminal history. View "United States v. Gibbs" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant pleaded guilty to a federal drug trafficking conspiracy and waived his right to appeal his conviction and "whatever sentence is imposed," except on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel and prosecutorial misconduct. The Fourth Circuit held that defendant knowingly and intelligently waived his right to appeal; even valid appeal waivers did not bar claims that a factual basis was insufficient to support a guilty plea; and, in this case, the district court did not err, plain or otherwise, in concluding that a factual basis supported defendant's guilty plea. Accordingly, the court dismissed in part and affirmed in part. View "United States v. McCoy" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a habeas petition based on a claim under Simmons v. South Carolina, 512 U.S. 154 (1994). Under Simmons, a defendant is entitled to inform the jury when the alternative to a death sentence is life in prison without parole, but only if the prosecutor puts at issue the risk that he will be a danger to society if released from prison. The court held that the state court reasonably applied Simmons to petitioner's sentence when it held that the prosecutor in his case had not argued future dangerousness in support of the death penalty. View "Warren v. Thomas" on Justia Law