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Defendant-Appellant Jose Luis Eliseo Arias-Quijada entered a conditional guilty plea to illegal reentry into the United States. He reserved the right to appeal the district court’s denial of his Motion to Assert a Defense of Duress. In this appeal, Arias-Quijada challenged the denial of his motion, arguing he presented sufficient evidence to create a triable issue on the affirmative defense of duress. He specifically challenged the district court’s conclusion that he failed to make a bona fide effort to surrender to immigration authorities once the alleged duress lost its coercive force. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying Arias-Quijada's motion. View "United States v. Arias-Quijada" on Justia Law

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Defendant Ronald Detro Winder was serving a three-year prison sentence for possession of firearms by a convicted felon. He appealed his sentence, arguing that the district court erred by concluding that his prior conviction in Wyoming for felony interference with a peace officer in 2012, was a crime of violence under section 4B1.2(a)(1) (2016) of the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence. View "United States v. Winder" on Justia Law

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Marco Antonio Cortes-Gomez was indicted with two codefendants on counts related to a methamphetamine conspiracy (“Cortes-Gomez I”). His trial began on November 29, 2016. The interim included two superseding indictments, dismissal of the indictment and the filing of a new one with identical charges (“Cortes-Gomez II”), the addition of two codefendants, and various continuances and delays that the district court found to be excluded under the Speedy Trial Act of 1974 (“STA”). Ultimately, 329 days passed between Cortes- Gomez’s arraignment and the beginning of his trial. A jury found Cortes-Gomez guilty on both counts. He appealed, contending that the delay between his arraignment and trial violated his statutory and constitutional rights to a speedy trial. He also challenged the district court’s refusal to provide his requested jury instruction regarding accomplice testimony and its application of two sentencing enhancements. The Tenth Circuit concluded there was no violation of Speedy Trial, and the trial court record contained sufficient support for Cortes-Gomez’s conviction, and affirmed. View "United States v. Cortes-Gomez" on Justia Law

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Jon Julian Cabral pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. The district court sentenced him to forty-six months’ imprisonment followed by three years’ supervised release. Among other supervised-release conditions, the court imposed Standard Condition Twelve, which allowed a probation officer to require Cabral to notify third parties if the probation officer determined Cabral poses a risk to them. Apart from a reference to “making sure the public is protected,” the district court gave little guidance on how the probation officer should determine whether Cabral posed a risk to another person. Cabral challenged Standard Condition Twelve, arguing it was unconstitutionally vague and impermissibly delegated judicial power to a probation officer. The Tenth Circuit declined review, finding its “prudential ripeness doctrine” prevented it from reaching his vagueness challenge. However, his improper-delegation challenge was ripe for review, and the Court held the risk-notification condition, as imposed by the district court, improperly delegated judicial power to a probation officer. View "United States v. Cabral" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Ronson Bush was an Oklahoma state prisoner who pled guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to death. After exhausting his state court remedies by way of a direct appeal and an application for state post-conviction relief, Bush filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The district court denied Bush’s petition, and also denied him a certificate of appealability (COA). Bush appealed and the Tenth Circuit subsequently granted him a COA with respect to five issues. Bush argued: (1) the state trial court violated his due process rights by allowing the prosecution to make an offer of proof from a jailhouse informant regarding incriminating statements allegedly made by Bush; (2) the admission of improper victim impact testimony, including requests by the victim’s family members for the death penalty, violated his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments’; (3) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the admission of the unconstitutional victim impact testimony; (4) his direct appeal counsel was ineffective for failing to argue that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the constitutionality of an Oklahoma statute that bars capital defendants who plead guilty from being sentenced by a jury; and (5) cumulative error. Taking each issue in turn, the Tenth Circuit ultimately affirmed the district court’s denial of habeas relief. View "Bush v. Carpenter" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Brenda Patterson and her husband, Plaintiff Timothy Welker, appealed a district court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of Defendant PowderMonarch, LLC, on their claims of negligence and loss of consortium based on injuries Ms. Patterson allegedly sustained at Defendant’s ski resort. Because the district court correctly held that these claims are barred by an exculpatory agreement included on Ms. Patterson’s ski lift ticket, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Patterson v. PowderMonarch" on Justia Law

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This case was a direct criminal appeal of defendant Scott Bishop’s convictions on one count of unlawfully manufacturing machineguns, and one count of unlawfully possessing or transferring machineguns. Defendant designed and manufactured a device, referred to as a TCGTR, that he intended his customers to install in their AR-15 semiautomatic rifles to increase the speed at which their guns fired. The government offered evidence that the TCGTR was a machinegun because it increased an AR-15’s rate of fire by causing the gun to fire multiple bullets per pull of the trigger. Defendant, who proceeded pro se at trial, took the stand in his own defense and testified that he did not intend the TCGTR to convert an AR-15 into a machinegun. The district court excluded portions of Defendant’s testimony after finding that it was expert testimony not properly disclosed to the government. Defendant, represented by counsel on appeal, argued that the jury’s verdict should have been set aside because the district court denied him his constitutional right to present a defense, erred when instructing the jury on the elements of a § 5861(a) offense, improperly admitted hearsay testimony about the legality of the TCGTR, and allowed unsupported expert testimony on an ultimate issue of fact. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Bishop" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Homaidan Al-Turki was a citizen of Saudi Arabia, sentenced by a Colorado state court to a term of eight years to life. He wished to serve the remainder of his time in prison in his home country. A treaty permitted this, but required approval of the State, the federal government, and the foreign nation. Plaintiff alleged he received approval from the proper state official but Defendants (several state and federal officials) then provided false derogatory information to the State that caused it to revoke its approval. He filed suit in the federal district court contending Defendants had violated his right to procedural due process under the federal Constitution by not providing him a hearing to clear his name before revoking the approval. He sought an injunction requiring he be granted a judicial hearing to clear his name and that Defendants not repeat the false allegations against him. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim, and the district court granted the motion. After review, the Tenth Circuit concurred: “The stigma that results from defamation by public officials is alone insufficient to implicate procedural due process; the defamation must also have caused an alteration in the plaintiff’s legal status—that is, there must be ‘stigma plus.’ But Plaintiff has not adequately alleged a plus factor here, because he suffered no change in legal status as a result of Defendants’ alleged stigmatizing comments. Therefore, constitutional due process did not require that he be granted a hearing before the State’s final decision against his transfer to a prison in Saudi Arabia.” View "Al-Turki v. Tomsic" on Justia Law

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Big Horn Coal Company petitioned the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals for review of a Department of Labor Benefits Review Board (“Board”) decision awarding benefits to Edgar Sadler, a then-living miner, under the Black Lung Benefits Act (BLBA or “the Act”). The BLBA’s statute of limitations required miners to file claims for benefits within three years of receiving a medical determination of total disability due to pneumoconiosis. In interpreting this statute of limitations, the Secretary of the Department of Labor issued 20 C.F.R. 725.308(c) (2010), which provided that the time limits in section 932(f) “are mandatory and may not be waived or tolled except upon a showing of extraordinary circumstances.” The issue this appeal presented turned on the validity of the Secretary’s regulation in section 725.308(c) and the interpretation and application of the “extraordinary circumstances” test contained therein. Sadler received a total disability diagnosis in 2005, but he did not file the claim at issue here until 2010. Despite that delay, an administrative law judge (ALJ) awarded benefits to Sadler upon finding that “extraordinary circumstances” existed to warrant tolling the statute of limitations. Big Horn Coal argued there were no "extraordinary circumstances" sufficient here to justify tolling the statute of limitations. The Tenth Circuit concluded it lacked jurisdiction because Big Horn Coal failed to exhaust that issue before the Board. View "Big Horn Coal Company v. Sadler" on Justia Law

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Defendant Storm Michael Bellamy was under investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ("ATF") for suspected methamphetamine distribution. Defendant's housemate ordered him out of the house; twelve hours later, ATF agents executed a search warrant on the premises. In Bellamy’s former bedroom, agents discovered his personal effects, a rifle with a loaded large-capacity magazine attached, and a second large-capacity magazine nearby. Defendant pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The district court applied United States Sentencing Guidelines 2K2.1(a)(4)(B), which established a base offense level of 20 when a convicted felon possessed a semiautomatic firearm with a large-capacity magazine that was either attached or in close proximity to the firearm. Defendant was sentenced to 40 months in prison. On appeal, defendant challenged the procedural reasonableness of his sentence: because he was ejected from the house, he argues he did not possess the rifle when agents seized. He also claimed there was insufficient evidence to show that the rifle he possessed earlier that morning had a large-capacity magazine attached or in close proximity to it. The Tenth Circuit found ample support in the district court record to support the finding defendant possessed the rifle and the large-capacity magazines. Accordingly, the court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing him. View "United States v. Bellamy" on Justia Law