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The district court denied state prisoner Michael Leatherwood’s habeas application. Leatherwood pled guilty in Oklahoma state court to two counts of Rape in the First Degree and four counts of Rape in the First Degree by Instrumentation. He was sentenced to six concurrent 20-year terms and suspended the sentence except for 90 days in jail. Upon completion of his jail time, Leatherwood would serve a suspended sentence and also be under probationary supervision. Leatherwood agreed to the Special Probation Conditions. One of the Special Probation Conditions, Rule 17, required that Leatherwood “[n]ot date, socialize, or enter into a romantic or sexual relationship with any person who has children under the age of eighteen (18) years present in their residence or custody at any time.” Leatherwood would violate Rule 17 twice, and “looking at the totality” of the circumstances, including Mr. Leatherwood’s own statements and deceptive behavior, the district court concluded he knew he had violated Rule 17. At his first violation, the court revoked five years of Leatherwood’s suspended sentence; after the second violation, the court revoked the remaining fifteen years. Leatherwood was granted a certificate of appealability (COA) on his claim that revocation of his suspended sentence violated his procedural and substantial due process rights. It denied a COA on his other claims. Finding no reversible error in that decision, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. The Tenth Circuit also denied Leatherwood’s request for additional COAs and a motion to supplement the record. View "Leatherwood v. Allbaugh" on Justia Law

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In 2004, petitioner-appellant Wade Lay and his so Chris attempted to rob a Tulsa bank, the money from which was going to fund a patriotic revolution against the federal government akin to what the Founding Fathers had done. A bank security guard was killed in the process; the Lays did not get away with any money, and they were apprehended later that day. The Lays were tried together. Chris was represented by counsel; the elder Lay proceeded pro se. Both were found guilty by a jury. Chris received a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Wade was sentenced to death. A district court stayed habeas proceedings pending a psychiatric evaluation for Wade. The Supreme Court decided Ryan v. Gonzales, and in response, the district court lifted the stay, found no evidentiary hearing was necessary following Wade’s psychiatric evaluation, and denied habeas relief. The Tenth Circuit granted a certificate of appealability (COA) on whether the district court should have ordered a temporary stay of the underlying habeas proceedings until Wade Lay could be restored to competency. Finding no reversible error in the district court’s judgment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Lay v. Royal" on Justia Law

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Jorge Carillo pleaded guilty to, inter alia, conspiring to distribute at least 100 grams of heroin. On appeal, he argued the district court’s acceptance of his guilty plea was at odds with Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(b)(1)(G)-(I) and 11(b)(3). At his initial appearance, Carillo acknowledged he received a copy of the indictment and understood the charges against him. Carillo pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge without the benefit of a plea agreement. At the change-of-plea hearing, the district court reminded Carillo the drug count charged him with “conspiring with others to distribute more than a hundred grams of heroin.” The district court, however, did not otherwise elucidate the nature or specifics of the charge or discuss the elements of conspiracy. Nevertheless, Carillo told the district court he understood the charges against him. In reciting the penalties Carillo faced, the prosecutor mistakenly stated Carillo was subject to a maximum term of imprisonment of twenty years. The district court did not mention the applicable mandatory minimum term. After confirming he had enough time to consult with his lawyer, and was satisfied with his attorney’s advice and representation, the district court accepted Carillo’s guilty plea, finding he was aware of the nature of the charges he was facing and that the guilty plea was supported by sufficient facts. Carillo did not object to the penalties that were recited by the prosecutor, the factual basis the prosecutor provided, or to the court’s finding that sufficient facts supported the guilty plea. Ultimately, the district court imposed the mandatory minimum sixty-month sentence on the conspiracy count and forty-eight month sentences on two firearms counts, with all three sentences to run concurrently. At no point during the sentencing hearing did Carillo contest the validity of his guilty plea. Carillo asserts on appeal, for the first time, that his guilty plea was not knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily entered because the plea colloquy did not comply with the dictates of Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(b). In particular, Carillo asserts the district court failed to: (1) inform him of the applicable minimum and maximum sentences; (2) adequately explain the nature of the charge to which he was pleading; and (3) establish a factual basis for the guilty plea, in violation of Rule 11(b)(3). The Tenth Circuit concluded Carillo satisfied his burden of demonstrating the district court’s Rule 11(b)(3) error affected his substantial rights. "There is no doubt that failing to correct that error would seriously affect the fairness and integrity of judicial proceedings." The matter was remanded the district court for further proceedings. View "United States v. Carillo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The government allowed a prisoner's SAMs to expire, and could not proffer a compelling argument to that continuing one such measure was not the least restrictive means of furthering a governmental interest. Plaintiff-appellant Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was a prisoner at the United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Colorado (“ADX Florence”). He was subjected to Special Administrative Measures (“SAMs”) that limited his contact with the outside world due to past terrorist activities and his connections with terrorist groups. One of the restrictions included a prohibition against participating in group prayer. Acting pro se, plaintiff challenged the legality of his numerous restrictions. He requested a declaratory judgment proclaiming that the government’s imposition and enforcement of the restrictions violated numerous constitutional provisions as well as the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (“RFRA”). He also sought an injunction ordering the government to permit his participation in group prayer. The district court dismissed his suit for failure to state a claim. While his case was on appeal, the government allowed plaintiff's SAMs to expire. But he was still prohibited from participating in group prayer due to the housing restrictions at ADX Florence. The Tenth Circuit found that the government did not meet its burden to affirmatively demonstrate that continuing to deny plaintiff the right to freely exercise his religion one a week furthered a compelling governmental interest in the least restrictive manner. Accordingly, the Court reversed the district court granting the government's motion to dismiss plaitniff's SAMs claims, and remanded this case with instructions to dismiss those claims as moot. View "Ghailani v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Abigail Ross was allegedly raped by a fellow student at the University of Tulsa. The alleged rape led plaintiff to sue the university for money damages under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the University of Tulsa, and plaintiff appealed. On the first theory, the dispositive issue was whether a fact-finder could reasonably infer that an appropriate person at the university had actual notice of a substantial danger to others. On the second theory, there was a question of whether a reasonable fact-finder could characterize exclusion of prior reports of the aggressor's sexual harassment as "deliberate indifference." The Tenth Circuit concluded both theories failed as a matter of law: (1) campus-security officers were the only university employees who knew about reports that other victims had been raped, and a reasonable fact-finder could not infer that campus-security officers were appropriate persons for purposes of Title IX; (2) there was no evidence of deliberate indifference by the University of Tulsa. View "Ross v. University of Tulsa" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were families with children enrolled in the Douglas County School District RE-1 (“DCSD”) and the American Humanist Association (“AHA”). Plaintiffs filed suit challenging various DCSD practices as violations of the Establishment Clause and the Equal Access Act (“EAA”), contending DCSD engaged in a pattern and practice of promoting Christian fundraising efforts and permitting faculty participation in Christian student groups. The Tenth Circuit found most of the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that they or their children experienced “personal and unwelcome contact with government-sponsored religious” activities. Furthermore, they failed to demonstrate their case for municipal taxpayer standing because they could not show expenditure of municipal funds on the challenged activities. The sole exception is plaintiff Jane Zoe: she argued DCSD violated the Establishment Clause when school officials announced they were “partnering” with a Christian student group and solicited her and her son for donations to a “mission trip.” The district court held that because Zoe’s contacts with the challenged actions were not conspicuous or constant, she did not suffer an injury for standing purposes. The Tenth Circuit found "no support in our jurisprudence" for the contention that an injury must meet some threshold of pervasiveness to satisfy Article III. The Court therefore concluded Zoe had standing to seek retrospective relief. View "American Humanist Assoc. v. Douglas County School District" on Justia Law

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Defendant Jason Gutierrez was serving a 192-month term in federal prison. After the United States Sentencing Commission amended several of the guidelines under which he was sentenced, defendant filed a motion under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(2), asking the district court to reduce his sentence to 168 months. Instead, the district court reduced his sentence to 188 months, concluding it lacked authority to go any lower. Finding no abuse of discretion or reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Gutierrez" on Justia Law

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The government appealed the sentence imposed in this kidnapping case. Defendant Joseph DeRusse, while suffering from then-undiagnosed mental health issues, kidnapped his ex-girlfriend with a BB gun, and drove her several hundred miles away from her parents’ home in Austin, Texas, intending to keep her at a bed-and-breakfast in Kansas for three weeks while he attempted to convince her to marry him. About eight hours into the kidnapping, Defendant was apprehended by a police officer on the interstate freeway in Kansas. Defendant served approximately seventy days in jail before he was released on bond. He entered a plea of guilty to the single count of kidnapping. The court announced its intention to sentence Defendant to a term of time served, to be followed by five years of supervised release. Ultimately, the government simply disagreed with the way in which the district court weighed the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) sentencing factors and decided to impose a sentence of time-served followed by a five-year period of supervised release. The Tenth Circuit acknowledged that a valid argument could be made for a longer sentence than was imposed here. However, after a thorough review of the record on appeal, the Court could not say that the court’s thoughtful sentencing determination fell outside the range of rationally permissible choices available at sentencing. View "United States v. Derusse" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Mary Anne Sause filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that defendants Officers Lee Stevens and Jason Lindsey violated her rights under the First Amendment stemming from a noise complaint investigation emanating from plaintiff's residence. The district court dismissed plaintiff's complaint with prejudice for failure to state a claim. Because plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the contours of the right at issue were clearly established, the Tenth Circuit agreed with the district court that the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. And the Court likewise agreed that allowing plaintiff leave to amend her complaint would have been futile. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court’s order to the extent that it dismissed with prejudice plaintiff's claims for money damages. But because the Court concluded that plaintiff lacked standing to assert her claims for injunctive relief, the Tenth Circuit reversed in part and remanded with instructions to dismiss those claims without prejudice. View "Sause v. Bauer" on Justia Law

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The district court did not err in holding that plaintiffs Stanley and Zinaida Pohl were precluded from asserting a claim to rescind the foreclosure sale of their home, based on their lender’s alleged violations of the Truth in Lending Act (TILA). In May 2007 the Pohls refinanced the loan on their Denver home, securing the loan with a deed of trust. In 2008 they ran into financial difficulties, however, and in 2009 they went into default on the loan. In March 2010, believing that their lender had failed to make TILA-required disclosures, the Pohls delivered a notice of intent to rescind the loan. The lender responded that it would “exercise all appropriate remedies under the promissory note and security instrument in the event of the Borrower’s default.” In June 2011 the deed of trust was assigned to U.S. Bank, as trustee for a certain mortgage loan trust, and in July 2011 U.S. Bank commenced foreclosure proceedings. The Pohls promptly filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In November 2011 the bankruptcy court granted U.S. Bank’s motion to lift the automatic stay as to the property so it could continue the foreclosure proceedings. It also granted the Pohls a discharge. In August 2012 the Pohls and a third party filed in Colorado state court a “Complaint to Quiet Title" alleging they had tendered a valid instrument in payment of the note, which U.S. Bank had rejected. U.S. Bank moved for dismissal of that action for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The state district court granted the motion and dismissed the action. The Pohls’ bankruptcy case was closed in December 2012. The property was sold in a foreclosure sale in January 2013, with U.S. Bank the highest bidder. The Pohls then filed suit that came before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, still seeking to rescind the 2013 foreclosure in light of the 2010 notice of their intent to rescind to loan. The Pohls' motion was denied, with the district court finding the Pohls' claims were precluded because they could have used the state litigation to challenge the lender's failure to follow the TILA recission process. The Tenth Circuit found no error in that judgment, and affirmed. View "Pohl v. US Bank" on Justia Law