Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Mariano Moya and Lonnie Petry were arrested based on outstanding warrants and detained in a county jail for 30 days or more prior to their arraignments. These arraignment delays violated New Mexico law, which required arraignment of a defendant within 15 days of arrest. Both men sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for deprivation of due process. The district court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a valid claim. The Tenth Circuit affirmed because Moya and Petry failed to plausibly allege a factual basis for liability. View "Moya v. Garcia" on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant Kyle Hebert was convicted by jury on four counts of possession of child pornography. He was sentenced to 120 months’ imprisonment and 15 years’ supervised release. On appeal, Hebert challenged the district court’s finding that he had two prior convictions that triggered a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years’ imprisonment. The Tenth Circuit affirmed, finding Hebert’s prior convictions “relate to” sexual abuse under the categorical approach. View "United States v. Hebert" on Justia Law

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Trayon Williams was convicted of possessing a firearm after a felony conviction. To apply the federal sentencing guidelines, the district court classified Williams’s prior conviction for aggravated battery under Kansas law as a crime of violence. This classification triggered enhancement of the offense level. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual section 2K2.1(a)(4)(A). Williams challenged the enhancement on the ground that his prior conviction was not for a crime of violence. The Tenth Circuit found Williams was mistaken: in Kansas, aggravated battery was a crime of violence because the crime involves general criminal intent, requiring the knowing use of force. View "United States v. Williams" on Justia Law

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Defendant Magdiel Sanchez-Urias pleaded guilty to illegally reentering the country after being deported. The court imposed a sentence that included a $1,000 fine. Defendant appealed, arguing that he could not afford the fine. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed: defendant bore the burden to show that he lacked the assets to pay the fine. But he refused to provide financial information at his presentence interview, and the district court did not clearly err in finding on the record before it that Defendant had not established his inability to pay. View "United States v. Sanchez-Urias" on Justia Law

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Between August 2015 and May 2016, defendant Ryan Howard stole various pieces of laboratory equipment from Oklahoma State University (“OSU”) and transported them to his apartment in Texas. The equipment included thermocyclers, pipettors, chromatography machines, and centrifuges. While attempting to steal another chromatography machine in 2016, Howard was arrested and police officers executed a search warrant on his vehicle, recovering a set of bolt cutters and various pieces of laboratory equipment. In June 2016, investigators executed a search warrant on Howard’s residence in Texas, discovering many of the items Howard had stolen from OSU as well as equipment stolen from Northeastern Oklahoma State University. Investigators recovered most of the stolen items and returned them to the respective universities. Defendant entered a guilty plea on three counts of transportation of stolen property. During sentencing, Howard objected to the recommended restitution award for the second count, ordered under 18 U.S.C. 3663A. This appeal centered on whether the court correctly used the replacement cost as the restitution value and correctly determined the value of the returned property to be zero. The Tenth Circuit held that it did and affirmed the district court. View "United States v. Howard" on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant John Murphy appealed the dismissal of his second motion to vacate his sentence. Murphy pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment and 5 years’ supervised release. Under 18 U.S.C. 924(a)(2), being a felon in possession of a firearm was ordinarily punishable by a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment. But pursuant to the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), Murphy received a sentencing enhancement because he had three previous convictions for violent felonies. Specifically, the Presentence Investigation Report (PSR) advised that Murphy’s previous convictions for burglary (two in Oregon and one in Wyoming) were “burglaries” within the meaning of section 924(e), as defined by Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575 (1990). Murphy did not object to the PSR, and the government and Murphy agreed at his sentencing hearing that he was eligible for the ACCA enhancement because his previous convictions matched Taylor’s definition of burglary. Murphy did not appeal his conviction or sentence. In 2009, Murphy filed his first 18 U.S.C. 2255 motion, alleging that his counsel provided ineffective assistance by not objecting to the classification of his burglary convictions as violent felonies, and urged the sentencing court to apply the categorical approach outlined in Taylor to determine if his previous convictions matched the generic definition of burglary. The district court denied his motion on the grounds that his previous convictions matched Taylor’s definition of burglary because in all three, “he made an unlawful or unprivileged entry into a building or structure, with the intent to commit a crime therein.” Murphy did not appeal from the district court’s denial of his motion. In 2016, Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015) invalidated the ACCA’s residual clause. The Tenth Circuit authorized Murphy to file a second section 2255 motion. In the second motion, Murphy argued his sentence should be vacated because: (1) the state statutes for his previous convictions were broader than the generic definition of burglary; (2) if he was not sentenced under the enumerated offense clause, he must have been sentenced under the residual clause; (3) Johnson invalidated the residual clause, therefore his sentence should be vacated. The district court found Murphy’s argument failed at the first step because “the record is clear that Murphy’s ACCA enhancement was based upon the enumerated offenses clause - not the residual clause.” It consequently dismissed Murphy’s motion but granted a certificate of appealability on the issue. The Tenth Circuit found Murphy essentially “raises a poorly disguised Taylor claim rather than a true Johnson claim. … Murphy (unsuccessfully) argued in his first [section] 2255 motion that his previous convictions were not violent felonies under Taylor. Accordingly, the district court correctly dismissed his second [section] 2255 motion.” View "United States v. Murphy" on Justia Law

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Shawn Gieswein appealed his sentence pursuant to convictions for witness tampering and possession of a firearm as a felon. The Tenth Circuit agreed with Gieswein that the district court erred in applying a circumstance-specific approach to determine that his prior conviction for lewd molestation in Oklahoma state court qualified as a “forcible sex offense” and thus a “crime of violence” under the Sentencing Guidelines. “Recent changes to the Guidelines have not abrogated our prior decisions holding that the categorical approach applies in determining whether a conviction qualifies as a ‘forcible sex offense.’” Because the Oklahoma statute included conduct that would not qualify, Gieswein’s conviction should not have been treated as a crime of violence. Although an erroneously calculated Guidelines range generally requires resentencing, the Court found this was the rare case in which the error was harmless. View "United States v. Gieswein" on Justia Law

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Hutchinson, Kansas police officers responded to a reported armed hostage situation and arrested DeRon McCoy, Jr. The officers brought him to the ground, struck him, and rendered him unconscious with a carotid restraint maneuver. While unconscious, the officers handcuffed McCoy’s arms behind his back, zip-tied his legs together, and moved him into a seated position. As McCoy regained consciousness, the officers resumed striking him and placed him into a second carotid restraint, rendering him unconscious a second time. Based on this incident, McCoy sued three of the arresting officers who participated in his arrest under 42 U.S.C. 1983. He alleged that they violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force. The Appellees-officers moved for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds. The district court granted the motion, determining: (1) Appellees acted reasonably under the circumstances; and (2) the relevant law was not clearly established at the time of the Appellees’ alleged conduct. McCoy appealed. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed in part, and reversed in part, finding Appellees were entitled to qualified immunity (1) for their conduct before McCoy’s arms and legs were bound while he was unconscious, but (2) not for their conduct after this point. View "McCoy v. Meyers" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Defendant Marconia Green pleaded guilty to three counts of using a communication facility to facilitate the acquisition of cocaine powder. The district court sentenced him to 130 months’ imprisonment. Three years after Defendant’s sentencing, the U.S. Sentencing Commission promulgated Amendment 782, which reduced the base offense levels assigned to certain drug offenses by two levels. Invoking this amendment, Defendant filed a motion to reduce his sentence under 18 U.S.C 3582(c)(2). The district court denied the motion, and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. Over a year later, Defendant filed another motion to reduce his sentence, again citing Amendment 782. The district court also denied this second motion. Defendant appealed the denial, arguing the district court abused its discretion in not considering all the facts and circumstances of his case. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit again affirmed. View "United States v. Green" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Defendant Marconia Green pleaded guilty to three counts of using a communication facility to facilitate the acquisition of cocaine powder. The district court sentenced him to 130 months’ imprisonment. Three years after Defendant’s sentencing, the U.S. Sentencing Commission promulgated Amendment 782, which reduced the base offense levels assigned to certain drug offenses by two levels. Invoking this amendment, Defendant filed a motion to reduce his sentence under 18 U.S.C 3582(c)(2). The district court denied the motion, and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. Over a year later, Defendant filed another motion to reduce his sentence, again citing Amendment 782. The district court also denied this second motion. Defendant appealed the denial, arguing the district court abused its discretion in not considering all the facts and circumstances of his case. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit again affirmed. View "United States v. Green" on Justia Law