It’s a good week in the circuits for folks accused of federal crimes.
The Seventh Circuit has been active (though sadly without Judge Posner). United States v. Diaz-Rios looks interesting – it’s a remand for resentencing in a mitigation role case. Personally, I think the mitigating role reduction is too rarely applied (though I would say that). I’m always happy to see pro-defendant law made on that guideline.
Perhaps most interesting, though, is United States v. Doe – a Ninth Circuit discovery violation case. Looks like all of DOJ’s Brady training may not have eliminated the whole problem. Shocking.
Speaking of things that are only shocking ironically, the New York Times had a nice piece on police lying. Though, realistically, if our country is going to put more people in prison than Stalin had in his gulags, a little bit of government lying is going to be hard to avoid.
Also well worth a look is United States v. Demmitt – a reversal for money laundering where the government failed to show that the folks accused of the crime intended to conceal where the money came from.
To the Victories:
1. United States v. Diaz-Rios, Seventh Circuit: Appellant pled guilty to trafficking a large amount of cocaine. At sentencing, both appellant and the government agreed that a two-level mitigating-role reduction under Sentencing Guideline § 3B1.2 was warranted. Because the reasons the district court gave for refusing this reduction did not show that the court evaluated all of the relevant factors under this Guideline, remand was required for the district court to explain its basis for rejecting the reduction.
2. United States v. Vidal, Seventh Circuit: Appellant pled guilty to offenses arising out of his participation in a scheme to rob a stash house. At sentencing, he argued that he should be sentenced to the mandatory minimum because of his psychological problems. Because the district court’s reasons for rejecting appellant’s argument that his psychiatric issues warranted a below-guidelines sentence were not clear from the record, his sentence was vacated and the case remanded for resentencing.
3. United States v. Doe, Ninth Circuit: Appellant was convicted of various drug felonies. Because the district court erred in denying two of appellant’s discovery requests as overbroad, his conviction was vacated and the case remanded for a hearing to determine (1) whether the requested documents contain or would have led to information that may have altered the verdict and (2) whether the government discharged its obligation to provide the defense with material exculpatory evidence. The court also made several procedural errors at sentencing: (1) failing to accurately state the Guidelines range; (2) failing to give the parties a chance to recommend a sentence; and (3) failing to address all but one of appellant’s objections to the Presentence Report and his arguments for further Guideline reductions. For these reasons, if appellant’s conviction is reinstated, resentencing is required.
4. United States v. Cervantes, et al., Fifth Circuit: Appellants Mark Milan, Cristobal Cervantes, and Luis Alvarez were convicted of offenses arising out of their scheme to conduct an armed home invasion to steal a large quantity of drugs. In sentencing Mr. Cervantes and Mr. Alvarez, the district court applied a two-level enhancement under Guideline § 2D1.1(b)(1) because the drug conspiracy involved firearms. This was error because Mr. Cervantes and Mr. Alvarez were also separately sentenced for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Consequently, the case was remanded for resentencing.
5. United States v. Block, et al., et al., Seventh Circuit: Eight appellants pled guilty to offenses arising out of their involvement in a large heroin distribution conspiracy. One of the appellants, Samuel Peeples, received a two-level enhancement under Guideline § 2D1.1(b)(1) for possession of firearms by his co-conspirators. Because this enhancement was not supported by the record, Mr. Peeples’ sentence was vacated and the case remanded for resentencing.
6. United States v. Demmitt, Fifth Circuit: Appellant was convicted of money laundering and other offenses. The government failed to present evidence that that the wire transfer at issue was designed to conceal or disguise the nature, location, source, ownership, or control of the fraudulently obtained money. Because no rational trier of fact could have found that the evidence established all of the elements of money laundering beyond a reasonable doubt, appellant’s conviction was vacated.