Legal News & Updates

United States v. Esformes, No. 19-13838 (Jan. 6, 2023)

In United States v. Esformes, No. 19-13838 (Jan. 6, 2023) (William Pryor, Jill Pryor, Grant), the Court affirmed the defendant’s healthcare fraud/kickback/money laundering convictions, as well as restitution and forfeiture awards. As an initial matter, the defendant’s challenges to his 20-year prison sentence were moot because President Trump commuted that part of his sentence.  The defendant also argued that the commutation prevented the government from re-trying him on one count on which the jury hung.  However, the Eleventh Circuit lacked jurisdiction to review that argument because the hung count was not part of the final judgment over which the Court had jurisdiction. Second, the district court properly declined to dismiss the indictment or disqualify the prosecution team in light of admitted government misconduct intruding on attorney-client privilege, because the defendant could not show “demonstrable prejudice.”  Circuit precedent foreclosed any presumption of prejudice, and the defendant did not make any effort to show prejudice, which the district court found did not exist because the privileged materials did not form the basis of the charges, were not admitted at trial, and did not give the government any strategic advantage.  Whether the prosecutors acted in bad faith was not relevant. Third, federal prosecutor [...]

January 9th, 2023|

United States v. Downs, No. 21-10809 (Jan. 6, 2023)

In United States v. Downs, No. 21-10809 (Jan. 6, 2023) (Jordan, Rosenbaum, Newsom), the Court affirmed the defendant’s convictions for producing and possessing child pornography. First, the Court held that the evidence was sufficient to satisfy the interstate-commerce element because transferring photos from a cell phone to hard drives constituted “production,” and the hard drives were manufactured abroad. Second, the district court did not err by discharging an impaneled-but-not-sworn jury in light of an impending storm.  Because the jury was never sworn, jeopardy never attached, and the defendant therefore had no right to have his case decided by the jury that was initially impaneled.  Nor did the district court plainly err by discharging the panel outside the defendant’s presence; the pre-trial hearing about the discharge of an unsworn jury did not implicate the Confrontation Clause or the due process right to be present in order to defend against the charges.  While Rule 43 plainly did require that the defendant be present, this error did not affect his substantial rights. Third, the victim testified that the defendant took photos of her using a flip phone, while the forensic expert testified that the photos were taken with a particular Samsung model.  The [...]

January 9th, 2023|

United States v. Ruan, No. 17-12653 (Jan. 5, 2023)

In United States v. Ruan, No. 17-12653 (Jan. 5, 2023) (Wilson, Newsom, Coogler) (per curiam), the Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the defendants’ convictions. This case was on remand from the Supreme Court, which clarified the mens rea standard for a doctor’s liability under the federal drug statute, 21 U.S.C. 841.  The Supreme Court explained that the defendant must have knowingly or intentionally dispensed a controlled substance, and knowingly or intentionally did so in an unauthorized manner.  What matters in that regard is the defendant’s subjective mens rea.  Applying that new standard to the facts of this case, the Eleventh Circuit held that the district court’s “good faith” instruction was insufficient because it did not make clear that the defendant’s subjective intent was what mattered.  As to the defendants’ substantive drug convictions, the Eleventh Circuit held that this erroneous instruction was not harmless because the jury may have convicted based on an objective reasonable-doctor standard and may not have convicted had it been properly instructed on a subjective standard.  However, the Court found that the erroneous instruction was harmless as to the remaining convictions for conspiracy to violate the Controlled Substances Act, conspiracy to commit health care [...]

January 5th, 2023|

United States v. Jackson, No. 21-13963 (Dec. 13, 2022)

In United States v. Jackson, No. 21-13963 (Dec. 13, 2022) (Rosenbaum, Jill Pryor, Ed Carnes), the Court reversed course and held that the Supreme Court's reasoning in McNeill v. United States, 563 U.S. 816 (2011), requires the conclusion that ACCA's "serious drug offense" definition incorporates the version of the controlled-substances list in effect when the defendant was convicted of his prior state drug offense. Mr. Jackson's prior convictions included convictions for violating Fla. Stat. § 893.13 in 1998 and in 2004 with conduct involved cocaine.  In 1998 and in 2004, § 893.13 criminalized selling, manufacturing, delivering, or possessing with the intent to sell, manufacture, or deliver, cocaine and cocaine-related substances, including a substance called ioflupane.  The federal version of Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act ("CSA") also encompassed ioflupane in 1998 and 2004.  The federal government only exempted ioflupane from Schedule II in 2015.  So, in 2017, when Mr. Jackson possessed the firearm that resulted in his federal conviction, ioflupane was not a controlled substance "as defined . . . [under] the Controlled Substances Act." Be that as it may, however, the Court ultimately held that ACCA's definition of "serious drug offense" incorporates the version of the controlled-substances schedules in effect when the defendant was [...]

December 27th, 2022|

United States v. Garcon, No. 19-14650 (Dec. 6, 2022)

In United States v. Garcon, No. 19-14650 (Dec. 6, 2022), the en banc Court--in an opinion authored by Chief Judge Pryor--considered whether, in the First Step Act, the word "and" means "and" with regard to a grant of safety-valve relief.  More specifically, the en banc Court considered the language of 18 U.S.C. § 3553(f)(1), which empowers a court to grant a criminal defendant relief from a mandatory minimum sentence only if "the defendant does not have" "more than 4 criminal history points," "a prior 3-point offense[,] . . . and . . . a prior 2-point violent offense." The Majority--in an opinion drafted by Chief Judge Pryor and joined in full by Judges Wilson, Jill Pryor, Newsom, Luck, and Lagoa--after considering the text of the statute and applying the ordinary-meaning canon, held that because the conjunctive "and" joins together the enumerated criminal history characteristics in (A)-(C), a defendant must have all three before he is ineligible for safety-valve relief.  In so holding, the Majority specifically rejected the government's distributive reading of the word "and," declining "to adopt that novel reading when it appears to have been crafted by the government specifically for this statute to achieve its preferred outcome." Judge Rosenbaum concurred in the judgment only, [...]

December 13th, 2022|

United States v. B.G.G., No. 21-10165 (Nov. 22, 2022)

In United States v. B.G.G., No. 21-10165 (Nov. 22, 2022) (Wilson, Luck, Lagoa), the Court, on appeal by the government, vacated the dismissal of an information with prejudice under Rule 48(a). During the pandemic, the Southern District of Florida imposed a temporary moratorium on grand juries.  Concerned that they would not be able to charge the defendant within the statute of limitations, prosecutors filed an information before the statute of limitations expired.  Then, after the limitations period expired, the government moved to dismiss the information under Rule 48(a) without prejudice, which it believed would have triggered a six-month extension within which they intended to bring an indictment.  The district court, however, dismissed the information with prejudice, precluding a subsequent indictment. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit held that the district court abused its discretion by committing five separate legal errors.  First, the district court failed to apply the presumption of good faith to the government’s Rule 48(a) motion to dismiss.  That presumption applies even where, as here, the government articulates a reason for the dismissal.  Second, the district court failed to require the defendant to rebut the presumption by showing that the government sought the dismissal in bad faith.  Third, the [...]

November 22nd, 2022|
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