Legal News & Updates

United States v. Smith, No. 19-13056 (Apr. 19, 2022)

In United States v. Smith, No. 19-13056 (Apr. 19, 2022) (William Pryor, Jordan, Brown (N.D. Ga.)), the Court reversed the district court's denial of Mr. Smith's First Step Act motion and remanded for further proceedings. Mr. Smith was convicted of possession of 5 grams or more of crack cocaine with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B), and the brandishing of a firearm in the commission of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii).  He was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 210 months on the crack cocaine conviction, and a consecutive term of imprisonment of 84 months on the firearm conviction.  Based on Amendments 706 and 782 to the Sentencing Guidelines, his sentence on the crack cocaine conviction was reduced to 168 months' imprisonment, and then to 135 months' imprisonment. After passage of the First Step Act, Mr. Smith wrote a letter to the district court asking whether he was eligible for a sentence reduction, and requesting the appointment of counsel to file a motion.  The district court appointed the Federal Public Defender's Office to represent Mr. Smith.  The probation office then prepared a memorandum advising the court that Mr. Smith was ineligible for a [...]

April 21st, 2022|

United States v. Hakim, No. 19-11970 (Apr. 14, 2022)

In United States v. Hakim, No. 19-11970 (Apr. 14, 2022) (William Pryor, Grant, Anderson), the Court vacated Mr. Hakim's conviction and remanded for further proceedings. The Court addressed whether a defendant's waiver of his right to counsel is knowing when a court gives materially incorrect or misleading information to the defendant about his potential maximum sentence.  Here, Mr. Hakim was found guilty after a jury trial on three misdemeanor counts of willful failure to file a federal income tax return.  Although he was represented by counsel at trial, he was without counsel during the pretrial process.  At his arraignment, Mr. Hakim expressed his desire to waive his right to counsel and to represent himself.  The magistrate judge found that Mr. Hakim's waiver was knowing after misinforming him that the maximum sentence he could receive if convicted was 12 months imprisonment.  After trial, Mr. Hakim was sentenced to 21 months of imprisonment.  On appeal, Mr. Hakim argued that his waiver of counsel was not knowing. As an initial matter, the Court first clarified that the applicable standard of review on appeal was de novo--and not plain error--where a pro se defendant failed to contemporaneously object to the validity of his own waiver.  [...]

April 15th, 2022|

United States v. Woodson, No. 20-10443 (Apr. 13, 2022)

In United States v. Woodson, No. 20-10443 (Apr. 13, 2022) (Branch, Grant, Brasher), the Court affirmed Mr. Woodson's convictions and sentence. Mr. Woodson was charged with offenses relating to child pornography and extortionate interstate communications.  A jury found him guilty on all counts, and he was sentenced to 50 years' imprisonment followed by a life term of supervised release. On appeal, he first challenged the district court's denial of his motion to suppress statements he made to police without the benefit of Miranda warnings.  Approximately 15 officers arrived at the home Mr. Woodson shared with his family, including his brother Brandon, to execute a search warrant.  Mr. Woodson was asleep when the officers entered his bedroom, handcuffed him, and escorted him to the living room, where he joined his family.  Officers then interviewed Brandon outside of the home, inside a parked police van.  They determined that he was unlikely to be the culprit.  Mr. Woodson agreed to talk with officers next.  He was uncuffed and followed officers to the same parked police van.  He sat in the front passenger seat, with one detective in the driver's seat and another detective in the back seat.  Mr. Woodson was advised that he was not under arrest, [...]

April 14th, 2022|

United States v. Moss, No. 19-14548 (Apr. 12, 2022)

In United States v. Moss, No. 19-14548 (Apr. 12, 2022) (William Pryor, Luck, Ed Carnes), the Court affirmed Mr. Moss's convictions, sentence, and restitution amount. Mr. Moss was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §  1349, and six counts of health care fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §  1347.  After a jury trial, he was convicted of all counts.  He was sentenced to 97 months imprisonment, ordered to forfeit $2,507,623, and to pay $2,256,861 in restitution.  He appealed his convictions and sentence, as well as the restitution and forfeiture amounts. Mr. Moss raised three challenges to his convictions, which the Court found to be without any merit. As for his sentence, Mr. Moss challenged the loss amount used to determine his sentence, the dollar amount he had to pay in restitution, and the forfeiture amount.  The Court found no clear error in the district court's determinations.  With regard to the forfeiture determination, the Court found that forfeiture ordered under 18 U.S.C. §  982(a)(7)--"forfeit property, real or personal, that constitutes or is derived, directly or indirectly, from gross proceeds traceable to the commission of the offense"--encompasses the proceeds Mr. Moss received for providing legitimate services.  [...]

April 13th, 2022|

United States v. Sanchez, No. 19-14002 (Apr. 5, 2022)

In United States v. Sanchez, No. 19-14002 (Apr. 5, 2022) (Branch, Grant, Ed Carnes), the Court affirmed Mr. Sanchez's convictions and sentence. Mr. Sanchez was charged with two counts of enticing a minor to engage in sexual activity, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b); two counts of enticing a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct in order to produce child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a); two counts of possessing child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(4)(B); and one count of having committed a felony offense involving a minor while already a registered sex offender, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2260A.  He was found guilty after trial of all counts and sentenced to life imprisonment plus a consecutive ten-year mandatory minimum. Mr. Sanchez appealed the district court's denial of his motion to suppress.  More specifically, whether the district court erred by not excluding evidence derived from the officer's brief, warrantless entry into Mr. Sanchez's home for the sole purpose of seizing a phone for which the officers had obtained a search warrant.  Officers arrived at Mr. Sanchez's home, which he shared with his parents, with a warrant to seize his phone.  They encountered Mr. Sanchez out on his driveway.  [...]

April 6th, 2022|

United States v. Williams, Case No. 18-13890 (Mar. 30, 2022)

In United States v. Williams, Case No. 18-13890 (Mar. 30, 2022) (Jordan, Jill Pryor, Tjoflat), the Court affirmed the district court because it found that Mr. Williams had forfeited any arguments under which the Court could grant relief on appeal. Mr. Williams, a sovereign citizen, wanted to represent himself before the district court.  The district court held a Faretta hearing and denied Mr. Williams's request.  Mr. Williams subsequently pleaded guilty, with the assistance of counsel, and was sentenced to 151 months imprisonment. Mr. Williams was then assigned a new attorney on appeal.  This attorney moved to withdraw as counsel pursuant to Anders v. California, which the Court denied two times, finding at least two issues of arguable merit: (1) whether, despite later pleading guilty, the Court has discretion to review the denial of a defendant's request to proceed pro se, which is a potential structural error and, if so, (2) whether the district court erred in denying Williams's request to proceed pro se because it believed that he did not understand the risks of proceeding pro se due to his illogical legal theories.  The appellate brief failed to meaningfully address whether the guilty plea precluded the Court from addressing the Faretta issue.  As to that issue, the [...]

April 1st, 2022|
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