Eleventh Circuit

The Federal Docket

United States v. Brandon Fleury (11th Cir. December 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the defendant’s convictions for transmitting interstate threats under 18 USC 875(c) and cyberstalking under 18 USC 2261A(2)(B) after the defendant had created various social media accounts with aliases such as Ted Bundy and Nikolas Cruz (the school shooter from Parkland, Florida) and sent harassing and threatening messages to members of the victims’ families. The Court rejected the defendant’s First Amendment challenges, holding the cyberstalking statute was not overbroad since the elements were generally aimed at unprotected conduct with criminal intent and the statute was not unconstitutional as applied since the defendant’s speech included “true threats.”

SCOTUS Denies Certiorari, Leaves Circuit Split Intact Regarding Standard for Compassionate Release

Earlier this week, SCOTUS denied certiorari in Bryant v. U.S. In Bryant, the Eleventh Circuit created a circuit split by holding district courts considering motions for compassionate release or sentence reductions are bound by the narrow criteria under USSG 1B1.13. As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, inmates will continue facing dramatically different, and more difficult, standards based on where they were convicted.

United States v. Tinker (11th Cir. September 2021); United States v. Giron (11th Cir. October 2021);

The Eleventh Circuit issued a pair of important opinions regarding compassionate release. The Court held that district courts considering motions under 18 USC 3582(c)(1)(A) may assume that a defendant meets some of the statutory requirements while denying their motion based on their failure to meet others, they may analyze the three statutory requirements in any order, and they may deny a compassionate release motion after considering only one of the statutory factors.

United States v. Latecia Watkins (11th Cir. September 2021)

On remand from the Eleventh Circuit’s en banc holding, the Court held that the district court erred in suppressing evidence where the government proved by a preponderance of the evidence that the incriminating evidence would have been discussed through lawful means despite the violation of the defendant’s rights. The agents had been contemplating a knock and talk, which would have revealed to them the incriminating drug evidence, and it was not controlling that they had discussed this tactic after the constitutional violation.

United States v. James Braddy (11th Cir. August 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence from a traffic stop. The Court held that the officer’s mistaken interpretation of Alabama traffic law was reasonable, the officer did not unlawfully prolong the stop by asking the driver about his plans and itinerary or allowing his dog to sniff near the car, and there was probable cause to search the vehicle based on the dog’s change in behavior near the car, though the dog did not give a “final response” indicating the presence of drugs.

United States v. Latecia Watkins (11th Cir. August 2021), EN BANC

Sitting en banc, the Eleventh Circuit reversed prior precedents regarding the “Inevitable Discovery Doctrine” and held that, to preclude suppression of unlawfully obtained evidence, the Government must show by a “preponderance of the evidence” that law enforcement would have ultimately discovered the evidence through lawful means anyway. In doing so, the Eleventh Circuit abandoned the “reasonable probability” standard.

United States v. Antonio Soul Gonzalez (11th Cir. August 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of a defendant’s motion for a sentence reduction under Section 404(b) of the First Step Act, but held that a defendant serving time for a revocation of supervised release is eligible to move for a reduction under Section 404(b) as long as the original offense underlying the supervised release was a “covered offense” under the Fair Sentencing Act.

United States v. Jose Cordero (11th Cir. August 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a district court’s order requiring a sex offender on supervised release to notify prospective clients of his sex offender status. The Court held this was not an impermissible modification of his supervised release conditions since his initial conditions allowed probation to require the defendant to notify certain third parties of his status.

United States v. Alston Williams (11th Cir. July 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the conviction, sentence, and restitution order of a defendant convicted of sex trafficking minors and adults. Among the defendant’s challenges, the Court held that admitting graphic videos of a victim does not violate Rule 403 if the videos are relevant and jurors are prescreened appropriately, evidence of a defendant’s use of violence against victims establishes their knowledge that the victims were not consenting to the sexual activities, and a victim’s disclaimer of a restitution award does not negate a district court’s obligation to order restitution.

United States v. Joshua Dudley (11th Cir. July 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a defendant’s ACCA-enhanced sentence for possession of a firearm as a convicted felon. The defendant had previously pleaded guilty to several different felony offenses on the same day, but there was no indication in the indictment when these offenses occurred or whether they were related, save for the State’s statements during the colloquy regarding a factual basis. The Eleventh Circuit held that the sentencing court here properly relied on those statements because the defendant had implicitly confirmed the substance of those statements by failing to object or add facts.

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