Eleventh Circuit

The Federal Docket

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.

United States v. Roosevelt Coats, III (11th Cir. August 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a defendant’s ACCA-enhanced sentence for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The Court held that it was plain error for the district court to accept the defendant’s guilty plea where the defendant was not advised that the Government would have to prove his knowledge of his felon status, but the defendant was not prejudiced where the record showed the Government would have been able to prove his knowledge at trial. The Court also held that a prior conviction for burglary under Georgia law is a predicate “violent felony” under the ACCA, and it held that the district court properly applied the obstruction enhancement and denied the defendant acceptance of responsibility credit based on the defendant’s pre-indictment conduct.

United States v. Lillian Akwuba (11th Cir. August 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a nurse practitioner’s convictions for drug conspiracy and healthcare fraud in a “pill mill” case. The Court held there was sufficient evidence to convict her of the drug offenses despite the government’s failure to provide any patient testimony that the prescription medications they received were unnecessary, and it affirmed her conviction for healthcare fraud based on her knowledge and participation in filing claims to government programs for office visits where patients received illegal prescriptions. The Court held that the trial court erred in instructing the jury that the parties had stipulated to disputed fact, but held this did not amount to an improper directed verdict or deprive the defendant of her defense because the instruction did not relate to an element of the charged offense or any of the facts necessary to establish one of those elements, and the defendant was still able to present her theory of defense. The Court also rejected the defendant’s evidentiary claims.

United States v. Kelvin Harris and James Archibald (11th Cir. August 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the defendants’ convictions for drug and firearm offenses in a case involving a “reverse sting police corruption case.” The defendants were two officers who worked with other corrupt officers to provide armed protection to undercover agents acting as drug dealers. Among other things, the Court held that the evidence was sufficient to convict them notwithstanding their entrapment defenses, the trial court did not plainly err in failing to inform the jury that it was entitled to a “read-back” of one of the defendant’s trial testimony, and the defendants failed to establish a prima facie case of a Batson violation.

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