Eleventh Circuit

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Eleventh Circuit Creates Circuit Split on Standard for Sentence Reductions–holds district courts have limited discretion to grant.

The Eleventh Circuit became the first, and so far the only, circuit court to hold that district courts considering sentence reductions motions under 3582(c)(1)(A) are bound by the criteria under USSG 1B1.13. To date, seven other circuits have held that district courts have discretion to determine if an inmate has presented extraordinary and compelling reasons warranting a reduction. District courts in the Eleventh Circuit now have much less discretion to reduce an inmate’s sentence.

Carlos Granda v. United States (11th Cir. March 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of a defendant’s motion under 2255. The trial court in the defendant’s case had erroneously instructed the jury that the defendant’s charge for Hobbs Act conspiracy could be a predicate offense for finding the defendant guilty of conspiracy to possess a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence under 924(o). However, the defendant had procedurally defaulted on this claim by not bringing it up in front of the trial court or on direct appeal, and he could not show prejudice or actual innocence because the jury found him guilty of other predicate offenses that were “inextricable intertwined” with the Hobbs Act conspiracy count.

United States v. Dontiez Pendergrass (11th Cir. March 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a defendant’s convictions for armed robbery of five businesses. Among its holdings, the Court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying a motion to continue, it did not err in declining to excuse a juror for cause who was a probation officer, admission of geo-location data that was gathered as fruit of an unlawful search was harmless, an agent’s testimony regarding out-of-court statements was not hearsay since it was helpful to describe investigative tactics, and there was sufficient evidence to convict the defendant based on a modus operandi and pattern reflected in each of the five robberies.

United States v. Arman Abovyan (11th Cir. Feb. 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a doctor-defendant’s conviction for healthcare fraud and dispensing controlled substances unlawfully. The Court held that there was sufficient evidence tying him to the conspiracy based in part on his allowing a medically non-trained co-conspirator to mandate testing requirements, and the Court also found sufficient evidence of unlawful dispensation based on the government expert’s testimony. The Court also held that the district court did not err in using the intended loss amount at sentencing, despite using the lower actual loss amount for the defendant’s co-conspirators, since there was no “unwarranted” disparity given that the co-conspirators had been sentenced according to a plea agreement, and the defendant had not.

United States v. Jhony Contreras Maradiaga (11th Cir. Feb. 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a defendant’s conviction under 18 USC 1546(a) for using a fraudulent order of supervision from ICE to get a Florida driver’s license. The Court held that the order of supervision was an “other document” under 1546(a) and that the government’s arguments during closing, while misleading, did not constitute plain error.

United States v. Ruberman Chinchilla (11th Cir. Feb. 2021)

Ruling on a matter of first impression, the Eleventh Circuit held that an order of supervision from ICE can constitute a document “prescribed by statute or regulation for entry into or as evidence of authorized stay or employment in the United States” under 18 USC 1546(a). The defendant had attempted to use a fraudulent order of supervision to get a driver’s license from Florida.

United States v. Mayweather, et al. (11th Cir. March 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit reversed the convictions of four defendant-corrections officers who helped a government informant transport narcotics while wearing their corrections uniforms to deter police officers from pulling them over. The Court held that there was sufficient evidence of government inducement to warrant jury instructions on entrapment where the informant made efforts to persuade some of the defendants to do business with him. The Court also held that the district court erred in failing to define “official act” for Hobbs Act extortion and, while it agreed that the definition of “official act” from SCOTUS’s opinion in McDonnell did not fit the facts of the case, the Court remanded for the trial court to provide an alternative definition and allow the jury to determine if the officers wearing their uniforms was an “official act.”

United States v. William Goldstein & Marc Bercoon (11th Cir. February 2021)

In a fraud case involving wiretap evidence, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the defendants’ convictions. The Court rejected the defendant’s arguments and held that 1) the evidence supporting probable cause in the wiretap affidavit was not stale because there was evidence the phone in question was still in use and the conspiracy was ongoing, and 2) the wiretap affidavit established necessity because, even though the Government already had enough evidence to convict the defendants, the stated goal of the wiretap was to discover the full scope of the conspiracy and identity of all co-conspirators.

United States v. Lance Cannon & Vincent Holton (11th Cir. February 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a pair of Hobbs Act robbery convictions, holding that 1) erroneous jury instructions regarding two predicate offenses under 924(c) were harmless where the offenses were inextricably entwined and one was properly instructed as a predicate offense; 2) defendant’s could not show entrapment or outrageous government conduct when the government set up a fake safe house and had an informant suggest to the defendant that they should rob the safe house; and 3) the defendants were not entitled to discovery for selective prosecution based on a showing that a racial group was disproportionately prosecuted unless they could show evidence of prosecution of similarly situated members of another racial group.

United States v. Jose Antonio Morales (11th Cir. February 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a defendant’s conviction after he challenged a search warrant that led to his arrest and conviction for marijuana distribution and unlawful possession of a firearm. The Court held that, even if the search warrant was not supported by probable cause based on officers finding small quantities of marijuana in the defendant’s trash, the good faith exception applied. The Court also reiterated that a failure to allege the knowledge element for a 922(g) charge under Rehaif does not deprive the district court of subject matter jurisdiction.

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