Second Circuit

The Federal Docket

United States v. Halvon (2d Cir. February 2022)

The Second Circuit held that a district court considering a motion for compassionate release can reduce a defendant’s sentence or release them notwithstanding that the defendant was sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment. The Court affirmed denial of the defendant’s motion, however, since the district court did not base its denial on the defendant’s mandatory minimum sentence and otherwise did not abuse its discretion.

United States v. Freeman (2nd Cir. November 2021)

The Second Circuit affirmed a district court’s order denying the defendant’s motion to withdraw his plea. The defendant had argued that the district court misstated the applicable mandatory minimum term of supervised release. The Second Circuit affirmed but noted the parties had incorrectly stated that the defendant bore the burden of persuasion to show the Rule 11 error had affected his substantial rights. Rather, it was the Government’s burden to show such an error was harmless.

United States v. Goodrich (2nd Cir. September 2021)

The Second Circuit vacated a $2.3 million restitution order against a defendant convicted of securities fraud. The Court held that most of the alleged victims’ losses came from purchasing shares of a sham company outside of a public market, in a private placement. Since the private placement was arranged by the defendant’s co-conspirators and there was no evidence that the defendant was involved in planning or executing the private placement, the defendant could not be held accountable for those losses as the proximate or direct cause.

United States v. Cabrera (2nd Cir. September 2021)

The Second Circuit vacated a defendant’s conviction for distributing fentanyl. The Court held that the defendant only has to present “some credible evidence” regarding government inducement in order to obtain an instruction on entrapment. The Government’s law enforcement witness also improperly testified that the defendant was an experienced drug dealer, which required specialized knowledge.

United States v. Stillwell, et al. (2d Cir. January 2021)

The Second Circuit remanded a case to give the defendants an opportunity to file post-conviction motions based on the Government’s alleged violation of Brady v. Maryland. The Court vacated a protective order previously obtained ex parte by the DOJ, disclosed the documents to the defense as new evidence, and remanded for the district court to determine if a new trial was warranted.

United States v. Gerald Scott (2d Cir. March 2021, EN BANC)

Sitting en banc, the Second Circuit held that first degree manslaughter under New York law is categorically a “crime of violence” under the ACCA and the Career Offender provision of the Guidelines. Despite the fact that the offense can be committed through omission or inaction, as opposed to only through act of force or threat of force, the Court concluded it fit the bill under the force clauses of the ACCA because it required a victim’s death and a defendant’s intent to cause at least serious bodily injury.

United States v. Gatto, et al (2d Cir. January 2021)

The Second Circuit affirmed the convictions of three men who had recruited college basketball players to certain universities by giving their families secret cash payments and then lying to the NCAA about it. The Court held that the elements of wire fraud were met because, through the defendants’ misrepresentations, they had deprived the universities of scholarship money paid to the college athletes that could have gone to eligible athletes that did not receive cash payments.

United States v. Fernando Clarke (2d Cir. October 2020)

The Second Circuit affirmed a defendant’s conviction for “transporting” child pornography after government agents downloaded illegal images from the defendant’s computer through a peer-to-peer filesharing program. The Court held there was sufficient evidence that the defendant knew he was making his images available for others to download based on his knowledge of how peer-to-peer programs work and that he had “transported” the images “by wittingly participating in a file-sharing network and downloading files from the computers of others” which “implicitly invited other participants in the file-sharing network to share his files, and enabled them to do so.”

United States v. Thomas Alonzo Bolin (2nd Cir. September 2020)

The Second Circuit vacated a defendant’s supervised release condition and remanded for resentencing holding that a condition of release prohibiting him from online speech promoting or endorsing violence was unconstitutionally vague and violated defendant’s right to free speech under the First Amendment. The Court held that language in the condition defining “violence” included open-ended language allowing the condition to be applied without limits.

United States v. Volvy “Zev” Smilowitz (2d Cir. September 2020)

The Second Circuit affirmed defendant’s conviction for bribing individuals to register to vote and submitting false voter registrations, holding that the federal election statute applied to defendant influencing a strictly local election since voter registration is part of a unitary system that governs local, state and federal elections regardless of the defendant’s intent to affect only a local election.

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