Recent Circuit Cases

The Federal Docket

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. William Wheat, Jr. (11th Cir. February 12, 2021)

The Sixth Circuit reversed a defendant’s conviction for conspiracy to distribute where the defendant had only contacted the leader of a DTO and given him a sample of heroin. The Court held that “the mere transfer of drugs,” including a buyer-seller transaction, was standing alone insufficient to establish an agreement to further distribute drugs.

United States v. Jennifer Riccardi (6th Cir. March 2021)

The Sixth Circuit reversed a defendant’s sentence for possession of unauthorized access devices because the loss amount had been based on Guidelines commentary mandating that a minimum loss amount of $500 had to be added for every unauthorized access device. The Court held that the commentary improperly expanded the text of 2B1.1, not merely interpreting it.

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. Laschell Harris (11th Cir. February 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying an inmate’s motion for compassionate release, holding that the exhaustion requirement under 18 USC 3582(c)(1)(A) is a non-jurisdictional mandatory claims-processing rule that the government can waive.

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. Melvyn Gear (9th Cir. January 2021)

The Ninth Circuit affirmed a defendant’s conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm by a nonimmigrant visa holder, but held that the Government must prove more than merely the fact that a defendant’s visa is labeled as a nonimmigrant visa. The Government must show that the defendant knew his visa’s classification or knew the offending characteristics of the visa that makes his firearm possession unlawful.

United States v. Fred McGee (7th Cir. January 2021)

The Seventh Circuit vacated a defendant’s sentence based on the district court improperly applying a role enhancement. While the defendant distributed drugs through his own local network in addition to the main network in his offense and paid others to act as lookouts or drivers, the Court held this was insufficient to apply the enhancement because, explaining that having a local network of buyers alone does not establish authority over others and that there was insufficient evidence that the defendant exercised authority over others simply by paying them to act in their roles as directed by the organization’s actual leader.

United States v. Julian Mora-Alcaraz (9th Cir. January 2021)

The Ninth Circuit affirmed a district court’s order suppressing a defendant’s statements under Miranda. The officers had interrogated the defendant without advising him of his Miranda rights after they approached him in marked cars and separated him from his seven-year-old son. However, the Court remanded for the district court to determine if the defendant’s subsequent consent to search his vehicle was voluntary.

United States v. Nowlin Lee Waugh, Jr. (9th Cir. December 2019)

The Court affirmed the defendant’s conviction for possession of meth with intent to distribute, holding that the defendant was not entitled to a jury instruction on the lesser included offense of simple possession where the evidence showed that the quantity of meth exceeded the quantity associated with personal use, the meth’s purity suggested that the meth was being used as a cutting agent, and the defendant’s travel indicated possible distribution.

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