The Federal Docket

United States v. Jason Kaushmaul (11th Cir. January 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a defendant’s conviction for distributing child pornography, holding the sentencing court did not plainly err in sentencing the defendant to the 15-year mandatory minimum based on finding that his prior Florida conviction for promoting the sexual performance of a child was a predicate prior offense.

Senators Considering Legislation to Expand Eligibility for Compassionate Release

Senators from both parties have teamed up to try to get the COVID-19 Safer Detention Act of 2021 passed through Congress after the bill failed last year. The bill would expand the number of inmates eligible for early release to home confinement due to COVID-19 risks and also lower the “amount of time served” requirement under the Elderly Home Detention Pilot Program.

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. Gregory Sanford (7th Cir. January 2021)

The Seventh Circuit joined the Fifth, Sixth, and Third Circuits in holding that the exhaustion requirement under 3582(c)(1)(A) is a “mandatory claim-processing rule” that cannot be waived by a court. Therefore a defendant filing a motion for sentence reduction must first submit a request the warden, wait 30 days or exhaust their remedies, or the Government may waive the requirement.

DOJ Ends Trump Administration’s Policy of Seeking the Harshest Charges, Sentences

The Department of Justice has issued a memo to federal prosecutors reversing the Trump DOJ’s policy directing prosecutors to seek the harshest charges and sentences possible under the law. Until a long-term policy is implemented, the DOJ is reverting to an Obama-era policy requiring prosecutors to treat charging decisions and sentencing positions as part of an “individualized assessment.”

DOJ Memo to BOP: Inmates on home confinement must return to prison after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this month, the DOJ instructed the BOP that inmates currently on home confinement under the CARES Act will have to report back to prison once the COVID-19 emergency is over. The DOJ’s memo was issued by the Trump administration, and neither President Biden nor his nominee for Attorney General, Merrick Garland, have stated whether they will reverse that decision or require inmates on home confinement to go back to prison.

United States v. Otto Taylor (11th Cir. December 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit reversed a district court’s holding that a defendant was ineligible for a sentence reduction under Section 404 of the First Step Act, which made retroactive reduced mandatory minimums for crack cocaine offenses. The Court held that a defendant who has a “covered offense” is eligible for a reduction even if he was charged with other drugs that trigger the same statutory sentencing range.

United States v. Malik Nasir (3rd Cir. December 2020), EN BANC

Sitting en banc, the Third Circuit held that inchoate offenses are not included in the definition of “controlled substance offenses” under the career offender guidelines because commentary to the Guidelines is not binding when it is inconsistent with or broader than the text of the Guidelines. The Court also held that a court reviewing a defendant’s Rehaif challenge under plain error review is limited to considering the record presented at trial, not the whole record, and a new trial is warranted where there is no evidence presented to a jury regarding the defendant’s knowledge of his prior felony.

United States v. Michael Henry (6th Cir. December 2020)

The Sixth Circuit held that defendants convicted under 924(c) and involved in resentencing proceedings on remand must be sentenced subject to the First Step Act’s amendments to 924(c).

Updated Compilation of Compassionate Release Grants

Attorney Tom Church has compiled a list of Compassionate Release grants and some of the key findings and information in the corresponding opinions. The list includes grants of release for inmates with specific medical conditions, inmates who have already tested positive for COVID-19 and/or recovered, inmates released from facilities that are reporting zero confirmed cases, …

Updated Compilation of Compassionate Release Grants Read More »

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