Justia U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
by
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for bank fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering. The court held that the district court did not err by allowing defendant to proceed pro se after he invoked his right to self-representation. In this case, the waiver of defendant's right to counsel was clear, uncontested on appeal, and repeatedly reaffirmed after signs of uncertainty. The court also held that the district court did not err by denying defendant's motion under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 17(b) and, in any event, any error was harmless.The court further held that, to trigger the USSG 2B1.1(b)(16)(A) enhancement, at least in a case involving property held by a financial institution for a depositor, the financial institution (1) must be the source of the property, which the court interprets as having property rights in the property, and (2) must have been victimized by the offense conduct. The court held that the two-level enhancement was not erroneously applied to defendant's sentence where HSBC-Monaco, not defendant, was a source of the derived property; control over the property transferred directly from HSBC-Monaco to defendant; and the bank was not just a conduit for a transfer of property that resulted from criminal conduct directed elsewhere. The court explained that the bank was a victim of defendant's fraud. Finally, the court held that defendant's sentence was substantively reasonable where the district court considered the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors and the district court did not abuse its discretion. View "United States v. Muho" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for conspiring to commit healthcare and wire fraud, committing healthcare fraud, conspiring to receive and pay kickbacks, receiving kickbacks, and money laundering. The court held that there was sufficient evidence of fraud where recruits were prescribed, and Tricare was billed for, pain creams, scar creams, and vitamins that were not medically necessary; there was sufficient evidence of defendant's knowledge of the fraud and his intent to defraud; there was sufficient evidence that a witness's prescription was fraudulent; there was sufficient evidence for the jury to find that defendant intended to aid in the commission of the healthcare fraud; and the evidence was sufficient for a reasonable jury to conclude that defendant knew it was illegal to pay and receive illegal kickbacks and for laundering the proceeds of the kickback scheme. The court also held that the district court's scheduling instruction was not coercive. The court did not reach the merits of defendant's argument regarding jury instruction error on the elements of wire fraud because defendant invited the error.However, the court vacated defendant's sentence for conspiring to commit healthcare fraud because it exceeded the statutory maximum allowed by the jury's general verdict. On remand, the district court must permit the government to either consent to resentencing based on a maximum sentence of ten years on count one or elect to retry defendant on count one with a special verdict. View "United States v. Grow" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for conspiring with a pill mill's owners and doctors to illegally dispense controlled substances, of aiding and abetting the illegal dispensing of controlled substances, and of laundering and conspiring to launder the proceeds of those illicit sales.The court held that the district court did not err by allowing the agent who had become familiar with defendant's handwriting during his investigation to offer his opinion that the handwriting in the ledger was defendant's; the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's drug offense convictions and his money laundering convictions; and there were no preserved errors in the jury instructions and no unpreserved ones that meet the strictures of the plain error rule. View "United States v. Iriele" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for seven counts of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance related to his prior medical practice. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment for pre-indictment delay; the district court did not err by denying defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained from the search of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program because defendant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the prescriptions he wrote for his patients, and evidence of patient files stored at defendant's mother's home because the warrant was amply supported by facts establishing probable cause; the district court did not err by denying defendant's motion to exclude the government's expert witness under the Daubert standard; and there was no cumulative error.The court also held that defendant's sentence was procedurally reasonable where the district court properly calculated his Guidelines sentence and applied a two-level offense for obstruction of justice under USSG 3C1.1. Finally, defendant's sentence was substantively reasonable where the district court considered mitigation evidence, sentenced defendant at the low end of his Guidelines range, and did not abuse its discretion in sentencing him to 235 months. View "United States v. Gayden" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to declare a mistrial based on an agent's rebuttal testimony; the district court did not err in denying defendant's motion for a new trial where the weight of the evidence sufficiently supported the jury's verdict that the object of the conspiracy was to sell the confidential source five or more kilograms of cocaine; there was no Brady or Giglio error, plain or otherwise, let alone one that affected defendant's substantial rights; the district court did not err, plainly or otherwise, by failing to sua sponte grant defendant a new trial based on the government's alleged sentencing entrapment or sentencing factor manipulation; the district court did not err in calculating defendant's base offense level to be 30 under the sentencing guidelines; and defendant's resulting sentence of 120 months' imprisonment is procedurally reasonable. View "United States v. Gallardo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress evidence of a firearm where the officers' investigatory stop was justified based on a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. In this case, given the details of the 911 call, the time of day, and the high-crime area, the officers could reasonably suspect that defendant had engaged in criminal activity. The court also held that the facts do not show that defendant was within the curtilage of his home, or anyone's home, and thus defendant's contention that the police needed more than reasonable suspicion was unavailing. View "United States v. Bruce" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for attempted possession with intent to distribute five kilograms of cocaine. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the three recorded phone calls as co-conspirator statements made during and in furtherance of the drug conspiracy; the district court correctly omitted the word "willfully" from the jury instruction and did not constructively amend the indictment by doing so; the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction; the district court did not abuse its discretion in limiting defendant's testimony and his cross-examination of the lead case agent; and assuming arguendo that the district court abused its discretion as to defendant's duress defense, any error was harmless. Finally, the court held that the record as a whole demonstrates that defendant not only waived his right to counsel, but also attempted to delay and manipulate the sentencing proceedings. View "United States v. Amede" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions and rejected their claims under Rehaif v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2191, 2194 (2019). In this case, neither defendant challenged his indictment before the district court and neither can establish that he did not know he was a felon. Furthermore, the district court correctly sentenced Defendant Jones under the Armed Career Criminal Act where defendant waived his challenge during the sentencing hearing and, even if invited error did not apply and the district court erred, the error was not plain. Accordingly, the court affirmed Jones' sentence. View "United States v. Innocent" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
After defendant's conviction for conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud was overturned based on insufficiency of the evidence, defendant petitioned the district court for a certificate of innocence, seeking to obtain compensation for the time she spent incarcerated.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, holding that the Unjust Conviction Statute, 28 U.S.C. 1495, 2513, requires defendant to allege and prove her actual innocence. Although the court's opinion in United States v. Willner, 795 F.3d 1297, 1301 (11th Cir. 2015), concluded that the evidence was insufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, it did not by itself establish defendant's innocence under section 2315. Furthermore, given that defendant did not submit any other evidence supporting her claim of innocence, the court held that the district court did not err in denying her petition. View "United States v. Abreu" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The Eleventh Circuit certified the following questions of law to the Florida Supreme Court: How does Florida law define the term "purchase" for purposes of Florida Statutes 893.135(1)? More specifically, does a completed purchase for purposes of conviction under section 893.135(1) require some form of possession—either actual or constructive—of the drug being purchased? View "United States v. Conage" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law