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

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The Eleventh Circuit denied the petition for review of the BIA's final order of removal denying petitioner's application to adjust his status to lawful permanent resident based on his material support to a terrorist organization. Petitioner argued that his $100 payment to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia was made under duress and was insignificant. The court held, however, that binding precedent, Alturo v. U.S. Att'y Gen., 716 F.3d 1310, where the BIA reasonably concluded that the statutory bar does not exempt material support provided to a terrorist organization under duress, foreclosed petitioner's duress argument. The court also held that the unambiguous text of 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(3)(B)(iv)(VI) foreclosed petitioner's claim that the payment was insignificant. In this case, because petitioner gave money to known terrorists, he afforded "funds," and thus afforded "material support." View "Hincapie-Zapata v. U.S. Attorney General" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court misapplied the Anderson-Burdick framework when it enjoined the State defendants' enforcement of a long-standing Georgia absentee ballot deadline, which requires ballots to be received by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day to be counted. The district court, instead, manufactured its own ballot deadline so that the State is now required to count any ballot that was both postmarked by and received within three days of Election Day. Because the State defendants have met all four prongs of the Nken test, the court granted their motion to stay the injunction.The court concluded that the State defendants have shown that they will likely succeed on the merits of their claim because the district court did not properly apply the appropriate framework. The court explained that Georgia's decades-old absentee ballot deadline is both reasonable and nondiscriminatory, while its interests in maintaining that deadline (especially now that absentee voting has already begun) are at least "important"—as the district court itself recognized—and likely compelling. In this case, the district court erred by finding that Georgia's Election Day deadline severely burdened the right to vote, and by improperly weighing the State's interests against this burden. The court also concluded that Georgia will suffer irreparable harm absent a stay and a stay is in the public interest. Therefore, because Georgia's decades-old Election Day deadline for absentee ballots does not threaten voting rights, and is justified by a host of interests, the court stayed the district court's injunction of that deadline. View "The New Georgia Project v. Raffensperger" on Justia Law

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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
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The City of Miami moved to terminate a consent decree that regulated how the City of Miami treats its homeless residents twenty years after its adoption based on changed circumstances, fulfillment of its purpose, and substantial compliance with its requirements. The district court ruled that the City had not violated the consent decree, granted its motion for termination, and denied the opposing motion for contempt. The district court terminated the decree because the City had substantially complied with the core purpose of the settlement agreement, that is, to stop the criminalization of homelessness. Furthermore, the district court found no evidence that would negate a finding of substantial compliance. The district court also found changed circumstances in Miami, but did not rely on those findings as a basis for termination.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the termination of the consent decree and the denial of the contempt motion, holding that the district court correctly interpreted the decree and did not abuse its discretion by terminating the decree. Applying Florida contract law, the court held that, although the homeless identify one misinterpretation of the consent decree, they failed to identify any errors that establish noncompliance by the City. The court also held that the district court correctly applied the burden of proof on the City's motion for termination by bifurcating its analyses; did not abuse its discretion by granting the motion for termination; and did not abuse its discretion by denying the motion for contempt. View "Peery v. City of Miami" on Justia Law