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US v. Lashaun Bolton (4th Cir, 6/7/17): Important federal sentencing case re: Firearm Enhancement and Acceptance of Responsibility

June 9th, 2017
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

Not good news for criminal defendants, but an important case to be aware of if you're representing defendants ensnared in a "guns and drugs" conspiracy indictment. The details are not really important, but two facts are: (1) the firearm used to enhance Bolton's sentence was discovered outside the timeframe of illegal activity alleged in Bolton's first indictment, and (2) while Bolton was awaiting sentencing on his first indictment (the marijuana

United States v. Master Giddins (4th Cir., 6/6/17) Reversal on Miranda violation issue; Economic Coercion. Robust dissent by Judge Agee.

June 7th, 2017
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

An incredible win on an interesting issue, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Giddins's convictions based on a Miranda violation (when was the last time you saw that?!?).  Just a brief chronology of the encounter (which was recorded on video).

  • 10:17am:      Giddins entered the interrogation room and an officer audibly locked the door.
  • 10:21am:      An officer got up, informing Giddins that h

Another hit for civil forfeiture: Honeycutt v. United States, 581 U.S.__ (2017) SCOTUS holds no joint/ several liability under 21 U.S.C. §853.

June 6th, 2017
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

A unanimous opinion by the Court (J. Gorsuch did not partake in the consideration of the case), authored by Justice Sotomayor, the Court holds that 21 U.S.C. §853 does not allow for joint and several liability among co-defendants. This is a very significant holding, and hangs on the distinction between tainted and untainted property. Section 853 applies to "any person" convicted of an enumerated list of serious drug crimes. In three ways, §853

US v. Edward Dennis Jones (4th Cir. 6/1/17) Court Reverses on Double Jeopardy Issue; Also, Benchslap. Ouch.

June 5th, 2017
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

Interlocutory appeal granted and indictment dismissed on double jeopardy grounds!  Outstanding win for the appellant in this case.  Jones pleaded guilty to a drug conspiracy count in the Eastern District of Virginia for acts that took place over the course of approximately a month.  He was sentenced to 135 months in jail.  About a year and a half later, he was again indicted in the Western District of Virginia for a drug conspiracy.  In this

Maurice S. Hope v. Cartledge, Warden (4th Cir, 5/22/17): Denial of habeas relief when trial counsel fails to request alibi instruction; important dissent by Judge Thacker who offers lesson in due process first principles.

May 30th, 2017
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

In January 2008, Hope and his co-defendants allegedly robbed a Bi-Lo in my hometown, Rock Hill, South Carolina.  It was early, EARLY, in the morning, between 6:00-7:00am. Hope was arrested, along with two others. The co-defendants pleaded guilty, but Hope went to trial on armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. At trial, the State offered the testimony of three Bi-L

Universal Health Services, Inc. v. Ex Rel. Escobar– SCOTUS opinion, 136 S. Ct. 1484 (2016); Implied False Certification and “Materiality” under the False Claims Act

May 17th, 2017
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

Having recently attended a fabulous qui tam seminar sponsored by the Charleston School of Law and the Federal Bar Association (and masterfully put together by Joe Griffith of the Charleston County bar), I thought it appropriate to revisit last year's SCOTUS opinion in Escobar to assess just how much this case changed the landscape on materiality issues in the context of the federal False Claims Act. The case takes up two, related issues. First,

United States v. Steve Hale (4th Cir, 5/17/17): Fences, Addicts, and Stolen Goods, Oh My! The Fourth Circuit Upholds Denial of Willful Blindness Jury Instruction.

May 16th, 2017
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

This is an important case because of the attention it directs to the willful blindness jury instruction. Steve Hale was convicted of a whole host of violations-- transporting stolen property in interstate commerce, knowing the goods to have been stolen, conspiring to do the same, of making false statements on his tax returns, failing to collect and pay employee taxes, and obstructing justice. His main argument on appeal was that the District Cour

US v. Karen Kimble (4th Cir, filed 5/2/17): Search and Seizure Issue– Agents Empowered to Take Cash If Reasonable Agent Would Have Thought It Covered by the Warrant (and even when the Agents thought it related to crime beyond the scope of the warrant).

May 11th, 2017
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

This is a really interesting search issue, in my opinion, and confirms that hard cases sometimes make for bad law. I don't think I agree with this decision, frankly, although it's easy to see how the Court would not be inclined to suppress the fruits of this search. Kimble was convicted after a bench trial during which the Government proved that she committed a number of schemes involving tax and visa application fraud, and aggravated identity t

United States v. Shalhoub (11th Cir., 4/28/17); Fugitive Disenfranchisement Doctrine, and a Bunch of Remedies that the Eleventh Circuit Declines to Apply to Appellant’s Case

May 9th, 2017
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

I like this case because it implicates a number of legal remedies that one does not ordinarily encounter during the course of things, and legal remedies are fun. Here, Shalhoub is a citizen of Saudi Arabia and lives there now.  Formerly, he was married to an American citizen with whom he had a child.  The specifics are not laid out, but it appears that while he and his child were in Saudi Arabia, a decision was made to stay there in violation o

United States v. Fathia-Anna Davis (4th Cir. 1/5/17): Manufactured Jurisdiction Argument. Also, Don’t Try to Murder Your Husband.

May 3rd, 2017
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

So, this case raises an interesting claim in the context of a murder-for-hire scheme. Davis apparently loathed her husband.  So much so that she repeatedly tried to murder him.  Her first attempt, giving him an overdose of Ambien, did not work. The husband merely ended up in the hospital. Seeking a more certain outcome, Davis reached out to a friend of hers who worked at a car dealership that catered to the local gang members and drug dealer mi

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