Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Practice Notes: First Circuit Cases Yield White Collar Rulings on Materiality and Upward Variance/Departure

Two white collar decisions emerged last week from the First Circuit, both related to the Rwandan genocide.

United States v. Kantengwa reinforces an old truth for white collar practitioners. If you don't win on materiality at trial, you are totally screwed on appeal. According to the First Circuit, the appellant was "a member of a prominent political family allegedly involved in the Rwandan genocide." Katengwa was indicted for perjury under 18 U.S. Code 1621 (1) for false statements she told under oath in an asylum application and subsequent removal proceedings. Katengwa argued, among other things, that the government was precluded from bringing perjury charges against her because an immigration judge had already ruled that her false statements did not "go to the heart" of her asylum claim. Assuming, without deciding, that an administrative finding of fact can preclude later criminal charges, the First Circuit rejected Katengwa's collateral estoppel claim, because "materiality" under 1621 (1) and the "heart of the matter rule" in immigration law involve two distinct standards. "The heart of the matter rule from immigration law prohibits basing an adverse credibility determination on inconsistencies in an applicant's testimony that do not go to the heart of [her] claim." (Internal quotes and citations omitted.) But, "a statement is material in a criminal prosecution for perjury under § 1621(1) if it is 'material to any proper matter of the [decisionmaker's] inquiry.' United States v. Scivola, 766 F.2d 37, 44 (1st Cir. 1985) (emphasis added)." The First Circuit made clear, through a litany of examples, that this test can cover a multitude of subsidiary matters to the decisionmaker's overall inquiry. Translation: In all but the rarest cases, materiality is an argument you make to the jury. It can serve as a nice hook for jury nullification. Don't expect it to lead to victory on appeal.

In  United States v. Munyenyezi, Katengwa's sister was indicted on "two counts of procuring citizenship illegally by making false statements to the government. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 1425(a) and (b)." The jury hung in her first trial, but the second trial produced convictions. She raised several issues on appeal, but the one that concerns me here is the sentence of 120 months, the statutory maximum. Munyenyezi's Guidelines Range was 0-6 months, and she attacked the sentence on appeal as substantively unreasonable. The First Circuit called this, "a tough sell," reiterating its abuse of discretion standard of review and precedent that "as long as we see 'a plausible sentencing rationale' that reaches 'a defensible result,' the sentence stands. United States v. Martin, 520 F.3d 87, 96 (1st Cir. 2008)." The trial judge imposed the 120 month sentence under alternative theories. He granted an upward departure under Guidelines Section 5K2.0 for an aggravating circumstance of a kind or degree not adequately taken into accoount by the Guidelines. He also upwardly departed under 18 U.S.C. Section 3553 (a). As every schoolboy knows, and as the First Circuit reminds us, "Section 3553(a) lets a judge vary upward based on factors listed there, like the defendant's background (including her criminal history), the circumstances of the offense, the seriousness of the offense, the need to protect and deter others, the need to promote respect for the law and to provide a just punishment, and the need to eliminate unjustified sentencing disparities." And the First Circuit also reminds us, albeit in a footnote, that "[u]nder certain circumstances a judge can also vary downward using section 3553(a)." You don't say!

Interestingly, the trial judge did not upwardly depart/vary because of Munyenyezi's alleged "participation in genocidal conduct." He sentenced her to the statutory maximum because, "'lying about participation in genocide when specifically asked,' the judge explained, knowing full well 'that such conduct is automatically disqualifying with respect to immigration and citizenship seriously undermines the integrity of this country's immigration standards in the most offensive way' imaginable." The judge later noted that if he had sentenced Munyenyezi for her alleged genocidal conduct, he would not have imposed concurrent sentences.

There are often silver linings in decisional clouds. An appellate court that uphold a 3553 (a) upward variance of ten years can also uphold a 10 year downward variance. The precedent cuts both ways.

(wisenberg)

March 31, 2015 in Judicial Opinions, Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Second Circuit Clarifies Nature of Deliberation Under Guidelines Section 2A6.1(b)(6)

Christine Wright-Darrisaw was found guilty of threatening the President under 18 U.S. Code Section 871(a). Ms. Wright-Darrisaw experienced a negative result in her local Family Court. She called the White House switchboard and, after two and one-half minutes of incoherent barnyard gibbersih, threatened to fornicate and kill President Obama. She was entitled to a four point reduction in her offense level under Guidelines Section 2A6.1(b)(6) if the sentencing court found that "the offense involved a single instance evidencing little or no deliberation." The trial judge refused to grant the reduction, noting that the very act of contacting the White House involved deliberation. According to the Second Circuit, "the explanation provided by the district court suggests that the court may have been too sweeping in its consideration of what constitutes deliberation cognizable under U.S.S.G. § 2A6.1(b)(6)." The "deliberation" to be considered under 2A6.1(b)6) "is deliberation related to the communication of the threat itself. Only if a defendant's course of conduct leading up to and following the time the threat was made is closely tied to the communication of the threat, or if the defendant makes any effort to carry out the threat, may the conduct then provide a basis for inferring deliberation sufficient to reject the four-level reduction." Although the call here was deliberate, the threat may not have been. Since it appears that the district court conflated the two concepts, the Second Circuit remanded for re-analysis of the deliberation issue. Examining holdings in sister circuits, the Second Circuit focused on two critical factors in determining whether deliberation is present: "(1) whether, and under what circumstances, the threat itself has been repeated and (2) whether there is evidence of planning or some effort to carry out the threat." In Wright-Darrisaw's case, it is undisputed that the threat against President Obama was not repeated. (However, there were abundant past threats against neighbors, strangers, President Bush, and other officials.) Thus, the only question on remand is whether "there is sufficient evidence of planning or some effort to carry out the threat." The case is  United States v. Wright-Darrisaw.

 Wright-Darrisaw's challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence against her was deferred pending the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Elonis, 730 F.3d 321 (3d. Cir. 2013), cert. granted, 134 S.Ct. 2819 (2014).

(wisenberg)

March 28, 2015 in Judicial Opinions, Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

4th NACDL White Collar Crime College at Stetson - 2105 Award to Hank Asbill (JonesDay)

The NACDL White Collar Crime College at Stetson completed an exhausting and exhilarating program with top white collar defenders teaching white collar advocacy skills to practitioners. This year, the instructors teaching in the program were:

A. Brian Albritton, Henry  "Hank" W. Asbill, Brian   H. Bieber, Barry Boss, Ellen C. Brotman, Preston Burton, Jean-Jacques Cabou, Robert M. Cary, Lee A. Coppock, David Debold, Lucian E. Dervan, James E. Felman, Drew Findling, Roberta Flowers, Ian N. Friedman, Lee Fugate, Helen Gredd, Lawrence S. Goldman, John Wesley Hall, Jr., John F.  Lauro, Bruce Lyons, Terrance MacCarthy, Edward A. Mallett, Bruce Maloy, Eric R. Matheney, Michael D. Monico, Jane W. Moscowitz, Marc L. Mukasey, Kevin J. Napper, Julie Nielsen, Cynthia Eva Orr, J. Edward Page, Marjorie J. Peerce, Patricia A. Pileggi, Ellen S. Podgor, Gregory Poe, Mark P.   Rankin, Shana-Tara Regon, Kerri L. Ruttenberg, Brian Sanvidge, Melinda Sarafa, Fritz Scheller, Adam P. Schwartz, George Ellis Summers, Brian L. Tannebaum, Kevin Tate, Larry Thompson, Gary R.Trombley, Morris (Sandy) Weinberg, Jr., Solomon L. Wisenberg

 The opening keynote was given by Cynthia Orr, with Larry Thompson speaking about things not to do in a white collar case.  The 2015 White Collar Award went to Hank Asbill of Jones Day (see here).

(esp)

March 17, 2015 in About This Blog, Defense Counsel, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

"Should the Medium Affect the Message? Legal and Ethical Implications of Prosecutors Reading Inmate-Attorney Email"

New Student Note - Brandon P. Ruben (Fordham) - here

Abstract:     

The attorney-client privilege protects confidential legal communications between a party and her attorney from being used against her, thus encouraging full and frank attorney-client communication. It is a venerable evidentiary principle of American jurisprudence. Unsurprisingly, prosecutors may not eavesdrop on inmate-attorney visits or phone calls or read inmate-attorney postal mail. Courts are currently divided, however, as to whether or not they can forbid prosecutors from reading inmate-attorney email. This Note explores the cases that address whether federal prosecutors may read inmates’ legal email. As courts have unanimously held, because inmates know that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) monitors all their email, their legal email is unprivileged. In addition, all courts have rejected the argument that prosecutors reading inmates’ legal email impermissibly restricts inmates’ Sixth Amendment right of access to counsel. Accordingly, despite questioning the practice’s propriety, four courts have ruled that there is no legal basis to prevent prosecutors from reading inmate-attorney email. Two courts, however, pursuant to no clear authority, prevented the prosecutors from doing so. This Note argues that prosecutors should abstain from reading inmate- attorney email as a matter of self-regulation because this behavior unjustifiably chills inmate-attorney communication. In addition, this Note asserts that BOP’s email monitoring policy unconstitutionally restricts inmates’ Sixth Amendment right of access to counsel, a challenge prisoners’ rights advocates have yet to bring. In cases where BOP’s email monitoring policy is not at issue, or where a court seeks to avoid a constitutional decision, this Note concludes that courts should prevent prosecutors from reading inmates’ legal email by exercising their delegated authority to enforce Rules of Professional Conduct. Specifically, courts should invoke Rule 8.4(d), which prohibits attorneys from engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
 
(esp)

March 8, 2015 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)