Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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In 2009, following a court-authorized interception of phone calls involving suspected drug traffickers, Milwaukee police obtained consent from Cannon’s son to search their home, found $14,000 in cash, and arrested Cannon, based on a report that a government informant had purchased cocaine, and borrowed a gun, from Cannon. Cannon posted bail but was not released because a new complaint charged him with giving a gun to an unauthorized person. Cannon eventually made bail, but was arrested after he moved without notifying the police. In 2011, Cannon was acquitted of the drug charge, but pleaded guilty to illegal possession of the gun, and a warrant issued for his arrest on new gun and drug charges. In 2013 Cannon obtained documents relating to his 2009 arrest and filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. That suit was dismissed as premature, because his appeals were pending. In 2014 he was convicted of the 2011 charges and sentenced to 16 years’ imprisonment. In 2015 he filed two 42 U.S.C. 1983 lawsuits based on the 2009 events. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of the claims as barred by the six‐year statute of limitations and noted that Cannon has incurred four strikes under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 28 U.S.C. 1915(g), so he may not file a federal civil action or appeal without prepaying all fees, unless he is in imminent danger of serious injury. View "Cannon v. Newport" on Justia Law

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Drs. Gupta and Wahi operated Illinois nutrition clinics. In 2011 they were indicted for mail fraud, healthcare fraud, and conspiracy to defraud Medicaid, private insurers, and patients. Gupta fled the country, but Wahi faced the charges. After a year of pretrial proceedings, the government learned that during the execution of a search warrant for electronic records, the FBI had inadvertently accessed emails that might have contained communications covered by the attorney-client privilege. Because the prejudice to Wahi’s case was unknown, the court, on the government’s motion, dismissed the indictment and ordered the government to file all discovery materials with the clerk under seal. The judge retained jurisdiction for the limited purpose of monitoring compliance. The government complied and the case was closed. Two years later, Wahi filed a petition for expungement of the judicial and FBI records related to his case. The court reasoned that Seventh Circuit precedent supported jurisdiction over requests to expunge judicial records but not records maintained by the executive branch, then concluded that Wahi’s circumstances did not justify the extraordinary remedy of expungement. The Seventh Circuit vacated, overruling the precedent cited by the district court in light of the Supreme Court’s 1994 holding in Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Insurance. Expungement authority is not inherent and must be grounded in a jurisdictional source found in the Constitution or statutes. View "United States v. Wahi" on Justia Law

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Rockford police responded to a report that two individuals were asleep in a running, parked car in a McDonald’s drive-thru. Officers saw a bottle of vodka in the front seat and tried to wake the driver, Dickson. Another officer observed a handgun lodged in the center console, lunged through the passenger’s-side door, and recovered the gun. Dickson was arrested. An inventory search of the car uncovered small amounts of heroin and marijuana. Dickson was charged as a felon in possession of a firearm. 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). Dickson moved to suppress the gun and drugs. The government introduced evidence that the car’s rental agreement did not list Dickson as an authorized driver and that Dickson’s driver’s license was suspended. The court denied the motion, concluding that Dickson lacked standing to challenge the search and that the officers acted reasonably. The court classified Dickson as an armed career criminal and sentenced him to 235 months’ imprisonment. Dickson objected to supervised-release conditions requiring that he “remain within the jurisdiction where the defendant is being supervised, unless granted permission” and to “notify, as directed by the Probation Officer, third parties of risks that may be occasioned by the defendant’s criminal record or personal history or characteristics.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of the motion to suppress, but remanded for limited resentencing, based on the “vague” conditions. View "United States v. Dickson" on Justia Law

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Jenkins was charged with Kidnapping, 18 U.S.C. 1201(a), and Using or Carrying a Firearm to Commit a Crime of Violence, 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A)(ii). Jenkins agreed to cooperate and entered into a proffer agreement, which prohibited the government from making direct use of any statements or information Jenkins provided in its case‐in‐chief, but permitted the government to derivatively use such information. Jenkins told the government where he hid the gun he used during the kidnapping. The government recovered the gun and introduced physical evidence and the testimony of the agents who found the gun during its case‐in-chief. Convicted, Jenkins received sentences of 188 months for kidnapping and 120 months for using a firearm to commit a federal crime of violence, to run consecutively. Jenkins argued that the government breached the proffer agreement. After arguments in Jenkins’ appeal, the Supreme Court decided Johnson v. United States, holding the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminals Act, 18 U.S.C. 924(e), to be unconstitutionally vague. Jenkins then challenged his conviction for using a weapon during a “crime of violence,” (kidnapping), arguing that in light of “Johnson,” kidnapping is no longer a “crime of violence” under section 924(c). The Seventh Circuit agreed; kidnapping under section 1201(a) does not have, as an element, the use, threatened use, or attempted use of physical force. The court did not address whether the government breached the proffer agreement. View "United States v. Jenkins" on Justia Law

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Wright was arrested by Calumet City police, without a warrant, based on the murder of one individual and the shooting of others. Wright admitted to having a gun. At a minimum, he was to be charged with felony unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, but the prosecutor instructed the officers to wait to charge Wright until lab results came back establishing whether his gun matched casings and bullets at the scene. After being in custody for 55 hours, Wright sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the city violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by failing to provide him with a judicial determination of probable cause within 48 hours of his arrest. The next day, a judge made a probable cause finding. In the section 1983 action, Wright sought class certification, asserting that the city had a policy or practice authorizing officers to detain persons arrested without a warrant for up to 72 hours before permitting the arrestee to appear before a judge. The city made an offer of judgment. Despite accepting that Rule 68 offer, granting him relief as to "all claims brought under this lawsuit,” Wright appealed the denial of certification of a proposed class of “[a]ll persons who will in the future be detained.” He did not appeal with respect to persons who had been detained. The Seventh Circuit dismissed, finding that Wright is not an aggrieved person with a personal stake in the case as required under Article III of the Constitution. View "Wright v. Calumet City" on Justia Law

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Five defendants were arrested as they were preparing to execute a planned robbery of a fictitious narcotics “stash house.” They had been recruited by an undercover agent, posing as a drug courier seeking to rob a Mexican drug cartel. Two of the defendants, Walker and Paxton, were arrested outside of a Chicago restaurant and placed into a police transport van that was clearly marked as a Chicago Police Department vehicle. Task force officers then drove the van to a warehouse, where the other three defendants had convened with the undercover agent for a final pre‐robbery meeting. The three were placed into the rear‐most compartment of the van along with Walker and Paxton. None were given Miranda warnings before being placed into the van. During the drive to the field office, the defendants conversed quietly. Unbeknownst to them, two recording devices had been hidden in the rear compartment of the van to capture their conversation. Although one defendant remarked that the van was “probably bugged,” the defendants continued to converse and make incriminating statements. The Seventh Circuit reversed the district court’s suppression of the recorded statements. The defendants lacked an objectively reasonable expectation of privacy in the van. View "United States v. Paxton" on Justia Law

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The Millers, from Lafayette, Indiana, shot and killed two police officers and one civilian in Las Vegas. They died in an ensuing shootout. Days later, Bradbury, a Lafayette resident, placed a message on Facebook, referring to “the town’s cop killing group run by ... myself,” to having sent the Millers to Las Vegas, and to a “larger plot … to kill cops … specifically to take out [named officers]…. We have gathered enough thermite and explosives … to destroy no less than 6 police cars, as well as the Tippecanoe County Courthouse.” A friend asked whether he was serious; Bradbury stated, “complete satire … a big mind game … [I]t’s made to get you to think.” (To think about committing mayhem!).” Bradbury deleted his post, but screenshots were sent to the police. A search, pursuant to warrants, of his bedroom in his parents’ home, revealed thermite. Bradbury was acquitted of “willfully mak[ing] any threat,” but convicted of “maliciously convey[ing] false information,” 18 U.S.C. 844(e), and sentenced to 41 months of imprisonment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, upholding a jury instruction that “maliciously” means “to act intentionally or with deliberate disregard of the likelihood that damage or injury will result.” The court rejected an argument that the post was a joke, so there was nothing malicious. Bradbury conducted an elaborate and malicious hoax, intending disruptive effects by diverting law enforcement resources. View "United States v. Bradbury" on Justia Law

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In 2006, Peterson was convicted of distributing crack cocaine, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1). He served eight years in prison. Within two weeks after the start of his term of supervised release, Peterson was arrested for drunk driving while outside the judicial district without permission. His probation officer did not seek revocation at that time. About two years later, Peterson encountered an adversary at a bar. A surveillance video shows Peterson pursuing his adversary, armed with a pistol lent him by a friend. On the street, his adversary attacked Peterson with a knife, seriously wounding him. Peterson didn’t attempt to use the gun but hid it under a garbage can after fleeing police officers who saw the attack. Peterson pleaded guilty as a felon in possession of a gun, 18 U.S.C. 922(g), and was sentenced to 48 months’ imprisonment, nine months below the guidelines range. The judge revoked Peterson’s supervised release, replacing it with a six‐month term of imprisonment to run consecutively to the 48‐month term. Peterson filed notices of appeal, but his appointed counsel sought to withdraw. Peterson neither wanted his guilty plea set aside nor wished to contest the revocation of supervised release. Counsel concluded that any challenge to the length of the terms or the decision to make them consecutive would be frivolous. The Seventh Circuit agreed, dismissing the appeals. View "United States v. Peterson" on Justia Law
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An officer saw cars maneuvering around a car parked in a McDonald’s drive‐through lane, with Long asleep in the driver’s seat. The car was in drive. The officer knocked on the window. When Long opened the door, the officer smelled marijuana and saw a gun on the floor. An inventory search of the car after Long’s arrest revealed five gallon‐sized bags of marijuana, three bags of ecstasy pills, three cell phones, and digital scales. The government charged Long under 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1) as a felon in possession of a firearm. Long and his appointed counsel discussed a motion to suppress, but counsel saw little possibility of success. Long pled guilty, waiving his right to appeal or collaterally attack his conviction and sentence. Long then discovered that his PSR recommended an enhancement for possessing a firearm in connection with another felony: possession of marijuana. Long claimed that counsel told him that no such enhancement would apply. The court appointed new counsel, who argued that, had Long known of the enhancement, Long would have moved to suppress the evidence. The government conceded that there was no probable cause, but argued that there was no Fourth Amendment violation because the officers were performing a caretaking function. Long agreed to stick with his guilty plea. The court confirmed that Long understood the PSR and was satisfied with counsel’s work, then imposed a below-guidelines 51-month sentence. Long filed a pro se motion under 28 U.S.C. 2255, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to move to suppress the evidence. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the petition without an evidentiary hearing. View "Long v. United States" on Justia Law

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The defendants were indicted for committing and conspiring to commit wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343 & 1349, by extracting money from lenders (including Bank of America) that had financed the sale of defendants' Gary, Indiana properties. The defendants had represented that buyers of the properties were the source of the down payments; the defendants had actually given the buyers the money to enable them to make the down payments. They had also helped the buyers provide, in loan applications, false claims of creditworthiness. The judge ordered restitution of $893,015 to Bank of America. The Seventh Circuit remanded, directing the court to consider an alternative remedy. Restitution is questionable because Bank of America, though not a coconspirator, did not have clean hands. It ignored clear signs that the loans were “phony.” The court referred to a history of “shady” practices and characterized the Bank as “reckless.” The court acknowledged that the Mandatory Victim Restitution Act requires “mandatory restitution to victims,” 18 U.S.C. 3663A, for “an offense resulting in damage to or loss or destruction of property of a victim of the offense,” but stated that Bank of America was deliberately indifferent to the risk of losing its own money, because it intended to sell the mortgages and transfer the risk of loss to Fannie Mae for a profit. View "United States v. Tartareanu" on Justia Law