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

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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The plaintiffs, current and former inmates of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), have been diagnosed with hepatitis C. They filed suit against IDOC, Wexford (which provides inmate health services) and doctors more than 10 years ago after fruitless efforts to receive treatment for their disease while incarcerated. Their 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint alleges that the diagnostic and treatment protocols for IDOC inmates with hepatitis C violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Seventh Circuit reversed the grant of class certification and vacated a preliminary injunction. After discussing numerosity and commonality of facts and issues, the court noted that the district court failed to name a class representative or explain its omission, leaving no way to assess the adequacy of representation. On the assumption that the court would have accepted the proposed representatives, the record does not reveal whether they would be adequate. The lack of a named representative also makes it impossible to find typicality--that the “claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class.” The individual plaintiffs have not shown that they are likely to suffer irreparable harm absent the preliminary injunction, so it was error to grant injunctive relief. View "Orr v. Shicker" on Justia Law

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Groce was convicted of sex trafficking, conspiracy to engage in interstate transportation for prostitution, interstate transportation for prostitution, maintaining a drug house, using or carrying a firearm in maintaining the drug house, and witness retaliation. He was sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment plus 20 years of supervised release. The Seventh Circuit vacated the retaliation count. His PSR recommended 11 standard conditions of supervised release and seven special conditions. Condition 11 states: As directed by the probation officer, defendant shall notify employers and third parties providing volunteer opportunities and educational opportunities; organizations to which defendant belongs; and neighbors and family members with minor children, of defendant’s criminal record based on risk associated with his offense, his obligations to register as a sexual offender, and the legal requirements under the Sex Offender Notification Act. The probation officer may also take steps to confirm defendant’s compliance ... or provide such notifications directly. Condition 18 states: Have no contact with the victim in person, through written or electronic communication, or through a third party, unless authorized by the supervising U.S. probation officer. Defendant shall not enter the premises or loiter within 1,000 feet of the victim’s residence or place of employment. At his resentencing, Groce objected to conditions 4, 8, 15, and 17. His counsel stated, “I’m aware of no grounds for objecting ... we’re willing to waive the reading.” Groce subsequently challenged Conditions 11 and 18 as vague and overbroad. The Seventh Circuit dismissed, finding that Groce had waived his objections. View "United States v. Groce" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Davis's girlfriend, Orkman, a Walmart assistant manager, shared her knowledge of Walmart’s cash handling procedures. Davis robbed the Indianapolis Walmart with Greer. Greer entered the customer service area, pointed a gun, used duct tape to restrain employees, including Orkman, then returned, with bags of cash, to the car where Davis was waiting. Davis photographed the cash and gave Orkman $1,500. Davis planned a second robbery. Orkman wanted out. Davis threatened her. Davis and Williams executed a second robbery. Later that day, Davis paid $8,000 in low-denomination bills for a Land Rover. Indianapolis Police began watching Orkman, who had worked during both robberies although they occurred during different shifts. An officer noticed Davis’s Land Rover near Orkman's home, learned about its purchase, and obtained a court order to place a GPS tracking device. Davis planned his third robbery with Townsell, who later testified. The GPS tracking device allowed the police to locate the Land Rover after an alert about the Kokomo robbery. Officers arrested Davis, Greer, and Townsell. Inside the vehicle, they found a gun and stashes of cash ($23,862, $9,088, $17,020, $8,205, and $1,958). In Davis’s apartment, they found a bag of quarters stamped “Walmart,” ammunition, cash, and a suitcase taken from the Kokomo Walmart. The Seventh Circuit affirmed Davis's and Greer's convictions, rejecting challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence. A rational jury could have found each guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. View "United States v. Davis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Bennett was assigned to Cook County Jail Division 10, which houses detainees who need canes, crutches, or walkers. He filed suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12131–34, and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C.794, alleging that Division 10 lacks grab bars and other necessary fixtures. Bennett claims that he fell and was injured. He unsuccessfully sought to represent a class. The court reasoned that the appropriate accommodation of any detainee’s situation depends on personal characteristics, so common questions do not predominate under FRCP 23(b)(3). Bennett proposed an alternative class to avoid person-specific questions, contending that Division 10, which was constructed in 1992, violates 28 C.F.R. 42.522(b)'s requirement that as of “1988 … construction[] or alteration of buildings” must comply with the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards. The Standards require accessible toilets to have grab bars nearby and accessible showers to have mounted seats. The district court rejected this proposal, reasoning that to determine whether the Structural Standards control, thereby mooting the reasonable accommodation inquiry, would require a ruling on the merits, which would “run[] afoul of the rule against one-way intervention.” The Seventh Circuit vacated. The "view that a class cannot be certified unless the plaintiff has already prevailed on the central legal issue is a formula for one-way intervention rather than a means to avoid it." Bennett proposes a class that will win if the Standards apply and were violated, to detainees’ detriment and otherwise will lose. View "Bennett v. Dart" on Justia Law

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O’Brien was convicted of mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1341, and bank fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1344, based on a 2004-to-2007 scheme in which O’Brien misrepresented her income and liabilities to cause lenders to issue and refinance loans related to two Chicago investment properties O’Brien owned., O’Brien was a licensed attorney with a background and experience in the real estate industry, including as a registered loan originator, mortgage consultant, and licensed real estate broker. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting O’Brien’s arguments that the charges against her were duplicitous and that under a properly pled indictment the statute of limitations would have barred three of the four alleged offenses. She also argued that the district court should not have admitted evidence offered to prove those time-barred offenses and that there was insufficient evidence to support the jury’s guilty verdict. The government appropriately acted within its discretion to allege an overarching scheme to commit both bank fraud and mail fraud affecting a financial institution. Each count included an execution of the fraudulent scheme within the applicable 10-year statute of limitations, and the jury’s guilty verdict rested upon properly admitted and sufficient evidence. View "United States v. O'Brien" on Justia Law

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David, Sheila’s husband, raped, sexually abused, and took pornographic photos of their daughter (MF) when she was between the ages of five and eight. Sheila viewed those pictures and found other images of child pornography to share with David. Ultimately, Sheila pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and was sentenced to 57 months’ imprisonment, and ordered to pay $55,600 in restitution jointly and severally with David. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. U.S.S.G. 2G2.2(c)(1), which applies to various forms of the sexual exploitation of children, starts at a higher base level than section 2G2.2 and advises a two-level increase if the defendant was a parent who “permitt[ed]” her minor child to engage in sexually explicit conduct. There was ample evidence that Sheila “permitted” David to use their daughter for the production of child pornography. The district court exercised appropriate caution in taking the word of an abusive husband against that of his wife and, even without David’s statements, there was enough evidence to support the application of section 2G2.2. One need not “participate” or “assist” in an activity to “permit” it. The court granted Sheila a substantial downward departure as an abuse victim and imposed a sentence at the bottom of the advisory range that would have applied under the guideline that Sheila requested. The court employed the restitution calculation made in David’s sentencing-- the estimated cost of providing counseling and therapy to MF. Sheila could have challenged that calculation. View "United States v. Geary" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Lord, an inmate at Wisconsin’s Waupun Correctional Institution, exposed himself to a female guard. After the guard told him that she would write him up and walked away, Lord began yelling that he had a razor blade and intended to kill himself. A short while later, a male guard went to Lord’s cell, ordered him out, and saw he had minor scratches treatable with a gauze bandage. Lord sued four guards for money damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that they acted with deliberate indifference to a material risk to his life by not responding faster to his suicide threat. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants. “Prison suicide is very real and very serious, but any fair reading of this record, even in the light most favorable to Lord, shows that he leveled an insincere threat of suicide to get attention and demonstrated no recoverable injury.” View "Lord v. Beahm" on Justia Law

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Before acquiring cars for resale, Elite obtained financing; its lenders held the title of each car until it received payment for the car. Lenders dispatched auditors to ensure the dealership was not selling cars without repaying the loan after each sale. From 2012-2015 Elite’s employees obtained copies of car titles from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles online portal. If a copy could not be acquired, employees could avoid asking lenders to release car titles by continually issuing the customer temporary license plates. Employees would call customers and request that their cars be returned to the lot for a free oil change before an auditor’s inspection or would lie to the auditor, saying that the car was out for a test drive or repairs. Elite’s employees also defrauded consumer lenders by helping customers submit fraudulent applications and defrauded insurance companies by using a chop shop behind the dealership to disassemble their own vehicles before reporting the vehicles as stolen. Elite employee Dridi was convicted of conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1962(d), and interstate transportation of stolen property, 18 U.S.C. 2314, sentenced to 72 months in prison, and ordered $1,811,679.25 in restitution. The Seventh Circuit affirmed Dridi’s prison sentence but vacated the restitution order, The district court should have made specific factual findings about Dridi’s participation in the conspiracy. View "United States v. Dridi" on Justia Law

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ShotSpotter's surveillance system uses microphones to record gunshots. An individual determines whether the sound is a shot. When that individual confirms a gunshot, ShotSpotter contacts local police. At 4:40:02 a.m., ShotSpotter reported gunshots coming from North Ellis Street. Peoria Officer Ellefritz, driving toward the address, heard the dispatcher report a second ShotSpotter alert of more shots fired. Ellefritz, the first responding officer, saw headlights leaving North Ellis, coming his way. He activated his emergency lights and shouted “stop.” Within seconds, the car stopped next to Ellefritz’s cruiser; its occupants pointed backward, yelling: “They are down there!” Ellefritz observed 15–20 people at the street’s dead end, approximately 300 feet from him. Ellefritz kept his firearm drawn. The driver and the passenger, Rickmon, kept their hands up until backup arrived. Rickmon then stated that someone had shot him in the leg. With the driver’s consent, Ellefritz searched the automobile and found a handgun under Rickmon's seat. Rickmon was charged with possession of a firearm by a felon. Ellefritz testified that there was nothing particularly unusual about this car, except leaving the area of the gunfire. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of a motion to suppress. The totality of the circumstances provided the officer with reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to justify the stop. View "United States v. Rickmon" on Justia Law

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Bowling worked for the City of Gary, Indiana for 25 years, eventually becoming a network administrator, with access to the email system. Her responsibilities included ordering the city's computer equipment. Bowling ordered 1,517 Apple products, totaling $1,337,114.06. She sold iPads and MacBooks for cash. To conceal her scheme, Bowling submitted duplicate invoices from legitimate purchases. Eventually, the fraudulent purchases outstripped the duplicate invoices she could process and one vendor, CDW, turned the city’s account over to a senior recovery analyst, Krug. Krug contacted Green, the city’s controller and sent Green invoices via FedEx. Bowling intercepted the package, accessed Green’s email account, and sent a fabricated message to Krug to reassure CDW but her scheme unraveled. The Seventh Circuit affirmed her conviction for theft from a local government that received federal funds, 18 U.S.C. 666, and her 63-month sentence. The federal funds element was satisfied; the parties stipulated that Gary as a whole received more than $10,000 in federal benefits in a one-year period. Krug’s testimony about the email was direct evidence of Bowling’s attempt to stall the city’s ultimate discovery of her fraud; there was no error in admitting the testimony under Rule 404(b). A two-level obstruction of justice sentencing enhancement was justified because Bowling faked mutism, causing a one-year delay in the proceedings. View "United States v. Bowling" on Justia Law