Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What a day at the Federal Public Defender's Office

The office won two appeals and a trial today.

1.  Bernardo Lopez won United States v. Spriggs, which created a circuit split with the 8th Circuit:

Appellant Timothy Spriggs pled guilty to one count of receipt of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2).  At sentencing, over Spriggs’s objection, the district court applied a five-level enhancement for distribution of illicit images for the receipt, or expectation of receipt, of a non-pecuniary thing of value. See U.S. SENTENCING GUIDELINES MANUAL § 2G2.2(b)(3)(B) (2010).  Spriggs argues that no evidence supports application of the enhancement. We vacate the sentence and remand because, although we find evidence that Spriggs distributed illicit images, there is insufficient evidence to support the other elements of the five-level enhancement....
The Eighth Circuit applies the five-level enhancement if the defendant “expected to receive a thing of value — child pornography — when he used the file-sharing network to distribute and access child pornography files.”  United States v. Stultz, 575 F.3d 834, 849 (8th Cir. 2009).  Because file-sharing programs enable users to swap files, the court reasoned that no additional evidence is needed to establish the type of transaction contemplated in the Guidelines.
We have a different view, however, of the function and operation of filesharing programs than that of the Eighth Circuit.  File-sharing programs exist to promote free access to information. Generally, they do not operate as a forum for bartering.  For example, file-sharing programs permit a person to access shared files on peer computers regardless of whether the person in turn shares his files.  The files are free.  Because the transaction contemplated in the Guidelines is one that is conducted for “valuable consideration,” the mere use of a program that enables free access to files does not, by itself, establish a transaction that will support the five-level enhancement.  Accordingly, we disagree with the approach taken by the Eighth Circuit.

2.  Sam Randall and Vince Farina won United States v. Grajales, in which the 11th Circuit reversed a conviction, holding that the trial court should have given an entrapment instruction.  Interestingly, the court also found two other appellate arguments raised by the dynamic duo had merit.  Three reversible errors in one appeal is not common.  I'm not sure why the court didn't publish the opinion.  From the intro:

After a jury trial, Alberto Grajales appeals his convictions for conspiring and attempting to interfere with commerce by robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a); conspiring and attempting to possess with intent to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846; and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence and a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A). Grajales raises three issues on appeal. First, he argues that the district court erred when it refused to instruct the jury on his entrapment defense. Second, Grajales argues that the district court erred when it instructed the jury that his honestly held belief that he was helping law enforcement also had to be objectively reasonable in order to negate his specific intent. Finally, Grajales argues that the district court erred when it prevented him from testifying regarding non-hearsay statements that were crucial to his defense. For the reasons set forth below, we reverse.

3.  Aimee Ferrer and Helaine Batoff obtained a not guilty verdict before Judge Graham.  I'm working on getting the details of that case.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

wow, haters are so ugly....