Tuesday, September 30, 2014

“Miami is replete with people who utilize illegal funds and live a luxurious, unbelievable lifestyle.”

That was Judge Lenard, sentencing Alvaro Lopez Tardon --convicted of spending in Miami, drug proceeds earned in Spain -- to 150 years in federal prison.  From the Miami Herald:
A federal judge put a uniquely Miami spin on the $20 million shopping spree of convicted money launderer Álvaro López Tardón before sending the accused Spanish drug kingpin to prison for 150 years on Monday.
“I call it funny money, and we have a plethora of funny money here,” U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard declared, as she described López Tardón's use of cocaine proceeds from Spain to purchase exotic cars and waterfront condos. “Miami is replete with people who utilize illegal funds and live a luxurious, unbelievable lifestyle.”
Before Monday's final sentencing, Lenard had conducted a series of hearings in which she spoke about shadowy characters like López Tardón who hang out in sunny places like South Florida. During those hearings, a federal prosecutor and defense attorneys debated the relative harm that the 39-year-old Spaniard actually did to the community by blowing drug money made in Spain on high-priced cars, condos, jewelry and watches in Miami.
In June, López Tardón was found guilty of a single conspiracy charge that carried up to 20 years in prison and guilty of 13 money-laundering charges that carried up to 10 years each. Under sentencing guidelines, the judge had the authority to craft a prison term that effectively added up to life in prison for the Spaniard.

Meantime, Judge Altonaga sentenced a pimp to 29 years in prison:
A Miami federal judge did not believe Damion St. Patrick Baston told the truth when he took the witness stand in his sex-trafficking trial this summer. She also did not detect any sense of guilt or remorse after the jury convicted him.
At his sentencing hearing on Monday, U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga said Baston has a “deviant” and “delusional” personality with a “warped sense of reality.”
Despite her low opinion of the 37-year-old Jamaican, the judge refused to give him a maximum life sentence, instead sending Baston to prison for 27 years. The judge said that, although the trial evidence proved Baston repeatedly victimized young women in the sex trade from Australia to Dubai to Miami, he didn’t kill anyone and, therefore, a “sentence of life would not provide just punishment.”

What do you all think about these very long sentences after trial?  What would they have gotten had they pleaded guilty?

Meantime, down the street, there is a big push to get a new civil courthouse.  It's obviously needed.  Judge Soto looks great in the ad, while the courthouse looks just awful:

Monday, September 29, 2014

RIP Mike Beck

Judge Ed Davis' longtime courtroom deputy and then Northern Division Manager Michael Beck unexpectedly passed away over the weekend.  Mike was a great guy and really funny once you got to know him. 

He knew more about the clerk's office and how things ran than anyone I knew. 

Most people will remember his booming voice -- he would introduce court for Judge Davis every morning with the traditional OYEZ, OYEZ, OYEZ call.  It was really impressive how he did it.  So the judges started using him for en banc hearings and the like. 

Judge Davis' tight-knit federal family has had a rough go of it the last couple of years.  Mike was a big part of that family.  He will be missed.

If you have a good Mike Beck story, please remember him in the comments.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

“This is really a story about redemption.”

A great quote on Rosh Hashanah from Bill Barzee about his client, lobbyist Richard Canadia.  Judge Cooke sentenced him to probation and four months of home confinement. From the (newly designed) Herald:

Cooke said she recognized his remorse and the significance of his help. She also recognized he was a vulnerable man who had gone through financial difficulty, a divorce and the death of his parents when he decided to participate in an FBI-orchestrated grant scheme to rip off the federal government.
Cooke, known for her folksy expressions, said the “wheels fell off the bus” in describing Candia’s dire situation. Before that, “I don’t think this was anything you were capable of or thought you would do,” the judge told him.
Pizzi surely hasn't kept his head down since his acquittal.  Here are his comments after the sentencing:

After Thursday’s sentencing, Pizzi called Candia’s deal an “outrage.”
“After three years and millions of tax dollars spent, lying lobbyist Michael Kesti is doing talk shows and lying lobbyist Richard Candia is home watching footballs games,” Pizzi said. “These are two lobbyists who lied to and wanted to corrupt every city in the state in order to make money. One got a big paycheck by conning the government and the other, Candia, a free pass. This is how this operation ended.”

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"Who do you think President Obama could appoint at this very day, given the boundaries that we have? If I resign any time this year, he could not successfully appoint anyone I would like to see in the court. [The Senate] took off the filibuster for lower federal court appointments, but it remains for this court. So anybody who thinks that if I step down, Obama could appoint someone like me, they’re misguided. As long as I can do the job full steam…. I think I’ll recognize when the time comes that I can’t any longer. But now I can."

That's Notorious RGB, otherwise known as Justice Ginsburg, in this Elle article. It's an awesome article and worth the read.  Here's one exchange:

It’s part of Washington lore that you and Justice Scalia are good friends and opera buddies. I have to ask, when he says that the Constitution doesn’t necessarily prohibit discrimination against women, isn’t it hard not to take it personally?
Justice Scalia and I served together on the DC Circuit. So his votes are not surprising to me. What I like about him is that he’s very funny and very smart.
[She points to a photograph.] That one shows the two of us in 1994 when we were on a delegation to India. So there we are on a very elegant elephant. My feminist friends say, “Why are you riding on the back of the elephant?” and I said, “Because of the distribution of weight, we needed to have Scalia in the front.”
Does it make a difference having three women justices?
Yes, an enormous difference….When Sandra left, I was all alone…. Now Kagan is on my left, and Sotomayor is on my right. So we look like we’re really part of the court and we’re here to stay. Also, both of them are very active in oral arguments. They’re not shrinking violets. It’s very good for the schoolchildren who parade in and out of the court to see.

In other news, a Miami state judge supposedly told a store clerk "to go and f--- yourself."

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Michael Boggs' nomination to district bench in Georgia appears dead

The AP has the story here:
President Barack Obama's controversial selection of Michael Boggs to become a federal judge in Georgia lacks enough votes to survive and the nomination should be withdrawn, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Monday in what amounts to a rare rebuff of the president from his own party.
The fate of Boggs's nomination has been in doubt for months, after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and other Democrats expressed opposition to him because of positions he has taken on abortion, same-sex marriage and the Confederate flag.
Monday's remarks by the Judiciary chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., signaled what could become an embarrassment for Obama. It is unusual for a president's nominees to be rejected by members of his own party.
Several hours earlier, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama did not want Boggs to withdraw his nomination. Earnest gave a modest endorsement of Boggs, saying Obama believes that "Judge Boggs has the necessary qualifications to serve in this role."
After Leahy's statement, White House spokesman Eric Schultz stood by Earnest's remarks.
Leahy's comments came six weeks before congressional elections in which strong support from women and black voters would enhance Democrats' chances of retaining Senate control and limiting expected losses in the House.
Obama last year nominated Boggs, a state appeals court judge, to become a federal district judge in Georgia. Boggs was recommended by that state's two Republican senators as part of a deal to fill seven judicial vacancies there.
Boggs served as a Georgia state legislator a decade ago. During that time, he backed measures to post information online about doctors who perform abortions - which opponents said could jeopardize those physicians - and to keep the Confederate battle emblem on the Georgia flag. He also supported a proposed amendment to the state constitution barring same-sex marriages.
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in May, Boggs told the senators that he now believes his vote on abortion doctors was wrong and he's glad the Confederate emblem was later removed from the state flag. He said his views on same-sex marriage "may or may not have changed."
Nonetheless, he was criticized by several Democrats, with some expressing skepticism that he could make impartial decisions.
Abortion-rights groups hailed word that Boggs' nomination was in trouble.
"Everybody wishes this guy would do the right thing and withdraw," said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "He's got no pathway forward, and he's taking up time and energy that everybody wishes could be spent on other things."

Friday, September 19, 2014

Barry Bonds' conviction in trouble?

That's what all of the court observers are saying after yesterday's en banc argument (watch here*).  Here's one example, by Pamela MacLean:

The government may have struck out with the majority of an 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday in former Giants slugger Barry Bonds’ challenge to his obstruction of justice conviction in an investigation of steroids use.
“I find your reading of the statute absolutely alarming,” Judge William Fletcher to the government’s lawyer Mary Jean Chan.  And it got worse from there.
A three judge panel of the appeals court upheld Bonds conviction for obstruction of justice in September 2013 for his evasive testimony to a grand jury investigating illegal distribution of steroids by the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO.)
The three-judge appeals panel held that his answers were “evasive, misleading and capable of influencing the grand jury to minimize” the role of Bonds’ trainer, Greg Anderson, suspected of distributing performance enhancing drugs.
Bonds’ attorney Dennis Riordan opened by saying any decision will garner public attention because of Bonds’ celebrity and controversial status.  But that’s not what’s important, what is important, he said, “This is the first time the government has asked to convict  a defendant for comments to a grand jury that were non-responsive, to convict for obstruction of justice because he wandered off topic.”
While Riordan faced tough questioning, most of the fire was reserved for the government.
Fletcher asked what happens in civil litigation if lawyers respond to interrogatories and they give truthful but evasive answers.  “Are they guilty of a crime?” he asked.
“Yes,” responded Chan.
“Well that is a common practice in civil litigation and you may have criminalized half the bar.  “Half the bar may be in serious trouble,” he said.
Chief Judge Alex Kozinski accused the government of engaging in some evasive conduct in the superseding indictment by not making clear the Bonds statements that were allegedly evasive.
Bonds’ rambling answers to the grand jury  about being a “celebrity child” in response to a question whether he received any steroids from  Anderson could be the basis of a conviction, the panel held.  The panel found that even truthful answers could be the basis of conviction if they were so evasive.
Bonds was sentenced in 2011 to spend 30 days in his Beverly Hills mansion and perform 250 hours of community service for his conviction to use of dodgy answers to federal questions.  Jurors could not agree on a perjury charge against Bonds.
Judge Susan Graber said, “Speaking for myself, I don’t see how there is sufficient evidence [of obstruction] when the question was asked and answered repeatedly.”
Kozinski asked, “Can you cure a misleading answer?”
“Not if the intent was to mislead at the time,” Chan said.
“But wasn’t it cured in this case?” asked JudgeJacqueline Nguyen?

*How cool (and informative) is it that you can watch the argument right after it happens.  When will the 11th do this?

Meantime, last night the Broward Federal Bar Association had its big gala.  Lots of federal judges turned out, including federal judge hopefuls. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Should Judge Fuller resign?

In addition to Judge Kopf's posts on the subject, there is growing noise that Fuller needs to step down -- this time from members of the Congress.  From the Montgomery Advertiser:
Alabama's two U.S. senators on Wednesday called for U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller to step down from the bench, joining a growing chorus of federal lawmakers seeking the judge's resignation after his arrest on domestic violence charges last month.
Fuller, 55, was arrested early on the morning of Aug. 10 and charged with misdemeanor battery. According to a police report, Fuller's wife, who had lacerations to her mouth and forehead, said the judge threw her to the ground, pulled her hair and kicked her after she confronted him over alleged affair with a law clerk.
The judge, who was appointed to the U.S. Middle District for Alabama in 2002, agreed to enter a pre-trial diversion program earlier this month. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has reassigned his caseload and has launched an investigation of Fuller's actions.
"The American people's trust in our judicial system depends on the character and integrity of those who have the distinction and honor of sitting on the bench and I believe Judge Mark Fuller has lost the confidence of his colleagues and the people of the state of Alabama and I urge him to resign immediately," Sen. Richard Shelby, a Republican, said in a phone interview.
U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, called for Fuller's resignation last week, saying he had "violated the public trust." Earlier on Wednesday, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said on her Twitter account that Fuller should resign. U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, issued a statement Tuesday saying that "domestic abuse cannot be tolerated, explained away or swept under the rug," and raised the possibility of Fuller's impeachment.
Shelby said he called Fuller to alert him that he was going to publicly call for his resignation. A message left with Barry Ragsdale, an attorney for Fuller, was not immediately returned Wednesday afternoon.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Judge Rosenbaum's first published opinion in the 11th Circuit starts this way

Before WILSON, WILLIAM PRYOR and ROSENBAUM, Circuit Judges. ROSENBAUM, Circuit Judge: 
It was a scene right out of a Hollywood movie.  On August 21, 2010, after more than a month of planning, teams from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office descended on multiple target locations.  They blocked the entrances and exits to the parking lots so no one could leave and no one could enter.  With some team members dressed in ballistic vests and masks, and with guns drawn, the deputies rushed into their target destinations, handcuffed the stunned occupants—and demanded to see their barbers’ licenses.  The Orange County Sheriff’s Office was providing muscle for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s administrative inspection of barbershops to discover licensing violations.   We first held nineteen years ago that conducting a run-of-the-mill administrative inspection as though it is a criminal raid, when no indication exists that safety will be threatened by the inspection, violates clearly established Fourth Amendment rights.  See Swint v. City of Wadley, 51 F.3d 988 (11th Cir. 1995). We reaffirmed that principle in 2007 when we held that other deputies of the very same Orange County Sheriff’s Office who participated in a similar warrantless criminal raid under the guise of executing an administrative inspection were not entitled to qualified immunity.  See Bruce v. Beary, 498 F.3d 1232 (11th Cir. 2007).  Today, we repeat that same message once again.  We hope that the third time will be the charm. 
STRONG!  Click here for the whole opinion.

Judge William Pryor (note that the court is now distinguishing the two Pryors) concurred and dissented from the opinion, with this intro:
I agree with the majority opinion that the search of the barbershop exceeded the scope of a reasonable administrative inspection and that the barbers presented evidence that Corporal Keith Vidler, as the supervisor, violated their clearly established constitutional rights. I also agree that Brian Berry presented evidence that Deputy Travis Leslie, who handcuffed Berry and patted him down, violated his clearly established constitutional rights. But Edwyn Durant, Reginald Trammon, and Jermario Anderson presented no evidence that Deputy Travis Leslie violated their constitutional rights. Even though the inspection of the barbershop appeared to be “a scene right out of a Hollywood movie” (Majority Op. at 1), we cannot bend the law to resolve this appeal with a feel-good ending from a boxoffice hit. The law entitles Leslie to qualified immunity against any barber who failed to present evidence that Leslie personally deprived him of a clearly established constitutional right. Durant, Trammon, and Anderson failed to prove an affirmative causal connection between their specific injuries and Leslie’s conduct. For that reason, I respectfully concur in part and dissent in part.  

HT How Appealing.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Have the appellate courts really changed?

The NY Times had this front page story yesterday about President Obama's appointments and how he is "reshaping" the appellate courts.  From the intro:
Democrats have reversed the partisan imbalance on the federal appeals courts that long favored conservatives, a little-noticed shift with far-reaching consequences for the law and President Obama’s legacy.
For the first time in more than a decade, judges appointed by Democratic presidents considerably outnumber judges appointed by Republican presidents. The Democrats’ advantage has only grown since late last year when they stripped Republicans of their ability to filibuster the president’s nominees.
Democratic appointees who hear cases full time now hold a majority of seats on nine of the 13 United States Courts of Appeals. When Mr. Obama took office, only one of those courts had more full-time judges nominated by a Democrat.
The shift, one of the most significant but unheralded accomplishments of the Obama era, is likely to have ramifications for how the courts decide the legality of some of the president’s most controversial actions on health care, immigration and clean air. Since today’s Congress has been a graveyard for legislative accomplishment, these judicial confirmations are likely to be among its most enduring acts.
What do the readers think -- will the "change" in the 11th Circuit make a difference?  The 11th Circuit has been known to be one of the most, if not the most, conservative appellate courts in the country for the past decade or two.  It's too early to tell just yet, but I wonder whether we are going to see huge changes in the 11th Circuit, especially on criminal justice issues.  Let's see what happens with these recent en banc cases that the court agreed to hear.

In other news, there is an interesting fugitive case, in which the last time he was seen was in Florida (from the AP):
One of the last times anyone ever saw Tommy Thompson, he was walking on the pool deck of a Florida mansion wearing nothing but eye glasses, leather shoes, socks and underwear, his brown hair growing wild.*
It was a far cry from the conquering hero who, almost two decades before, docked a ship in Norfolk, Virginia, loaded with what's been described as the greatest lost treasure in American history - thousands of pounds of gold that sat in the ocean for 131 years after the ship carrying it sank during a hurricane.
On that day in 1989, Thompson couldn't contain a grin as hundreds cheered his achievement. But his victory was short-lived.
For the past two years, the U.S. Marshals Service has hunted Thompson as a fugitive - wanted for skipping a court date to explain to investors what happened to the riches. The rise and fall of the intrepid explorer is the stuff of storybooks, a tale receiving renewed attention amid a new expedition begun this year to the sunken ship.
"I think he had calculated it, whatever you want to call it, an escape plan," Marshals agent Brad Fleming said. "I think he's had that for a long time."
*That;s how I looked yesterday when I lost to Rumpole in our fantasy football match-up.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Should Judge Fuller resign?

Another district judge and blogger -- Judge Kopf -- strongly says yes:
I would not waste the effort trying to impeach him. I know something about impeachment having actually tried such a case before the Nebraska Supreme Court where I sought to oust Nebraska’s Attorney General. I doubt that you would ever get the House to act and any such action would probably not succeed as a legal matter even if you did. By the time it got to trial in the Senate, under his plea deal, the conviction would no longer exist. It will have been erased.
Instead, the Chief Judge of the Circuit and the Circuit Judicial Council should strip him of his ability to hear cases for as long as the law allows. See 28 U.S. Code § 354(a)(2)(A)(i) (“ordering that, on a temporary basis for a time certain, no further cases be assigned to the judge whose conduct is the subject of a complaint”). They should also publicly reprimand him and formally request that he resign. Id.§ 354(a)(2)(A)(ii-iii) & § 354(a)(2)(B)(ii). Pay him forever as an inducement to resign–the statute gives them that leverage. I don’t care. That’s chump change. Just neuter him for as long as possible. Approach this process practically and quickly. But be tough.
I don’t care about punishing Judge Fuller. I don’t want to hurt his family. I just want him off the bench for as long as possible. Why? It is very simple. Given what happened in that hotel room, no one should trust his judgment in a federal trial courtroom. That courtroom is a hallowed place where trust in the one person wearing a black robe is absolutely indispensable.*
*By the way, this has nothing to do with the Ray Rice case.
I see that Kopf says that this has nothing to do with the Ray Rice case, but this is bad timing for Fuller of course.

I also wonder whether Judge Kopf thinks any federal judge who enters into a diversion program should resign?  What about marijuana possession?  What about DUI? (Sadly, these things happen with some regularity in Florida state courts...)

What say you?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ana Alliegro sentenced to time served

She was represented by Richard Klugh.

Marc Caputo has the story here of the sentencing:

The federal investigation into former Congressman David Rivera took another major step Wednesday when his close friend and political ally was sentenced for her role in allegedly helping him break campaign finance laws.

"I took responsibility," Ana Alliegro said in court before she was sentenced to six months of house arrest and two years of probation after serving six months in jail.

"I owe the voters of Florida ... a huge apology," she said.

U.S. District Judge Robert Scola indicated he would have sentenced Alliegro to more time in prison — at least 18 months total and as much as five years — if she had gone "rogue" and not coordinated with Rivera.

Scola suggested Rivera wasn't acting like a man.

"Some might call it sexism [but] the man should come forward and not let the woman do time," Scola said.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Jose Padilla to be re-sentenced this morning (UPDATED WITH SENTENCE)

Judge Cooke still has the case, this time on remand after the 11th Circuit said 17 years wasn't enough. Padilla couldn't have asked for a better lawyer to represent him this morning -- he's got the FPD Michael Caruso. Paula McMahon has the details:

Padilla, 43, was convicted of conspiracy and providing support for a terrorism group. He's already spent more than 12 years in solitary confinement, enduring some of the harshest incarceration conditions ever imposed on a U.S. citizen.

If prosecutors get what they want, Padilla — a broken man, his lawyer says — could be in for even more punishment.

Padilla is scheduled to be re-sentenced Tuesday after an appeals court ruled that the 17 years and four months imprisonment initially imposed by U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke was not enough. That punishment would have seen him released in May 2022, at age 51.

Prosecutors have agreed to recommend a prison term of no more than 30 years for Padilla, who converted to Islam in a Broward jail in the 1990s, was recruited at a Sunrise mosque and later signed up for al-Qaida training. The prosecution suggests the minimum he could legally get is 20 years and 10 months.

Padilla's lawyer, Federal Public Defender Michael Caruso, did not say exactly how much punishment he should face, instead highlighting the extraordinarily severe treatment Padilla has received at the hands of government operatives. That mistreatment, he said, merits a lesser penalty.

In a break from legal tradition, Caruso repeatedly refers to Padilla by first name in the court filings, an attempt to humanize him.

The defense portrays Padilla as a middle school dropout and fast food restaurant worker who was easily manipulated by sophisticated terrorist operatives.

Most importantly, Caruso wrote, Padilla has been completely broken and subdued by aggressive and "inhumane" tactics, including constant isolation.

"Jose has always been peaceful and compliant with his captors. He was, and remains to the time of this [court] filing, docile and resigned," Caruso wrote.

"Many of the conditions Jose experienced were inhumane and caused him great physical and psychological pain and anguish … All of the deprivations and assaults … were employed in concert in a calculated manner to cause him maximum anguish and to 'break' him," Caruso wrote. "As is evident to anyone who has had any contact with Jose in the ensuing years … [it has] succeeded."

Can you imagine these conditions:

At the brig, the defense said Padilla was held in solitary confinement with no access to a lawyer, his family or the outside world. The intent: "to maximize his disorientation, discomfort, hopelessness, and despair."

According to court records, interrogators assaulted and screamed at him, shackled him for hours in "excruciating stress positions," and threatened to kill him. They also used extreme temperature changes, glaring lights and darkness to disorient him, confined him to a windowless cell and injected him against his will with substances they said were truth serums, the defense wrote.

In America? Yup, and it hasn't stopped:

The harsh treatment of Padilla continued after his sentencing, the defense wrote.

Padilla has been in solitary confinement at the Federal Detention Center in downtown Miami awaiting re-sentencing for the past two years.

But he was kept in the notorious "Supermax" federal prison in Florence, Colo. — which one former warden called "a clean version of hell" — from 2008 to late 2012. He will likely be sent back there after Tuesday's re-sentencing.

Padilla spends 24 hours a day in solitude in a cell the size of a small bathroom, with just five hours a month of exercise in an outdoor cage that Supermax inmates call "the dog run." He's allowed no physical contact visits and just one monthly "social" phone call.

Nevertheless, the prosecutors are asking for 30 years this morning.

UPDATE -- Judge Cooke sentenced Jose Padilla to 21 years, which is what Caruso asked for and 9 years less than the government's request.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Jill Pryor confirmed to 11th circuit 97-0

Congrats to Judge Pryor.

We now have two judges named Carnes and two judges named Pryor.

I had always hoped for two Barketts...

"I reached this difficult decision after consulting with my family, and deciding that it was in everyone's best interests to put this incident behind us."

That was District Judge Mark Fuller after taking pretrial diversion on his domestic battery case.  The question now is what will happen to the 11th Circuit's order reassigning all of his cases. 

More from the Atlanta Journal & Constitution on the plea:

“I reached this difficult decision after consulting with my family, and deciding that it was in everyone’s best interests to put this incident behind us,” Fuller said in a statement released by one of his attorneys. “While I regret that my decision means that the full and complete facts regarding this incident will likely not come out, I have no doubt that it is what is best for all involved.”
Fulton County Chief Magistrate Stephanie Davis set an Oct. 14 court date for Fuller to provide proof he had received alcohol and drug treatment and enrolled in a 24-week program for those accused of domestic violence. It is then that the charge from an Aug. 9 incident at The Ritz-Carlton will be dropped. He also cannot have any “violent contact” with his wife, Davis said during the Friday court hearing.
“This incident has been very embarrassing to me, my family, friends and the court,” said Fuller, 55, who has presided in the federal court in the Northern District of Alabama since President George W. Bush appointed him in 2002. “I deeply regret this incident and look forward to working to resolve these difficulties with my family, where they should be resolved.”
Last month, Fuller’s wife called 911 to report he was beating her, police said. Moments later, an Atlanta police officer knocked on the Fullers’ hotel room door.
According to a police report, the judge’s wife had lacerations to her mouth and forehead and she said her husband had thrown her to the ground, pulled her hair and kicked her after she confronted him over an alleged affair her husband was having with a law clerk. Fuller’s wife told police that he dragged her around the room “and hit her several times in the mouth with his hands.”
Fuller told police his wife threw a glass at him and that he was defending himself. “When asked about the lacerations to her mouth, Mr. Fuller stated that he just threw her to the ground and that was it,” the report stated.
Fuller had no visible injuries, according to the report.
According to a transcript of the 911 phone call, Fuller’s wife pleaded for help.
“He’s beating on me,” she told a dispatcher before requesting an ambulance. “Please help me.”

Thursday, September 04, 2014


And those three are:

Mary Barzee-Flores
Peter Lopez
Barry Seltzer

Congrats to the finalists.  Now it's up to Nelson/Rubio and Obama for the nomination.

Update -- Apparently, the Herald sat through the interviews and posted this editorial about the appointment process:

The three South Florida finalists advancing for consideration for a coveted opening on the federal bench in the Southern District are to be congratulated. They’ve earned it.
On Thursday, they, along with other aspirants to the prestigious, lifetime appointment, sat on the hot seat in a large conference room on the 14th floor of the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. U.S. Courthouse in downtown Miami.
A member of the Miami Herald Editorial Board was present as the 20-plus members of the Florida Judicial Nominating Commission quizzed and grilled the 15 candidates for 25 minutes each, the final phase of a long process that began in July for the privilege of having their names recommended to Florida’s two U.S. senators.
In this race, voters did not pick the winner; the blue-ribbon panel made up of local legal eagles and community leaders had the honor — and somehow that seemed right and how, perhaps, it should be done for all judicial races.
The different selection processes for state and federal judges — the first are generally elected, the latter selected — highlighted the anemic slate of judicial candidates and bitter races with plenty of mudslinging that played out in Miami-Dade and Broward last month. Judicial decorum was missing among a number of candidates.
Many of the eight contested circuit and county races in Miami-Dade were marked by the emergence of political committees supporting judicial candidates. Rival committees sent out biting attack mailers, unsavory in a judicial race, and scary — these are nonpartisan races in which candidates can only promise to follow the law. The most bitter contest pitted former Miami-Dade School Board member Renier Diaz de la Portilla against Veronica Diaz, an assistant attorney with the city of Miami. She eventually won.
Race and ethnicity also came into play, as has happened in the past. For example, the supporters of incumbent Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Rodney “Rod” Smith, who is black, accused unsuccessful challenger Christian Carrazana of running with the hope his last name appealed to voters in the heavily Hispanic county, a charge that Mr. Carrazana denied.
None of that took place Thursday in the conference room where committee members drilled down to gauge the smarts, temperament and dedication of each candidate.

11th Circuit grants en banc in cell-site case

Well, that was fast.  The government asked for en banc review in Quartavious Davis' case on August 4 (covered by the blog here). 

I've asked this before, and I'll ask it again here -- has the 11th Circuit ever granted en banc review when the defense has asked for it?

News & Notes

1.  JNC interviews are today for the open federal seat.  Will be interesting to see who makes the cut.

2.  The 11th Circuit granted en banc review in United States v. Roy.  This was the case authored by Judge Wilson in which the court granted a new trial for a defendant because the district judge conducted part of the trial without him and his counsel.  Chief Judge Ed Carnes dissented.  Now the whole court is going to hear the case.  Interestingly, the Carneses are using their first names now to distinguish themselves.  Here's the beginning line of the order: Before ED CARNES, Chief Judge, TJOFLAT, HULL, MARCUS, WILSON, PRYOR, MARTIN, JORDAN, ROSENBAUM, and JULIE CARNES, Circuit Judges.  Soon the Pyrors will be doing the same thing...

3. Judge Tjoflat, joined by Judge Ed Carnes and Judge Marra, has this new opinion in United States v. Campbell, which starts this way:

In this case, Maurice William Campbell, Jr., and several co-conspirators, created, and successfully executed, a scheme to defraud the State of Alabama to the tune of several million dollars. The scheme was ultimately uncovered, and the co-conspirators were separately indicted by a Northern District of Alabama grand jury. Campbell was charged with wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, engaging in monetary transactions in criminally derived property, and conspiring to commit those offenses.
Campbell pled not guilty and stood trial. Several of his co-conspirators, having pled guilty, testified for the prosecution. The jury believed what they had to say and found Campbell guilty as charged. At sentencing, the District Court departed downward from the sentence range the Sentencing Guidelines prescribed, 262 to 327 months’ confinement, and imposed prison sentences totaling 188 months. The court also ordered him to pay $5.9 million to the State of Alabama in the form of restitution.
Campbell appeals his convictions and sentences. He appeals his convictions on the ground that the Government failed to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.2 He appeals his sentences on the ground that they are procedurally and substantively unreasonable. See Gall v. United States, 552 U.S. 38, 51, 128 S. Ct. 586, 597, 169 L. Ed. 2d 445 (2007). We find no merit in Campbell’s challenges to his convictions, and therefore affirm them, because the evidence of guilt, which we set out in considerable detail infra, was overwhelming. We also affirm his sentences, finding no procedural or substantive error.

4.  Check out  the Dade County Defense Bar Association's Fall 2014 Ethics Seminar, which is being put on by Robert Kuntz.  Looks interesting!

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Anthony Bosch set to plead guilty before Judge Gayles

From the Miami Herald:
Anthony Bosch, the South Florida clinic operator suspected of selling banned steroids to suspended Major League Baseball players, plans to plead guilty in October to illegally distributing the performance enhancement drugs.
“We’ve resolved the case,” Bosch’s defense attorney, Guy Lewis, told U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles on Wednesday in Miami federal court. “It’s going to be resolved with a [guilty] plea.”
Bosch, who initially pleaded not guilty after he surrendered last month, has signed a plea agreement admitting to his criminal activity at a Coral Gables anti-aging clinic that allegedly sold testosterone to New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez and other players. He was scheduled for trial on Monday, but the agreement precludes it.
...In recently filed court papers, the U.S. attorney’s office revealed that 122 electronic surveillance recordings — audio and video — were made of Bosch and the other defendants during the federal investigation. It gained momentum early last year after the Miami New Times broke the story about Bosch’s alleged sale of steroids to Major League ballplayers and others.
None of Bosch’s customers have been charged in the federal case.
The federal investigation is shrouded in secrecy. Prosecutors Pat Sullivan and Sharad Motiani and defense attorneys Lewis and Susy Elena Ribero-Ayala have agreed that no evidence -- including the names of customers -- can be shared with outside parties, including Major League Baseball. The clinic’s customers also included Miami-Dade high school ballplayers.
Gayles, the federal judge, has granted a protective order restricting the sharing of the evidence.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/09/03/4324946/suspected-of-selling-steroids.html#storylink=cpy

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

8th Circuit affirm sentence of probation where guidelines were 135-168 months

District judges, I think, are still fearful of giving large variances in white-collar cases (especially after trial), but this 8th Circuit case should give some more comfort:
A jury found Abby Rae Cole guilty of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy to commit tax fraud.  The district court sentenced Cole to three years probation, a downward variance from the advisory Guidelines range of 135 to 168 months imprisonment.  The government appealed the sentence as substantively unreasonable, and Cole cross-appealed her convictions.  We affirmed the convictions but declined to reach the issue of whether the sentence is substantively unreasonable, finding procedural error in the lack of an adequate explanation by the district court for the sentence and the substantial downward variance.  We remanded the case to afford the district court a chance to supply an adequate explanation....
In our previous opinion, we noted that before reaching the substantive reasonableness of a sentence “‘[w]e must first ensure that the district court committed no significant procedural error,’” such as “failing to adequately explain the chosen sentence—including an explanation for any deviation from the Guidelines range.” Id. (quoting United States v. Feemster, 572 F.3d 455, 461 (8th Cir. 2009) (en banc)). We noted that Cole and her co-conspirators’ convictions were based on the theft of approximately $33 million from Best Buy over a four-year period and the evasion of over $3 million in taxes, Cole’s sentencing Guidelines range was 135 to 168 months imprisonment, and Cole’s co-conspirators, her husband and a Best Buy employee, received sentences of 180 and 90 months respectively. Despite these facts, the district court provided scant explanation for the profound downward variance to a sentence of probation.
On remand, the district court received additional briefing from the parties, conducted a hearing in which it heard additional argument with respect to sentencing, and then announced its reasons for the downward variance and the probationary sentence in a lengthy and comprehensive analysis concluding with the observation that this is an “unusual, extraordinary case in which a sentence of three years probation was appropriate.”  In the additional analysis, the district court touched on all of the section 3553(a) factors in explaining the rationale behind the sentence it imposed upon Cole. The district court recognized the numerous restrictions Cole endured while on probation and the “lifelong restrictions” she faces as a federal felon, see 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(2)(A)&(B); the court stressed that, with the probationary sentence, Cole would be less likely to commit further crimes as she “has a far greater likelihood of successful rehabilitation with family support and stable employment,” see 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(2)(C). The court also explained that while “[t]his was one of the largest corporate frauds in Minnesota history and was also a significant tax fraud,” Cole served a more minor role as, in the court’s judgment, she was “mostly a passive, although legally responsible, participant.” See 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(1).  The court focused on Cole’s history and characteristics, emphasizing that she had no prior contact with law enforcement and was “markedly different” than “most of the fraudsters who appear before th[e] Court” in that Cole “is not a consummate fraudster, she is not a pathological liar.” See 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(6). Finally, the district court explained that the probationary sentence would allow Cole to work and earn money to make restitution to the victims of the fraud.  See 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(7).
The United States persists in its appeal, contending that the district court improperly based the sentence on Cole’s socioeconomic status, her restitution obligations, and her loss of criminally derived income.  However, the facts of Cole’s fall from an industrious and highly successful entrepreneur to convicted felon and the loss of the bulk of her legitimately acquired assets cannot be denied.  We find no error in the district court’s reference to these events....
While we do not minimize the seriousness of the crimes perpetrated by Cole and the staggering nature of the fraudulent scheme in which Cole was a participant, the district court here, unlike in Dautovic, has adequately explained the sentence and appropriately considered the section 3553(a) factors in varying downward to a probationary sentence, making “precisely the kind of defendant-specific determinations that are within the special competence of sentencing courts.”  Feemster, 572 F.3d at 464 (quotation omitted).  For instance, the district court noted that Cole’s role in the offense was mostly as a passive participant and Cole was not the typical white collar defendant the court had observed in similar criminal schemes.  We find no error in the weighing of the section 3553(a) factors, and thus the district court did not abuse its substantial discretion in sentencing Cole to probation.
 In local news, Fane Lozman made the front page of the Palm Beach Post this weekend.  You remember Lozman -- he's the guy who went to the Supreme Court on the floating boat/house issue and won!  Here's the intro to the new piece:

Ducking under mangroves to reach the Intracoastal Waterway, Fane Lozman spreads his arms wide as he contemplates living on a narrow strip of land on Singer Island that most believed would never be developed.
“How can you beat his view?” he asks with a grin, gesturing toward the open blue water.
His grin is more than a little bit impish.
More than a year after he clobbered Riviera Beach by persuading the U.S. Supreme Court that the city illegally seized and destroyed his so-called houseboat, the 53-year-old self-made millionaire is back rattling city cages, trying to put that landmark decision into action.
He plunked down $24,000 this year for 29 acres of submerged land and about a third-acre of upland on the western shore of Singer Island. The pristine, mostly underwater property, will one day be home to a 60-foot-long floating home - a famous one that served as Frank Sinatra’s base of operations in the forgettable 1960 detective movie, “Lady in Cement,” he says.
But there’s more. Lozman wants neighbors. “My plan is to develop this into an upscale floating home community,” he says.
To the further chagrin of city officials, the man who has been a thorn in their sides since he moved to Riviera Beach roughly eight years ago is no longer a one-man wrecking crew.
Daniel Taylor, a 53-year-old Riviera Beach native, has recently reignited his family’s decades-long battle with the city for the right to use his submerged land as well. He, too, says it would be the perfect spot for a floating home.
With a nod to Lozman’s successful seven-year legal battle with the city, Taylor recently attached a name to his patch of land along the Intracoastal Waterway. He calls it “Lozman’s Cove.”
“I thought it was a heroic deed and I like the underdog,” he said, explaining why he honored Lozman by posting the street sign inside a fenced in area he turned into a picnic area for occasional parties.
Like Lozman, he said the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision paves the way for him to use the 2 acres of submerged land he owns that extends from his private picnic area.