U.S. Eighth Circuit - The FindLaw 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

November 2010 Archives

US v. Wineman, No. 10-1121

Methamphetamine Sentence Affirmed

In US v. Wineman, No. 10-1121, the court affirmed defendant's sentence for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, holding that the district court did not commit significant procedural error in calculating the advisory guidelines range.

 

US v. Daniels, No. 10-1296

Felon in Possession Conviction Affirmed

In US v. Daniels, No. 10-1296, the court affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, holding that 1) the evidence was sufficient for a reasonable jury to conclude that defendant knowingly possessed a firearm; 2) the district court's finding that defendant marched the victim down the street at gunpoint received ample support in the evidence; and 3) defendant did not show that the district court clearly erred in denying his request for a reduction for acceptance of responsibility.

 

Eubank v. Kansas City Power & Light Co., No. 09-2038

Wrongful Death Action Against Power Company

In Eubank v. Kansas City Power & Light Co., No. 09-2038, a wrongful death action against Kansas City Power and Light Company (KCPL), the company that supplied electricity to a U.S. General Services Administration facility where the decedent was killed, the court affirmed the dismissal of KCPL's third-party complaint, holding that the U.S. had not assumed a duty to KCPL to protect government employees from hazardous electrical equipment simply by choosing KCPL as an electrical provider.

US v. Thurman, No. 09-3545

Firearm Possession Conviction Affirmed

In US v. Thurman, No. 09-3545, the court affirmed defendant's conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition as a previously convicted felon, holding that 1) despite an officer's conclusory statement, so long as the issuing magistrate can fairly infer the source and basis of the information in a warrant application, the magistrate permissibly may consider such an assertion when determining whether probable cause exists; and 2) the warrant contained sufficient information to identify the particular frame house at issue as the premises to be searched.


US v. Lone Fight, No. 09-3573

Involuntary Manslaughter Sentence Affirmed

In US v. Lone Fight, No. 09-3573, the court affirmed Defendant's sentence for involuntary manslaughter committed in Indian country, holding that the sentence was not substantively unreasonable because defendant's criminal history stretched over thirty years, and many of his dozens of prior offenses were alcohol-related.


US v. Kelly, No. 09-3712

Felon in Possession Conviction Partially Reversed

In US v. Kelly, No. 09-3712, the court affirmed in part defendant's conviction and sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm, holding that, whether well-founded or not, defendant's doubts about an officer's credibility were not for the court to resolve.  However, the court reversed in part where the lack of ad hoc findings in this case violated the principle of individualized fact-finding mandated by Bender.


US v. Sutton, No. 09-3019

Cocaine Sentence Affirmed

In US v. Sutton, No. 09-3019, the court affirmed defendant's sentence for possession with intent to distribute cocaine base, where neither 18 U.S.C. section 3553(e) nor section 3553(f) applied, the district court lacked authority to sentence defendant below the statutory minimum term.


US v. Koch, No. 10-1789

Child Pornography Conviction Affirmed

In US v. Koch, No. 10-1789, the court affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for possession of child pornography, holding that 1) the agents who performed the search at issue had an objective, good faith belief under United States v. Leon that their search was legal; 2) the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to support the finding that defendant knowingly possessed the images of child pornography; and 3) the district court did not err by applying the enhancement based on the evidence that there were well over 100 separate images on defendant's computer and flash drive.


US v. Bauer, No. 10-1265

Felon in Possession Sentence Affirmed

In US v. Bauer, No. 10-1265, the court affirmed defendant's sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm where defendant's contention that U.S.S.G. Application Note 3(D) did not apply to section 5G1.3(b) and only applied to different rules within the commentary to section 5G1.3(c) was unpersuasive.


US v. Aguilera, No. 09-3688

Methamphetamine Conviction and Sentence Affirmed

In US v. Aguilera, No. 09-3688, the court affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, holding that 1) the district court did not err in concluding that a trooper's warrantless search was permissible under the automobile exception, and the court need not consider whether the search of the vehicle was a valid search incident to arrest; 2) the district court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that no miscarriage of justice resulted from the jury's verdict; and 3) even accepting for purposes of analysis that a defendant seeking safety-valve relief need provide only that information which he subjectively believes is true, the district court did not clearly err in denying relief.


Mauer v. Minn., No. 09-3623

Child Pornography Habeas Petition Denial Affirmed

In Mauer v. Minn., No. 09-3623, a petition under 28 U.S.C. section 2254 alleging that plaintiff's due process rights were violated by his state conviction for possession of child pornography, the court affirmed the denial of the petition where 1) petitioner's arguments were contrary to the clearly established rule, announced in Osborne and other cases, that a narrowly construed statute "may be applied to conduct occurring prior to the construction, provided such application affords fair warning to the defendant"; and 2) petitioner's counsel's assertion that he might have chosen a jury trial had he been aware that the statute would be construed in the way the state supreme court did was purely speculative.


Loye v. County of Dakota, No. 09-3277

Civil Rights Action Involving Social Services to Deaf

In Loye v. County of Dakota, No. 09-3277, an action claiming that defendants failed to provide American Sign Language interpreters for all of the services they were providing to the public in evacuating an area contaminated with mercury, the court affirmed summary judgment for defendants where 1) plaintiffs were provided with timely, meaningful access to the emergency decontamination services; and 2) plaintiffs complained they were unable to ask a nurse questions about the long-term effects of being exposed to mercury, but that was not the nurse's area of expertise, and there is no evidence plaintiffs were unable to obtain that information from other sources.


Alvarez v. Des Moines Bolt Supply, Inc., No. 09-1465

Sexual Harassment Action

In Alvarez v. Des Moines Bolt Supply, Inc., No. 09-1465, an action claiming that plaintiff was subjected to sexual harassment from co-workers and was retaliated against by defendant, the court affirmed summary judgment for defendant where plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence to support a conclusion that defendant's proffered reason for suspending her was pretext for a retaliatory motive.


US v. Williams, No. 09-3795

Crack Sentence Affirmed

In US v. Williams, No. 09-3795, the court affirmed defendant's sentence for distributing, and aiding and abetting the distribution of, crack cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school, holding that 1) the timing of defendant's motion supported the government's argument that his motion for reassignment was judge-shopping, rather than reflecting concerns about judicial economy and the need to spare judges from compromising their philosophy of sentencing; 2) it was not unreasonable to require a third party desiring information about a defendant's sentencing proceedings to attend the sentencing hearings; and 3) that the district court did not explicitly address any policy disagreement with other sentencing courts did not convert the denial of variance into an abuse of discretion.


US v. Mangum, No. 10-1640

Felon in Possession Sentence Affirmed

In US v. Mangum, No. 10-1640, the court affirmed defendant's sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm where 1) the district court thus did not err in finding that defendant possessed a firearm in connection with another felony offense - his check-cashing operation - and a four level-enhancement under U.S.S.G. section 2K2.1(b)(6) was appropriate on that basis; and 2) the court provided the necessary "insight into [its] reasons" for deciding to vary 13 months above the suggested guidelines range.


US v. Heath, No. 10-1333

Child Pornography Conviction Affirmed

In US v. Heath, No. 10-1333, defendant's child pornography production conviction is affirmed where 1) the First Amendment did not require a reasonable-mistake-of-age defense to charges of producing child pornography in violation of section 2251(a); and 2) considering the post-revocation sentence in calculating defendant's criminal history category did not constitute double counting.


Zebley v. Heartland Indus. of Dawson, Inc., No. 09-2453

Action Based on Failure to Prevent Suicide of Plaintiff's Decedent

In Zebley v. Heartland Indus. of Dawson, Inc., No. 09-2453, an action against a licensed non-profit day training, habilitation, and employment services provider, based on the suicide of plaintiff's daughter, the court affirmed judgment for defendant where 1) the district court did not abuse its discretion in giving a sudden emergency instruction, because the instruction was relevant to one of the issues in the case--defendant's response to at least the final part of the decedent's conduct--and correctly stated the law; and 2) the hindsight instruction echoed the district court's general negligence instruction, by stressing that the hallmark of ordinary care in this circumstance was what a reasonable and prudent person, while exercising ordinary care, would have done under the same or similar circumstances.


US v. Mancini, No. 10-1178

Wire Fraud Conviction Affirmed

In US v. Mancini, No. 10-1178, the court affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for wire fraud, for material misstatements made in a mortgage application, holding that 1) the loss to the victim flowed as directly from the fraud as the default on the loan which caused the lender's loss; and 2) under the plain wording of the Mandatory Victim Restitution Act, the district court properly applied the restitution statute and did not abuse its discretion in ordering defendant to pay $44,200 in restitution to the victim.


US v. Freeman, No. 09-3640

Crack Conviction Affirmed

In US v. Freeman, No. 09-3640, the court affirmed defendant's conviction for possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute where 1) the district court's credibility finding was amply supported by the testimony at the suppression hearing, as well as the lack of a substantial showing by defendant to the contrary; and 2) defendant could not move to renew his suppression motion at or before the trial, the accepted way to urge a trial court to reconsider its denial of a pretrial motion, because his guilty plea ended the guilt-determination phase of the proceedings.


Schoelch v. Mitchell, No. 08-2776

Action Concerning Prisoner's Assault On Another Inmate

In Schoelch v. Mitchell, No. 08-2776, an action by an inmate claiming that defendant officers failed to protect him from another inmate, summary judgment for defendants is affirmed where plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence to establish that he suffered an objectively serious deprivation.


Doe v. Todd Cty. Sch. Dist., No. 09-3221

Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act Decision

In Doe v. Todd Cty. Sch. Dist., No. 09-3221, an action claiming that defendant school officials violated plaintiff's federal procedural due process rights when his Individualized Education Program (IEP) team placed him in an alternative high school setting for thirty-eight days, summary judgment for plaintiffs is reversed where plaintiff's right to procedural due process was limited to the procedures governing the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act decision-maker under 20 U.S.C. section 1415.


Aaron v. Shelley, No. 09-3554

Action by Police Officer for False Arrest

In Aaron v. Shelley, No. 09-3554, an action based on plaintiff's false arrest for impersonating a police officer, and for false imprisonment and terroristic threatening of suspected drug offenders, the court dismissed defendants' appeal from the denial of summary judgment based on qualified immunity where, in denying defendant-officers summary judgment based on qualified immunity, the district court carefully explained the material disputed facts which, when viewed most favorably to plaintiff, would permit a reasonable jury to find that the officers lacked objectively reasonable probable cause to arrest plaintiff on each of the three charges. 


Kansas City v. Yarco Co., No. 09-3677

Challenge to Allegedly Discriminatory Curfew

In Kansas City v. Yarco Co., No. 09-3677, an action by a city under federal, state, and local law, claiming that defendant maintained a discriminatory curfew at an apartment complex, the court vacated judgment on the pleadings for defendant where, given the absence of standing on plaintiff's Federal Housing Act claim, the state and local claims could not proceed in federal court.

US v. Webster, No. 10-1295

Cocaine Conviction Affirmed

In US v. Webster, No. 10-1295, the court affirmed defendant's conviction for conspiracy to distribute at least fifty grams of cocaine base, holding that 1) the fact the arresting officers may not have "known" defendant had been rejected by the court as a reason to invalidate probable cause; 2) the officers were justified in relying on an informant in their probable cause determination; and 3) even though the officers may not have witnessed actual criminal activity between the informant and defendant, there was a "probability or substantial chance of criminal activity," which was sufficient to support a probable cause determination.

 

US v. Nicklas, No. 09-3784

Involuntary Medication Order Affirmed

In US v. Nicklas, No. 09-3784, the court affirmed the district court order that defendant be involuntarily medicated in order to restore his competency to stand trial, holding that 1) because of the intertwined nature of defendant's mental disease and his crimes, it was reasonable for the government to presume defendant may persist in committing similar offenses, and the government had an important interest in preventing recidivism; and 2) because of the relationship between defendant's alleged crime and his mental disease, and because of his prior conviction on similar charges, the government also had a substantial interest in seeking a sentence of supervised release.

Cole v. Roper, No. 09-1213

Capital Habeas Matter

In Cole v. Roper, No. 09-1213, a capital habeas matter, the court affirmed the denial of the petition where 1) the state court's factual findings regarding the three proffered similarly situated jurors in response to petitioner's Batson challenge were accorded a presumption of correctness; 2) with the strong expert testimony already in the hands of the state at the time of trial, it was unlikely that petitioner suffered any prejudice from counsel's failure to call more favorable expert or lay witnesses; and 3) evidence of petitioner's disposition to make a well-behaved and peaceful adjustment to life in prison was relevant mitigating evidence but counsel's failure to offer such evidence was not constitutionally deficient.

 

Deltoro-Aguilera v. US, No. 08-3783

Drug Conspiracy Sentence Affirmed

In Deltoro-Aguilera v. US, No. 08-3783, defendant's appeal from a denial of his motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, the court affirmed the order where defendant did no more than state the conclusion that he would have provided the government with truthful information had his counsel properly advised him, and presented no facts detailing his involvement in the methamphetamine conspiracy.

 

Dodge v. Robinson, No. 10-1189

Reversal of Grant of Drug Habeas Petition

In Dodge v. Robinson, No. 10-1189, a methamphetamine prosecution, the court reversed the grant of petitioner's habeas petition, holding that, because petitioner's double-jeopardy claim was without merit, his counsel's failure to raise the claim at trial could not constitute ineffective assistance.

Brake Landscaping & Lawncare, Inc. v. Hawkeye-Sec. Ins. Co., No. 09-3874

Denial of Insurance Coverage Affirmed

In Brake Landscaping & Lawncare, Inc. v. Hawkeye-Sec. Ins. Co., No. 09-3874, an action against two insurers arising out of their denial of coverage under two insurance policies, the court affirmed summary judgment for defendants where the policies' business risk exclusions barred claims arising out of the improper spraying of pesticides on plaintiff's lawn.

Taylor v. St. Louis Cty. Bd. of Election Comm'rs., No. 09-3714

Employment Action Against State Election Board

In Taylor v. St. Louis Cty. Bd. of Election Comm'rs., No. 09-3714, an action against the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners in their official and individual capacities for wrongful discharge under Missouri common law and for a violation of the Equal Pay Act, the court affirmed summary judgment for defendants where 1) Missouri law allowed a former employee to maintain a public-policy wrongful discharge cause of action only against a former employer; and 2) defendant did not produce any evidence to show that the Commissioners, when acting in their individual capacities, had the right to, or did in fact, exercise any of these indicia of control.

 

US v. Moore, No. 09-3309

Crack Sentence Affirmed

In US v. Moore, No. 09-3309, the court affirmed defendant's sentence for possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine, holding that 1) while Kimbrough permitted district courts to disagree with and vary from the amended crack cocaine guidelines, it did not require them to do so; 2) the district court's rejection of defendant's personal use testimony was not clearly erroneous; and 3) lying to obtain a lighter sentence was obstruction of justice under U.S.S.G. section 3C1.1, and the district court's finding that defendant lied must be accepted unless clearly erroneous.

US v. Villa-Gonzalez, No. 09-1764

Suppression of Evidence Affirmed

In US v. Villa-Gonzalez, No. 09-1764, a drug conspiracy, firearm possession and illegal reentry prosecution, the court affirmed the grant of defendants' motion to suppress evidence, holding that 1) the district court did not err when it concluded defendant was seized by the time he spoke to a customs officer on the phone; and 2) the district court did not err when it concluded the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine necessitated suppression of evidence discovered during the search of defendants' residence.