Criminal Law News - U.S. Eleventh Circuit
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A Georgia CEO will not escape his jail sentence after being found guilty of violating the U.S. trade embargo on Iran, the Eleventh Circuit held today. Mark Alexander, who manufactured and sold industrial machines, had been found guilty of trading with Iranian businesses.

The U.S. has imposed sanctions on Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and currently forbids virtually all trade with the country. At trial, Alexander claimed the government case against him was a "scam" and that he had been pressured to sell the goods by colleagues.

Given the success that John Oliver's HBO show "Last Week Tonight" had influencing the net neutrality conversation, maybe the private probation system will have some luck, too.

Thanks in part to Oliver, and to the Department of Justice report on Ferguson, Missouri, the nation knows that local police departments often charge defendants fines and fees well in excess of the original fines. These fees often include making a defendant pay for his own probation, and the proceeds usually go straight to the private probation company.

A federal class action complaint in Georgia, filed last week, wants to challenge that arrangement.

In Graham v. Florida, the U.S. Supreme Court said that the Eighth Amendment didn't allow for sentencing juvenile offenders to sentences of life without parole (LWOP) for non-homicide offenses. That's all well and good, but what about "de facto LWOP" sentences of 90 years, which would, in the case of one 17-year-old offender, get him out of prison at the ripe old age of 107?

Last week, the Florida Supreme Court issued opinions in four such juvenile life sentence cases, concluding that courts can't sentence juveniles to very long prison terms for non-homicide offenses.

A routine vehicle stop in Miami became anything but routine after a police officer shot a suspect in the groin -- for no apparent reason. Det. Carl Rousseau pulled over a car and reportedly saw the passenger, Robert Valderrama, throw something out the car window that turned out to be a crack pipe.

Even though Valderrama appeared to be compliant during the stop, Rousseau shot him in the groin (refer to the Eleventh Circuit opinion for more of the grisly details). Rousseau talked about the incident for three minutes with his partner, Sgt. Yasima Smith, before Smith called an ambulance, but she said only that there was "a laceration."

In Florida, it may be harder than ever to "catch a predator" in Florida. (See what I did there?) Last week, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that surreptitiously recorded statements of child sexual abuse couldn't be admitted at trial.

Richard McDade, the petitioner in this case, was secretly recorded by his stepdaughter, whom he was sexually abusing. The statements amounted to McDade's admission that he was sexually abusing her. The trial court let the audio recordings in.

In June, Cameron Bates, a former Florida sheriff's deputy, was convicted of possessing child pornography. But Bates also had sexual relationships with adult men, and he figured this information would be used at trial (which it was). Bates tried to head the problem off during voir dire by seeking to exclude potential jurors who were prejudiced against men who had sex with men.

The trial court denied the request. As expected, evidence of Bates' sexual relationships with adult men "was repeatedly paraded before the jury, over several objections from Mr. Bates." He was convicted of all counts.

11th Cir. SCOTUS Grants: Fish Shrinkage, Cell Tower, Railroad Tax

We could start with cell towers disguised as trees. Or railroad fuel tax. But no, the case we really want to talk about, and the first case out of the Eleventh Circuit that will be argued this year, is the "One fish, two fish, red fish, short fish" case, where a guy, who was debating the size of his red grouper, tossed the fish overboard and was prosecuted under a banking statute (Sarbanes-Oxley) for destroying the evidence.

Only then will the Court will get to the Monopine, and what a city must do to keep these man-made mockeries of nature out of their neighborhood. And after that? Whether Alabama can gouge rail carriers for a sales-and-use tax while exempting trucks and boats.

Convicted Terrorist Jose Padilla Resentenced to 21 Years

Well, it took 'em, what, three and a half years to finish interrogating him in a Navy brig? It's unsurprising, then, that nearly three years after the Eleventh Circuit rejected his previous sentence as too lenient, Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen-turned-terrorist affiliate (and alleged dirty bomb plotter), finally knows his fate: 21 years behind bars.

Thanks to that ruling, he did not get credit for the years of "harsh treatment" or torture he endured while locked up in the brig, without access to an attorney. However, the 21-year sentence is still below the guidelines, something that could draw the Eleventh Circuit's attention once again.

Case of Child Porn Suspect With AWOL Lawyer Gets En Banc Rehearing

Alexander Michael Roy, 31, was an eighth-grade teacher. He's now a convicted felon, or at least he might be after the Eleventh Circuit makes up its mind on his appeal of a conviction for online enticement of a minor and five counts of child pornography possession.

After Roy was caught in a sting operation, convicted, and sentenced, the Eleventh Circuit reversed his conviction because the trial proceeded for seven minutes while his attorney was late returning from lunch. Though his attorney failed to object, and though the testimony was only tangentially related to the most severe charge -- enticing a minor, which carries up to a life sentence -- the majority of the panel held that his right to counsel at all critical stages of the trial was violated, necessitating an automatic reversal.

Chief Judge Edward Carnes dissented vehemently from the automatic rule, predicting gamesmanship by defense attorneys. Something he said must have been persuasive, it seems, because less than a month after the initial opinion was filed, the court granted an en banc rehearing [PDF].

Case Involving Cell-Phone Location Data to Get En Banc Rehearing

Cell phone location data: Every time your phone pings the nearest tower, there is a record. Ever see a movie where they track a person using their cell phone? This is that, and no GPS chip is required. Sure, it's not as accurate, but it does say the defendant was in the general area of the crime.

That's what happened to Quartavious Davis. The government used a court order under the Stored Communications Act to get his cell-phone records, which requires a lower showing than probable cause under the Fourth Amendment.

The Eleventh Circuit held that Davis had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his location data, but will now give the case a second look with the full en banc treatment.