Criminal Law News - U.S. Eleventh Circuit
U.S. Eleventh Circuit - The FindLaw 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

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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.

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.

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].

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.

Quartavious Davis and five others were found guilty of robbery and racketeering, among other things, in 2011. The government used historical cell-site information to place Davis and the others close to the scenes of the robberies around the time they occurred.

Historical cell-site information consists of the records of which cell tower a phone was closest to at the time it made a call, along with the direction of the caller from the tower. This can be used to calculate a location for the caller.

One fish, two fish, red fish, short fish?

John L. Yates is a commercial fisherman. In 2007, he was hauling in some red grouper when a fisheries officer boarded his ship to inspect his haul. After measuring the fish and finding that some of them were less than the minimum size of 20 inches, he issued Yates a citation and set aside the short fish for inspection at the docks.

Yates had his crew toss the short fish overboard and replace them with other fish. He was later convicted for violating an evidence destruction provision of the the Sarbanes-Oxley Act banking reform statute, passed in the wake of the Enron scandal. He's appealing that conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the vague statute has no place in the Gulf of Mexico.

They are a trio of siblings so famous that GQ did an entire profile on them, post-crime spree. Dylan was the leader, Ryan was his younger brother who was on probation for sending explicit text messages to a minor. And Lee-Grace? She was the stripper with a machine pistol. Together, the Dougherty Gang shot at and outran a cop in Florida, robbed a bank in Georgia, and led officers on a high speed chase in Colorado, before spike strips sent their car into a tumble.

After a few more shots fired, and three arrests, the trio each earned a sentence of 428 months here in the Eleventh Circuit, along with other sentences in other jurisdictions. Now, thanks to a misinterpreted sentencing guideline, and one sibling's botched paperwork, Dylan and Lee-Grace will get a shot a resentencing, while Ryan counts down the next thirty-five years in a cell.

On Tuesday, the first execution since the botched, torturous death of Clayton Lockett seven weeks ago went through without a hitch. After apologizing for his actions, Marcus Wellons was executed for the rape and murder of his neighbor, 15-year-old India Roberts, reports The New York Times.

However, a concurrence in the denial of a last minute stay by the Eleventh Circuit highlighted an unanswered question that remains for Georgia and other states with capital punishment and secretly sourced lethal injection drugs.

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Fun fact: if your cell phone is turned on, your phone carrier can tell where you are.

How? Your phone's radio is constantly connecting to cell phone towers, which means even without a GPS signal, the carrier can approximate your location. You may have already know this (it shows up in movies all the time), but if you didn't, well, you do now. What you probably didn't know is that it might be legal for the police to snatch this data without a warrant.

Unless you reside in the Eleventh Circuit.

Something about this deal stinks.

In 2006, according to the Eleventh Circuit, Jeffrey Epstein was investigated by the FBI for sexually abusing "several minor girls." He was eventually non-pros'd by the U.S. Attorney's Office as part of a plea deal in which he would plead guilty to state charges of solicitation of prostitution and procurement of minors to engage in prostitution.

Paul Cassell, the attorney for two of Epstein's victims, describes the case in more extreme terms on The Volokh Conspiracy, noting that "wealthy investor Jeffrey Epstein had sexually abused dozens and dozens of minor girls." After extensive plea negotiations, during which the victims were kept completely in the dark, he copped a plea to "minor Florida offenses."

Cassell, along with his co-counsel Brad Edwards, filed suit on behalf of two Jane Does, seeking eventually to have the non-prosecution agreement rescinded. To justify such a remedy, they sought discovery of pretrial correspondence between Epstein and the U.S. Attorney's Office. The request was granted by the district court, and last week, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed.