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

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The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that the search of a smartphone at the border does not require a warrant, or even probable cause, even if we're talking about a forensic search.

The underlying criminal case involved the conviction of a man for possession of child pornography. Law enforcement discovered illegal videos and images as a result of searching his phone at the U.S. border crossing area at a port in Florida. The border agent initially saw a few videos he believed depicted minors in sex acts, and then had a DHS agent take over from there.

Medicare Fraudster's Conviction Affirmed

For the defendant in a multi-million dollar fraud case, it was not a good sign when a juror walked into deliberations wearing a T-shirt that said, "American Greed."

After the jury returned a guilty verdict, the defense attorney filed a motion to interview the juror to find out if he had pre-judged the case and influenced other jurors. The trial judge denied the motion, and an appeals court affirmed.

In United States of America v. Nerey, the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals said the juror's T-shirt message was not enough to prove he was unfair. After all, the court noted, it's a television show.

Sweepstakes Scammers Sentenced

What was the judge thinking when he sentenced four men to prison for a $25 million sweepstakes scam?

The prosecutors asked for a 20-year sentence for Matthew Pisoni and heavy sentences for his co-conspirators as well. But U.S. Judge Darrin Gayles sent Pisoni, the ring-leader, to prison for seven years and his co-defendants for lesser times.

Was it out of sympathy for Pisoni, who lost a son to a drug overdose after the conviction? Was it the miscarriage Pisoni's wife suffered after the trial? Or was it the prosecutors, who used a co-defendant to spy on Pisoni's attorneys?

The former high school basketball coach out of Greensboro, North Carolina that led North Guilford High boys' team to win the state championship, Stan Kowalewski, has had his 24 count federal felony conviction upheld by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Thankfully, none of these counts have anything to do with abusing his team, but rather, just the financial trust of the community.

Kowalewski ran a hedge fund company, SJK Investment Management. However, it turns out that SJK's management mismanaged funds, causing losses to clients totaling $8 million. Included in those losses is the $4 million beach home Kowalewski bought in the other Carolina, on Pawley's Island.

A recent Florida Supreme Court case went a bit beyond the regular euphemisms about the birds and the bees into a straight up, in your face, hardcore examination of sexual intercourse.

The definition of sexual intercourse, that is. Examining a Florida law criminalizing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, the court was forced to determine just what counted as "sexual intercourse." Was it limited to old-fashioned, Church-approved, when-a-man-loves-a-woman-very-much stuff, or could it be read to include some man-on-man action?

In Miami-Dade County, sex offenders who have been convicted of crimes involving victims under the age of 16 cannot live within 2,500 feet of any school, with few exceptions. Now, two sex offenders say that the restrictions were so harsh they were driven to homelessness. Miami-Dade's law so limited housing options that both offenders had nowhere left to live but a homeless encampment, they claim.

Those offenders sued, alleging that the law, adopted in 2005 and after their convictions, was so punitive that it violated the ex post facto clause of the federal and Florida constitutions. Though their claims were initially tossed out, the Eleventh Circuit revived their suit on Monday, finding that the offenders had sufficiently alleged that Miami-Dade County had violated their constitutional rights.

11th Circuit to Drunken, Randy Player-Types: Caveat Emptor

This next question is going to smack some readers as being highly chauvinistic, but what does a rich man in a bar expect when beautiful young girl asks him to buy her a drink? This question, believe it or not, is at the heart of a recent Eleventh Circuit case that reversed several criminal convictions against some enterprising businesses in Miami.

The opinion is colorful, offering a dose of booze, Star Trek, film-noir, and theology in such an efficient bundle -- all of which help lead the court to answer the "what are you expecting" question with "not much."

Officer Jails Real Estate Agents Who Foreclosed on His House

Circuit cases don't often involve terribly outlandish scenarios. Here's an exception. In this qualified immunity case, a police officer arrested the real estate agents for the new owners of his home after they foreclosed on his house.

Based on that brief set of facts, how do you think the court ruled? You're probable right.

The Eleventh Circuit recently upheld the conviction of "an international sex trafficker named 'Drac' (short for Dracula) who sometimes dressed up as a vampire, complete with yellow contact lenses and gold-plated fangs." Drac, also known as Damion St. Patrick Baston, a Jamaican pimp with a theatrical side, was convicted for sex trafficking across the globe, from Florida, to Australia, to the United Arab Emirates. Baston's criminal inspiration wasn't limited to Nosferatu, either. Baston taught himself to pimp by studying Pimpology, a how-to by "Pimpin' Ken."

Let's sink our teeth into this surprisingly true story, shall we?

11th Cir. Upholds Maximum Sentence for Career Felon

Ricardo Lenin Osorio-Moreno is not a nice person. Troubling childhood aside, his criminal history began at the age of 15 with crimes of grand theft, burglary, armed robbery, and possession; he was a fast learner in the art of being a career criminal. In fact, his rap sheet is so long, it's one of those things you have to see to believe. The Eleventh Circuit Court opinion is approximately 11 pages long: Osorio's detailed convictions take at least half of the opinion text.

The lower district court ratcheted up his sentence in prison to 120 months after the latest episode of a run in with the law. The circuit court affirmed the lower court's decision with all its blessing.