Criminal Law News - U.S. First Circuit
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After Blessing Iwuala received his master's degree in business administration in Nigeria, he put his learning to use opening a medical supply company. When Iwuala teamed up with John Nasky, who ran a medical billing business, the two used Iwuala's company to circumvent Nasky's pervious ban from Medicare payments. Soon, Medicare payments for durable medical equipment left Iwuala "awash in a flood of easy money."

That arrangement netted Iwuala quick cash with little work, but it also landed him in jail when Nasky's fraudulent billing was revealed. Iwuala was sentenced to three and a half years in prison, despite his claims that he was an innocent dupe. On appeal, the First Circuit upheld his conviction in full.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Sentenced to Death

Did you really think it was going to end differently? After weeks of testimony in the sentencing phase of convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the same federal jury that found him guilty April 30 sentenced him to death Friday for the bombing that killed three, and injured more than 240 others.

The jury reached a verdict after deliberating for only 14 hours -- just three hours more than it took them to find him guilty of all 30 counts with which he was charged.

1st Cir. Upholds Conviction of Man Who Killed Informant

In 2004, Madelin Semidey-Morales was dating Edison Burgos-Montes while Semidey's husband was in prison. She agreed to work with the DEA to inform on Burgos, who was a drug dealer. She recorded conversations and arranged purchases for cocaine with DEA agents.

A year or so later, one of Burgos' employees told him that Semidey was a government informant. After that, Semidey mysteriously disappeared. Her body was never found.

The First Circuit, in an opinion by former Supreme Court Justice Souter, upheld a Massachusetts police officer's excessive force conviction stemming from an assault on an arrestee. Shawn Coughlin, a cop in Plymouth, Massachusetts -- yes, the Plymouth of Plymouth Rock fame -- was sentenced to a year and a day in prison after beating a handcuffed arrestee in a holding cell and falsifying records to impede the federal investigation.

On appeal, Coughlin claimed that there was insufficient evidence that his actions, striking the arrestee in the head and kneeing him in the torso, resulted in bodily injury. Not so, said the First Circuit. If it looks like a beating and sounds like a beating, it probably feels like one too -- and that's enough for a jury to decided that there was bodily injury.

Maine Man Gets 14 1/2 Years for Child Pornography

Another day, another child pornography appeal. This time, Timothy Majeroni is appealing a 2012 conviction for child pornography, which occurred when he was already on supervised release for a previous conviction for -- wait for it -- child pornography.

Majeroni tried to throw everything he could at the wall, but nothing was going to stick. That's how these cases go sometimes.

It was a drug smuggling conspiracy straight out of a pulp novel -- or telenovella. For two years, Manuel "El Boss" Santana-Cabrera sent drug couriers on flights from San Juan to Philadelphia and New York. The couriers would check in with regular luggage, which airport workers would swap out with cocaine-packed suitcases to be handed off to a taxi driver upon arrival.

Eventually, the DEA caught wind, one smuggler turned on another, and bit-players Jorge Correa-Osorio and Denise Shephard-Fraser were arrested. In a dramatic in-court identification, Correa was outed as "El Don," responsible for smuggling the drugs into the airport. It was a scene, he argued on appeal, that was unduly suggestive and violated his due process rights.

First Circuit Judge Ojetta Thompson pulled no punches in rejecting an appeal from a criminal defendant who plead guilty to leading a conspiracy to import cocaine into Puerto Rico. Miguelito Arroyo-Blas had appealed his sentence, which he argued was based on improper categorization of his criminal history.

Those objections don't matter, Thompson held -- and she wasn't nice about it. Arroyo-Blas waived his right to appeal in the plea agreement and couldn't simply ignore that now.

1st Cir. Affirms Guilty Plea of Figueroa Cartel Member

Even though he entered a "straight" guilty plea, and was sentenced to the bottom of the range suggested by the federal Sentencing Guidelines, Carlos Torres-Landrua appealed to challenge the reasonableness of his sentence.

Torres was charged with just two counts of drug trafficking and one count of money laundering, but received 168 months (that's 14 years). He was part of a drug trafficking conspiracy that moved cocaine from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico and then to the U.S. mainland. The First Circuit, however, affirmed his sentence.

Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Guilty on All Counts

The verdict is in: After barely two days of deliberation, a federal jury found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty on all of the 30 counts relating to his involvement in the 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon, which killed three and injured over 200.

Now that Tsarnaev has been found guilty on at least one of the 17 counts that carry the death penalty, the trial will now proceed to the sentencing phase, where the same jury will decide whether Tsarnaev should be given that sentence.

Lawyers in the Boston bombing trial presented their final arguments today, following weeks of testimony. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces 30 counts and a possible death sentence for his participation, alongside his deceased brother, in the twin bombings which killed three and left over 200 others wounded during the 2013 Boston Marathon.

In dueling narratives, prosecutors sought to portray Tsarnaev as a calculated jihadi who attacked the event to make a political point, while the defense characterized him as a young man under the influence of a brother who was much more to blame.