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Fake Prescriptions Case Goes Back to Trial Court

Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson is different, and it has nothing to do with the spelling of her name.

It has to do with her words and how she crafts an opinion. Any judge who can introduce a standard of review with a "quick heads up," knows how to catch a reader's attention.

At least that's how Thompson explained the decision of the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals in United States of America v. Stepanets. As it turned out, the defendants needed the warning.

Missed Deadline Kills School Shooting Case

Seventeen-year-old Patrick Skrabec made a terrible joke, telling his Attelboro classmates "he would like to shoot up the school."

Because of the Sandy Hook shooting days earlier, that joke put Skrabec in jail -- until he was released and found not guilty of threatening to commit a crime. He and his family then sued for false arrest and other claims.

A judge threw out his case, largely because his lawyer made a terrible mistake. He failed to oppose a motion for summary judgment.

Bath Salts Conviction Upheld by First Circuit

Alan Ketchen came to the party a little too late.

Not the drug fest at his house; that party was going on all the time. It was his motion to withdraw a guilty plea; that was too late.

Ketchen wanted a do-over because -- after he pleaded guilty to drug charges -- a new case said prosecutors had to prove criminal defendants know the drugs they are dealing are controlled substances or "substantially similar" drugs. But in United States of America v. Ketchen, the dealer missed his chance.

Murder-for-Hire Failed Twice

Andrew Gordon wanted a hit man to kill his wife.

Only problem was, he confided in someone who tipped off police and the would-be "hit man" turned out to be an undercover officer. So Gordon sought another hit man to kill the undercover officer and the tipster.

But you just can't get good help these days, and the second potential conspirator squealed on him. Gordon got 20 years in prison.

Captain's Appeal Goes Down With Cocaine Shipment

If you're going to smuggle drugs, be sure to obey all traffic laws.

We're talking transportation regulations, like boating laws that say a ship's captain must turn on navigation lights at night. That's what brought down a captain on the waters between Venezuela and Puerto Rico.

That, and the bricks of cocaine he left on deck. Police saw the drugs and arrested him and his crew for breaking other trafficking laws.

Court: FBI Child-Porn Search Validated

Using a technology originally designed to protect government communications, the dark web hides all sorts of criminal activity.

On Playpen, users got access to the child porn site without detection -- so they thought. But the FBI seized Playpen and installed tracking software, resulting in hundreds of user-arrests.

A trial judge said a search warrant was invalid in one case that could have unraveled everything, but an appeals court reversed in United States v. Levin. Turn-about, as it were, was fair to Playpen users.

Bribing the Judge Didn't Pay

Sometimes, a routine traffic stop turns into something more serious. One day in Puerto Rico, it led to the end of a judicial career and 10 years to think about it.

Judge Manuel Acevedo-Hernandez wasn't even driving when police pulled over the car. His friend was driving.

The problem was the officers recognized his friend from a negligent homicide case. The judge had just dismissed it.

The appeal of Douglas Blodgett over the 10-year sentence he received as a result of his guilty plea to criminal charges for accessing child pornography with the intent to view it has been shot down with more explanation than anyone likely expected.

Blodgett was convicted in 2016 after a DHS investigation discovered that he had downloaded and viewed child pornography. However, due to a prior conviction for molesting a 13 year old in 1997, he was subject to the mandatory minimum sentence under the PROTECT Act, which was passed in 2003. The PROTECT Act was designed to penalize participants in the child pornography distribution chain at all levels, from producer to consumer, as well as enhance the penalties for repeat offenders.

Can a General Creditor Recoup Funds in Asset Forfeiture?

Two things are certain: death and taxes. Government claims are a close third.

That's a one-sentence summary of United States of America v. Catala, decided by the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals. The appellate court said, as between the government and a general creditor, the government has priority to assets forfeited in a criminal case.

Forfeiture laws are designed to separate a criminal from ill-gotten gains, the appeals panel said. It would carve a "gaping hole into the forfeiture framework" to allow a general creditor to collect from those assets.

The First Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision in the case of U.S. v. Giggey. The appeal questioned the sentence that was imposed on an individual convicted of conspiracy to sell, and possession with intent to sell, both controlled and analogue substances. The substance in question was bath salts, which is just a common name for what could be one of many actual drugs or analogues.

The appeal sought to reduce the sentence based upon various legal theories, including leniency, believe it or not. The appellant, Giggey, received a 72-month sentence, which, as the First Circuit Court of Appeals noted, was significantly less than what the lower court could have imposed. Nevertheless, Giggey sought reconsideration.