4th Circuit Criminal Law News - U.S. Fourth Circuit
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This is an early contender for a Supreme Court case -- assuming, of course, one of the parallel cases in a burgeoning circuit split doesn't make it onto the High Court's docket first.

The facts are relatively unremarkable: Aaron Graham and Eric Jordan were convicted of robbery after prosecutors used a court order -- not a warrant -- to obtain historical cell phone tower location data tied to their phones. This same scenario has played out twice before in appeals cases -- in the Fifth and Eleventh Circuits -- with mixed results.

How is it looking for these two defendants? There was no clear indication from the oral arguments, with the judges expressing concerns over both the government's and defendants' positions.

It's extremely hard these days to get indictments against corporate officers for corporate wrongdoing, but the feds managed it in the case of Donald Blankenship, the former chief executive of Massey Energy, one of the country's largest coal mining companies.

Blankenship was indicted on federal conspiracy and false statement charges for allegedly covering up mine safety violations that led to an explosion, killing 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia four years ago. Now, though, a federal court has imposed a gag order on the whole thing.

We quipped that the Tenth Circuit's two SCOTUS-bound cases were the most boring you'd hear all year long. Apparently, we were wrong. Meet the case that has twin issues: a "first to file" limit on related qui tam actions, as well as a six-year-statute of limitations that bars claims ... except maybe, when we're in wartime. Kellogg Brown & Root Services, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Carter is not a case you'll want to read before operating heavy machinery.

Fortunately, the final case in the Fourth Circuit's four-pack is Whitfield v. U.S., an attempted bank robbery case that includes a botched indictment, a lady who was frightened to death, and a wee bit of statutory interpretation. The second case, folks, is fascinating.

Happy Friday! We know, you're not in the mood to read dense case law right now -- you want something lighter. In fact, you're reading this blog for just that purpose.

We've got your back. Here are three quick, local updates from Fourth Circuit cases, including oral arguments in a prison contraband smuggling sentence appeal, an interesting note on amici in the Supreme Court's UPS pregnancy discrimination case (originally out of the Fourth Circuit), and a federal judge in West Virginia's decision to stay out of the gay marriage controversy until the Supreme Court steps in.

There's that old joke, right? The "you know what they do to guys like that in prison" truism.

Well, David Karl Danser, who was convicted of sexually abusing his 9-year-old daughter, then taking photographs and sharing them with others, was put in the SHU (Special Housing Unit, aka protective custody) at a minimum security prison. SHU inmates are given the choice of outdoor recreation in 10-by-10-foot cages, usually with another inmate or two. Inmates are screened against separation orders, which are based on past conflict and probability of a violent encounter.

There were no red flags between Danser and his attacker. Yet, he ended up in the hospital with broken ribs, a ruptured spleen, punctured lungs, and a few other assorted injuries after a guard broke protocol and left him and the other inmates unattended. Sounds suspicious, right? But fortunately for the prison staff, qualified immunity applies.

After days of deliberation, the verdict is in: Both Gov. Bob McDonnell and wife Maureen McDonnell have been found guilty of multiple charges.

What were the charges? Each faced 14 in total. The couple faced 13 charges in common, including wire fraud, conspiracy, and false statements, while each faced a single separate charge -- false statements for Bob McDonnell and obstruction for Maureen McDonnell, reports Washington's WAMU Radio.

Out of the 14 counts each, Bob was found guilty of 11 counts, while Maureen was convicted on nine counts.

The circus that is the McDonnell Corruption Trial continued on Monday, this time with former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on the stand facing intense cross-examination by both the government and his co-defendant wife's counsel.

After Bob McDonnell spent days last week testifying as his own star witness, telling jurors that he couldn't have conspired with his wife because their marriage was estranged, that his wife was on medication for her frequent emotional outbursts, and that she was the one who sought out gifts from Jonnie Williams without his knowledge, the cross-examination, which could last for days, commenced.

One thing was clear after the first day of cross-examination: Bob McDonnell, the former prosecutor and state attorney general, was ready. "I've been preparing every day since you indicted me," he testified on the stand.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court held in United States v. Jones that GPS tracking of a suspect's car amounted to a search under the Fourth Amendment. Before that decision, however, the law was unclear at best (and may have even supported the notion that GPS tracking wasn't a search). That's the point of today's Fourth Circuit, Fourth Amendment opinion: The exclusionary rule won't bar evidence obtained through a search that was performed by an officer who was relying on binding precedent.

Binding? Sort of. There was a lot of case law stating that these weren't searches, all of which pointed to a 1983 U.S. Supreme Court case that dealt with beepers -- the predecessor to the modern GPS tracker. Judge Stephanie Thacker, in dissent, argued that the precedent wasn't binding, and that officers shouldn't rush to use emerging technology without first seeking legal guidance.

The high-powered world of international espionage can lead to laser beams, women who can kill you with their thighs, and henchmen with metal teeth.

Or it can lead you to the Fourth Circuit Court Appeals, arguing over jurisdiction. Albert R. Broccoli presents ... "Dual Proceedings."

Boy meets girl. Both are teens. He, however, is seventeen. She, like the Taylor Swift song, is only fifteen.

Somebody in Prince William County, Virginia, however, is not a fan of teenage love (or lust). Now, because the young man did what lots of young people do with their smartphones, and responded to his former girlfriend's photos with a video of his penis, he's facing two felony child porn charges and the possibility of being a registered sex offender.

It gets worse: Prosecutors are so eager to prosecute the boy for photographing his own penis, that they not only took photos of his penis when he was arrested, but also have obtained a search warrant to take a photograph of his erect penis at a later date for comparison sake.