Conviction for Honest Services Fraud Upheld Despite Skilling, Plus, Immigration, Trademark Infringement, Civil Rights, & Employment Matters - U.S. Seventh Circuit
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Conviction for Honest Services Fraud Upheld Despite Skilling, Plus, Immigration, Trademark Infringement, Civil Rights, & Employment Matters

US v. Sanchez, 08-2679, concerned a challenge to the district court's convictions of defendant for conspiracy and attempted kidnapping of witnesses in a trial against a drug kingpin, and conspiracy to retaliate against these witnesses.

 

In affirming in part, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence regarding the underlying uncharged drug-trafficking conspiracy as this evidence was highly probative of defendant's motive for orchestrating the kidnapping.  The court also held that the the evidence was sufficient to sustain defendant's convictions for conspiracy to kidnap and attempted kidnapping. 

However, the court reversed and remanded with respect to defendant's conviction on the retaliation count as the government presented no evidence that defendant knew the two targets of the kidnapping plot had given testimony against the drug trafficker for whom defendant was purportedly working, but rather, evidence suggested that defendant thought the witnesses owed the drug kingpin money,  Thus, defendant's sentence is remanded for resentencing on an independent ground as the district judge erroneously withheld a three-level reduction under U.S.S.G. section 2X1.1(b)(1) because he mistakenly concluded that defendant was "about to complete" the kidnapping.

 US v. Favara, 09-2589, concerned a prosecution of defendants for fraudulently acquiring and selling corporate securities.  In affirming the district court's sentences, the court held that the district court's error in a defendant's offense level calculation was harmless.  Further, district court's imposition of a sentence of 70-months' imprisonment upon defendant and a 262-months' imprisonment upon the other defendant (organizer of the scheme), was not unreasonable.

US v. Carlisle, 10-1173, concerned a challenge to the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress evidence found in a backpack, in a prosecution of defendant for knowingly possessing with intent to distribute five grams or more of a mixture containing a detectible amount of cocaine base and for possessing with intent to distribute marijuana.  In affirming, the court held that the initial stop was proper and given the totality of the circumstances, the officers' actions in detaining defendant did not violate his Fourth Amendment rights, and that the defendant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the backpack sufficient to allow him to challenge the search.

US v. Cantrell, 09-1856, concerned a challenge to the district court's conviction of defendant for honest services fraud, for using his position in public office to steer contracts to a third party in exchange for kickbacks, and other crimes, and sentence of 78 months' imprisonment.  In affirming both the conviction and the sentence, the court held that defendant's award of contracts was clearly a kickback scheme, so section 1346 - even as pared down by Skilling v. United States, 561 U.S. __, 2010 WL 2518587 (2010) - applies to defendant.  Also, the district court did not err in applying U.S.S.G. section 2C1.1.  Lastly, the court held that there is no evidence that the district judge committed procedural error or otherwise acted unreasonably in imposing a within-guidelines sentence.

Superl Sequoia Ltd. v. Carlson Co., Inc., 09-2406, involved a furniture manufacturer's suit for breach of contract against another furniture manufacturer, arising from the latter's bid proposal to Macy's Inc. for equipment and services needed to turn portions of 226 stores into settings for a promotion.  In vacating the district court's judgment, the court remanded the matter with instructions to calculate the net judgment, as an email exchange between the parties shows that they were to be treated alike, and using plaintiff's $3.4 million bid as a cap but not as a floor would violate that symmetry.

Specialized Seating, Inc. v. Greenwich Indus., LP, 07-1435, concerned a challenge to the district court's judgment in favor of the plaintiff, in plaintiff's suit for declaratory judgment against its competitor, claiming that its folding chair design does not violate defendant's rights under the Lanham Act.  In affirming, the court held that the district court did not commit clear error in concluding not only that the overall design of defendant's folding chair was functional, but also that each feature is functional.

Romanelli v. Suliene, 08-1762, concerned a challenge to the jury's special verdict in favor of the defendants, in an inmate's 42 U.S.C. section 1983 suit against a jail physician and a jail sergeant, claiming that his right to receive acceptable medical care during his pretrial detention at a county jail was violated.  In affirming the verdict, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiff's motions for court-appointed counsel, and that the district court was well within its discretion in admitting evidence of plaintiff's prior convictions.

Robinson v. McNeil Consumer Healthcare, 09-4011, concerned a challenge to the district court's judgment in favor of defendant finding that plaintiff had been contributorily negligent, in plaintiff's products liability suit against defendant for developing a life threatening disease after taking doses of Children's Motrin.  In affirming, the court held that Virginia law governs this case as, to avoid the incentive to forum shop, the initial place of injury is properly deemed the place in which the injury occurred.  The court ultimately held that there was enough evidence that plaintiff was contributorily negligent to bar her claim under Virginia law and enough evidence that her contributory negligence exceeded the defendant's negligence to bar her claim even if Illinois rather than Virginia law applied.

Mancillas-Ruiz v. Holder, 09-3607, concerned a petition for review of the BIA's affirmance of an IJ's ruling ordering petitioner removed to Mexico and finding that he was ineligible to apply for a waiver of removal under former section 212 of the INA because the aggravated felony crime of violence category under which the government sought the removal has no statutory counterpart under INA section 212(a).  In denying the petition, the court held that, once the BIA found that petitioner's crime was properly identified as an aggravated felony of violence, the only inquiry left was to determine if a substantially equivalent counterpart existed in section 212(a).  Thus, defendant's argument that, although he is ineligible to apply for relief based on his crime of violence aggravated felony status, he should be allowed to apply on the alternate basis that the government also charged that his crimes were crimes involving moral turpitude is rejected as meritless.

Lindsey v. Walgreen Co., 10-1036, concerned a challenge to the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant, in a 53-year-old pharmacist's suit against Walgreens under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.  In affirming, the court held that, because the record reveals that the district pharmacy manager did not rely solely on the store pharmacy manager's allegations, plaintiff cannot make out her cat's paw theory (an unbiased decisionmaker who is being used as a tool by a biased employee).  Further, substantial and undisputed evidence in the record supports Walgreens' assertion that it fired plaintiff not because of her age but because she violated company policy.

Jay Franco & Sons, Inc. v. Franek, 09-2155, concerned a challenge to the district court's grant of summary judgment, in plaintiff's suit to invalidate defendant's mark for circular towels.  In affirming, the court held that defendant's mark is presumptively functional under Traffix Devices, Inc. v. Marketing Displays, Inc. v. 532 U.S. 23 (2001), and defendant has failed to rebut the presumption.

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