7th Circuit Criminal Law News - U.S. Seventh Circuit
U.S. Seventh Circuit - The FindLaw 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Recent Criminal Law Decisions

In a reminder that sentencing can be a difficult balancing act, the Seventh Circuit, in an opinion by Judge Posner, has vacated the sentence imposed on a recidivist substance abuser. The judgment was reversed technically for failure to consult the relevant sentencing guidelines, though the court didn't hesitate to tell the district court judge that he ought to reconsider the conditions of supervised release as well.

The opinion addresses the case of Joshua Downs, who six months after he was given probation for a drug offense, injured another while drunk driving. His probation revoked, Downs was sentenced to a year and a day in prison and ten years of supervised release -- without the judge examining the sentencing guidelines for his offense.

It's a rare event, indeed, when a federal circuit court actually grants a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The federal habeas corpus standard is fairly unforgiving, granting great deference to lower courts and construing ambiguities in the law against the petitioner.

Owens v. Duncan, however, is a pretty clear-cut case of a defendant who was afforded very little of the process he was due. Judge Richard Posner showed little patience for a case based on "the combination of weak proof with a verdict based on groundless conjecture."

If you're looking for treasure troves of interesting Fourth Amendment issues, it seems like your two go-to crimes are drugs and child pornography. This case from the Seventh Circuit involves the latter.

An informant allowed an FBI agent to assume his identity online. The agent corresponded with defendant Michael Borostowski, who offered to provide the agent with child pornography in exchange for a webcam "session" with a child. After receiving the promised pornography, the agent got a warrant to search Borostowski's Yahoo email account, revealing, shockingly, more pornography! This led to a warrant of Borostowski's physical home and some more porn, then a conviction and a 24-year prison sentence.

For some reason, criminals think there is magic in the phrase: "You gotta tell me if you're a cop." Except there isn't and really, police don't. This lead to Leslie Mayfield's predicament. Mayfield was set up by undercover government agents to rob a fake drug "stash" house. Mayfield tried to invoke the "entrapment" defense, but predictably, the court said no. Mayfield was convicted and sentenced to a "whopping" 322 months in prison (that's almost 27 years).

In this opinion from an en banc rehearing, the Seventh Circuit took a long, concerted look at entrapment, concluding that, because it's a fact-based defense, it should have at least been submitted to the jury for consideration. The opinion attempts to settle some confusion within the circuit about the appropriate standard for entrapment.

7th Cir. Accidentally Releases Gov. Walker Campaign Probe Documents

In 2012, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker dodged efforts to recall him after his administration stripped public employees of their union rights. He didn't emerge completely unscathed, however -- shortly after the election, prosecutors began looking into whether members of his administration violated campaign finance laws.

Though two judges have already heard the evidence and ordered prosecutors to back off, the Seventh Circuit is currently hearing those prosecutors' pleas to continue looking into the governor's staff's ties to the Wisconsin Club for Growth, a nonprofit conservative group that funneled cash to a number of other conservative PACs that helped Gov. Walker fight back against the recall push.

On Friday, the Seventh Circuit accidentally released confidential documents related to the case. What did those documents show?

You remember Rod Blagojevich, right? The former governor of Illinois who was convicted of corruption for attempting to sell former U.S. Senator Barack Obama's senate seat? (I wonder what happened to that guy?)

Blagojevich and his awesome hair resurfaced in an opinion from the Seventh Circuit on Friday, where the court found there was sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment on a RICO claim against him.

Earlier this month, the Wisconsin Supreme Court held that a sheriff's deputy knocking on a car window, by itself, was not a sufficient show of authority to lead the driver to believe that he was being detained. As a result, the encounter was consensual because the driver could have driven away at any time.


At around 1 a.m. on Christmas Day 2011, Grant County Sheriff's Deputy Matthew Small noticed a car pull into a closed park and stop in the parking lot. Small pulled up behind the car, but didn't have his red-and-blue lights on. He walked up to the window and tapped on it, telling him to roll down the window. Daniel Vogt rolled down the window. Small administered a field sobriety test, which Vogt failed. Vogt was arrested for driving while intoxicated and later moved to suppress evidence obtained from the traffic stop.

There's some interesting summer action happening in the Seventh Circuit -- summer time is no time for fun and games, apparently. As things heat up outside, they are heating up headlines and court rooms as we wait on some key decisions.

Read on to find out more on John Doe Probes, Rod Blagojovich and the latest trend in contraception mandate litigation.

Francis Grady was on a mission to "blow up" a Planned Parenthood clinic in Grand Chute, Wisconsin, and when we was arrested, tried and convicted of arson and intentionally damaging property, he was surprised. With no wiggle room to get out of his conviction, he challenged the district court's definition of "maliciously" on appeal.

The Arson

Grady went to Daniel Wolf's house seeking gasoline and told him "that he wanted to blow up Planned Parenthood." Wolf refused, and Grady proceeded to buy gasoline, go to Planned Parenthood and start a fire. After hearing about the fire on the news, Wolf contacted police about Grady. During the police interview Grady confessed and said that he "lit the clinic up," that his "intention was to light the building," and he had told a friend afterward that he "thought as far as I know I though it f*****' burned right down."

A second-year law student posted an ad on Craigslist asking parents to "sell me your teenage daughter" and then was surprised when he was caught, convicted and thrown in jail. Do you think he skipped the semester when they covered criminal law first year?

The Underlying Offense

Harry McMillan is the law student who sought sex online from minors, and he engaged in a negotiation with Chief Andrews, a member of the Illinois Attorney General's Task Force on Internet Crimes Against Children and the U.S. Secret Service's Southern Illinois Cyber Crimes Task Force, though McMillan thought he was communicating with "Mike," the father of a teenage girl willing to have sex. Though he feared "Mike" might be a police officer, Officer Andrews (as "Mike") told him "I don't want to go to jail either."