7th Circuit Criminal Law News - U.S. Seventh Circuit
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Recent Criminal Law Decisions

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.

Background

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."

Darnell Boyce was convicted of five state felonies in 1991, and served concurrent sentences. After he served his sentences and was on supervised release, he was arrested and convicted of unlawful use of a weapon. As a result, he returned to prison, and his supervised release was revoked. After he was released for the unlawful use of weapon charge, he received a letter restoring his civil rights to vote and hold state office.

In 2010, Boyce's girlfriend called 911 shortly after a domestic violence incident, in which she told the operator that Boyce had a gun. When police arrived on the scene, Boyce ran away, and was observed throwing a gun. A gun was found in the area where he threw the object, and when searched he was found to have ammunition on him.

The Armed Career Criminal Act requires that a person who was convicted of three violent felonies, or serious drug offenses, and then commits an offense violating federal firearms law, is deemed an armed career criminal and requires a sentence of at least 15-years imprisonment. While it may seem straight forward, many issues arise that bring into question whether a defendant should qualify as an armed career criminal.

Three Qualifying Convictions, or Two?

Roosevelt Spencer had three underlying convictions when he pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm. Finding that his three prior convictions qualified as violent felonies or serious drug offenses, the district court decided that he was an armed career criminal and sentenced him to the minimum term. While Spencer did not contest the categorization of two of his underlying felony, he denied that the third conviction qualified as a serious drug offense.

No, this case is not straight out of a Cheech and Chong movie -- it's real. And yes, we are lucky that Judge Posner wrote the opinion because we all know that no one gives a good benchslap like Judge Posner.

In Medlock v. Trustees of Indiana University, the Seventh Circuit had to explore the relationship between a student and his university, whether the university's agents were state actors, and the privacy interests that inure in this unique setting.

The Seventh Circuit is a delight to cover -- how could it not be when you have the likes of Posner and Easterbrook writing opinions? And with such high-profile judges on the bench, the Seventh Circuit is in the news sometimes as much for its personalities as it is for the law coming out of the jurisdiction.

As we take this time to get prepped for what 2014 has to offer, here's a look back at 2013 to see the legal highlights from the Seventh Circuit: