6th Circuit Criminal Law News - U.S. Sixth Circuit
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The reclusive world of Ohio's Amish community became a little less reclusive in 2011, after 16 members of a breakaway Amish sect ambushed their neighbors at night, cutting off their beards. The beard cutting was designed to humiliate its victims, excommunicated members of the small Amish community in Bergholz, Ohio.

The ten men and six women behind the attacks were convicted almost four years ago, though the Sixth Circuit reversed their federal hate crimes convictions in 2014, resulting in significantly reduced sentences. On Tuesday, the beard cutters were back before the Sixth Circuit, arguing for even lesser sentences, but this time, reductions seemed much less likely.

Jeffery Walker had had enough with his neighbor's defecating dog. When the pooch pooped in Walker's yard, he complained to his neighbor. Still the stinky trespass continued. He complained to the cops, but the feces kept piling up. Then one putrid day, Walker demanded that his neighbor come over and clean up after his canine. But, before the poop could be scooped, Walker ended up cutting off the man's arm with a machete.

Unfortunately for Walker, that feculent machete attack was a violation of his parole, and it landed him a five-year jail sentence, the maximum punishment available. The Sixth Circuit upheld that sentence on Monday, despite Walker's pleas that he was just acting in self-defense.

When Samantha Bachynski was arrested by Michigan police -- after being found in a stolen truck with the dead owner in the back -- the 19-year-old initially invoked her Miranda rights, refusing to speak until she had an attorney present. But when it came time to pick a lawyer, she changed her mind, confessing to murder, torture, and other crimes.

Bachynski later moved to suppress her confessions, arguing that they were coerced in violation of her Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Her confessions were admitted anyway and she was convicted. The Sixth Circuit upheld that conviction last Wednesday, finding that Bachynski voluntarily waived her Miranda rights.

Ohio Man Convicted of Possessing Ricin, Lying to FBI

An Ohio man was convicted of possessing weaponized ricin with intent to use it as a weapon in a rather dramatic suicide plot -- a conviction upheld by the Sixth Circuit yesterday.

Readers will recall that ricin was the favorite murder toxin of choice by the now loved and infamous Walter White of Breaking Bad fame. The amount that Levenderis had refined was enough to kill 250 Tucos or Gus Frings.

Kwame Kilpatrick, the former mayor of Detroit convicted of fraud and racketeering, is taking his case to the Supremes. Not Motown hero Diana Ross, but the Supreme Court. Kilpatrick is currently asking the High Court to hear his case after the Sixth Circuit upheld his conviction in August and rejected his petition for en banc review.

Kilpatrick's tenure as mayor was long plagued by scandal, including accusations that he held wild parties in the major's mansion and even covered up the murder of an exotic dancer. It was much more quotidian corruption that landed him with a 28 year jail sentence, however, after the government accused him of extorting money from government contractors.

6th Cir. Creates Split in Private Searches on Computers

What are the limits of the "private search doctrine" when it comes to a computer? The Sixth Circuit answered that question last week in a case that is sure to make it to the Supreme Court.

Aaron Lichtenberger was arrested for failing to register as a sex offender. His girlfriend, wondering why she was never allowed to use his computer, hacked into it and found images of child pornography. She notified the authorities, police obtained a warrant to search the computer, which led to more pornography. The Sixth Circuit, however, suppressed all this evidence as the product of an unconstitutional search.

Prosecutors impermissibly withheld potentially exculpatory evidence in their prosecution of an Ohio police lieutenant for the death of his wife. Thomas Barton was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after he allegedly hired a man to "scare" his wife by staging a robbery, only for the plan to go wrong and Barton's wife to end up dead.

Barton appealed, arguing that the prosecution had withheld exculpatory evidence -- mainly that the sole witness against Barton may not have had the "burglar for hire" history that the state claimed. The Second Circuit agreed, finding that the evidence could have helped Barton's defense.

After Leslie Ashmore, a convicted felon, was found in possession of firearms, he was tried for violating federal law and sentenced to 20 years in prison. On appeal however, he earned a new trial, since the court had improperly introduced evidence that was obtained through the use of a two step Miranda technique meant to undermine the effectiveness of Ashmore's Miranda rights.

One October night, police found Ashmore passed out in his vehicle, alongside drug paraphernalia. A search of the car revealed two firearms, safely tucked away in a lock box for which Ashmore had the key. Two weeks later, a team of 10 to 20 officers, including the city's SWAT time, was deployed to arrest Ashmore. Special Agent Jamie Jenkins questioned Ashmore as to whether there were any guns in the car he was arrested in -- before he received his Miranda warnings.

Michael Patterson ran a small psychiatric practice in Memphis, Tennessee, with a fairly large side business in selling prescriptions for Percocet, Vicodin, and Adderall , among other drugs. The law eventually caught up to Patterson and he was charged with 38 counts of improperly distributing controlled substances and pleaded guilty to three of those.

Patterson contested his sentence on appeal, arguing that the district court had improperly assumed that his prescriptions weren't medically justified and unjustly categorized him as an organizer or leader of the drug dealing scheme. In a reminder of the deference afforded to finders of fact, the Sixth Circuit quickly and without much difficultly rejected each of Patterson's claims.

6th Cir. Upholds Former Sheriff's Witness Tampering Conviction

Witness tampering? That's old and busted, run-of-the-mill, hardly worthy of news. How about when the person doing the tampering is a police officer? Yeah, suddenly you're interested.

Christopher Eaton, the (former, at this point) sheriff of Barren County, Kentucky, was convicted of witness tampering for ordering officers under his command to make false statements in an FBI investigation into excessive use of force on a suspect named Billy Stinnett.