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Street Gang Members' Convictions Under RICO and VICAR Upheld, Plus Black Lung Benefits Act Case

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By Javier Lavagnino, Esq. on April 08, 2010 4:18 PM

In US v. Ayala, No. 07-4577, the circuit court dealt with an appeal following the prosecution of members of a violent street gang under various statutes, including the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and the Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering (VICAR) statute.

Defendants' convictions and sentences are affirmed as: 1) the court rejects defendant's claim that his conviction under the VICAR statute was for the same conduct as that he was punished for under RICO, and thus constituted double jeopardy; 2) a RICO conspiracy to commit crimes including murder, kidnapping, and robbery is by its nature a crime of violence for purposes of defendant's conviction under 18 U.S.C. section 924(c) for using or carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence; 3) defendant's evidentiary challenges are rejected; 4) other defendant's claim that the district court unduly limited his ability to cross-examine the two teenage victims of a gang rape is rejected; 5) the district court's did not err in deciding not to instruct the jury on the definition of reasonable doubt; and 6) the district court's admission of the testimony of three expert witnesses did not violate the Confrontation Clause, as each was subject to cross-examination about his judgment.   

In Westmoreland Coal Co. v. Cox, No. 09-1240, the circuit court addressed a petition for review of a decision affirming an ALJ's award of benefits and attorney's fees under the Black Lung Benefits Act. The court found that the award of benefits was legally proper and supported by substantial evidence; but it reversed in part as the ALJ erred in granting an award of attorney's fees without first determining a prevailing hourly rate for the attorney's work. 

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