Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

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In January 2017 a grand jury in the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming returned a 21-count indictment against Defendant Shakeel Kahn (who was a physician) and others charging distribution of controlled substances and money laundering. The indictment included a criminal forfeiture count under 21 U.S.C. 853, which listed a number of his assets that the grand jury identified as fruits of the alleged crimes. Most of those assets had been seized by the government before filing the indictment. Two weeks after the indictment, Kahn moved for a hearing to challenge the seizure of $1,140,699.95 in currency and bank accounts, asserting he needed this money to retain private counsel of his choice, noting that his only unseized assets were a $175,000 home encumbered by an $80,000 lien and a business that brought in less than $3,000 a month after taxes. He estimated that he would need at least $200,000 to pay counsel and that his total defense costs would be at least $450,000. In April the district court denied the motion. Defendant petitioned the Tenth Circuit for a district-court hearing to challenge the seizure of those assets. The district court denied a hearing because he has some unseized assets with which to pay an attorney. The Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded because the proper test was whether he had sufficient unseized assets to pay for the reasonable cost of obtaining counsel of his choice. View "United States v. Kahn" on Justia Law

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This is the second appeal arising from crimes committed by two corrections officers, Raymond Barnes and Christopher Brown, while employed at the Muskogee County Jail. Barnes and Brown both held administrative roles at the jail: Barnes served as the Jail Superintendent and Brown worked alongside him as the Assistant Jail Superintendent. Both defendants physically abused prisoners in a variety of ways, engaged in excessive force against inmates, and intimidated other jail employees to conceal their illicit activities. Authorities charged Barnes and Brown with three counts of assaulting or conspiring to assault prisoners at the jail. In 2014, a jury convicted both of various charges. The jury convicted Barnes of one count of conspiracy to violate constitutional rights and two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law. The jury found Brown, on the other hand, guilty of one count of conspiracy to violate constitutional rights, one count of deprivation of rights under color of law, and one count of making a false statement to a federal agent. The district court sentenced Barnes to twelve months’ imprisonment followed by twenty-four months of supervised release. Brown received a sentence of six months’ imprisonment followed by thirty-six months of supervised release. Both appealed their sentences. The government argued the sentences the district court imposed after the Tenth Circuit remanded for resentencing were substantively unreasonable. Because the Tenth Circuit found the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting a downward variance from the United States Sentencing Guidelines, it affirmed. View "United States v. Barnes" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Defendant Cory Devon Washington pleaded guilty in the Western District of Oklahoma to two firearm-related offenses. The district court sentenced him to fifteen years’ imprisonment under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). The United States Supreme Court ruled in Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), invalidated the ACCA’s residual clause, Defendant filed a motion to vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2255, his second such motion. The district court dismissed the motion because Defendant did not establish the sentencing court relied on the residual clause for any of his ACCA predicate offenses. The Tenth Circuit concurred with the district court's decision and affirmed the dismissal. View "United States v. Washington" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether police had a reasonable suspicion to believe defendant Ajohntae Hammond was armed and dangerous to justify frisking him for weapons following a traffic stop. The pat-down revealed a gun in Hammond’s pocket; Hammond was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Based on information the officers gleaned from the department’s Police Information Management System (“PIMS”) prior to the pat-down that connected Hammond and the car to gang activity and weapons possession, along with the officers’ observation that Hammond was wearing gang colors, the Tenth Circuit held the officers possessed reasonable suspicion to justify the pat-down search, and affirmed the district court denying his motion to suppress the firearm. View "United States v. Hammond" on Justia Law

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M.A.K. Investment Group, LLC owned several parcels of property in Glendale, Colorado. The City adopted a resolution declaring several of M.A.K.’s parcels “blighted” under state law. Glendale never notified M.A.K. of its resolution or the legal consequences flowing from it. The blight resolution began a seven-year window in which the City could begin condemnation proceedings against M.A.K.’s property. It also started the clock on a thirty-day window in which M.A.K. had a right to seek judicial review of the blight resolution under state law. Receiving no notice, M.A.K. did not timely seek review. M.A.K. argued Colorado’s Urban Renewal statute, both on its face and as-applied to M.A.K., violated due process because it did not require municipalities to notify property owners about a blight determination, or the thirty days owners had to seek review. The Tenth Circuit concluded the statute was unconstitutional as applied to M.A.K. because M.A.K. did not receive notice that Glendale found its property blighted. Because of this, the Court did not decide whether the statute was unconstitutional on its face. As for M.A.K.’s second argument, the Court held due process did not require Glendale to inform M.A.K. about the thirty-day review window. View "M.A.K. Investment Group v. City of Glendale" on Justia Law

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This case centered on an agreement between the City of Rawlins, Wyoming, and Dirty Boyz Sanitation Services (Dirty Boyz) for local garbage collection and disposal. About two years after the parties executed the agreement, the State of Wyoming required Rawlins to close its landfill. Soon after, Rawlins opened a transfer station to process garbage for transport to a landfill elsewhere. Later, Rawlins adopted a flow-control ordinance requiring that all locally licensed garbage haulers take collected garbage to Rawlins’ transfer station. Dirty Boyz argued the ordinance violated the Contract Clause of the United States Constitution, and was preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration and Authorization Act (FAAAA). The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Rawlins. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment in Rawlins' favor. View "Dirty Boyz Sanitation Service v. City of Rawlins" on Justia Law

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A federal grand jury returned a six-count indictment against defendant-appellant Samuel Silva, charging him with: (1) attempted carjacking; (2) knowingly using and carrying a firearm in furtherance of the attempted carjacking; (3) carjacking; (4) knowingly using and carrying a firearm in furtherance of a carjacking, (5) knowingly possessing a firearm and ammunition; and (6) possessing firearms as a convicted felon. Silva appealed his ultimate convictions, arguing: (1) the district court erred by allowing the prosecution to present evidence of a previous felony conviction to support the charge of his being a felon in possession of a firearm; (2) the evidence was insufficient to convict him of being a felon in possession of a firearm; and (3) The district court plainly erred by admitting testimony from a DNA expert who had made typographical errors in the course of performing her DNA analysis. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed Silva’s convictions. View "United States v. Silva" on Justia Law

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In 2014, nine of Jerry and Deidre Matthews’ adopted children were placed in the emergency custody of the State. In June 2016, Jerry Matthews pleaded no contest to reduced charges of child neglect. He received a suspended life sentence in exchange for his promise to testify truthfully against his now former wife, Deidre Matthews. In October 2017, Deidre Matthews pleaded no contest in the same state court to twelve counts of child abuse, child neglect, and child endangerment. The state court sentenced Deidre Matthews to life in prison with all but four years suspended. The children claimed among other things, that eighteen Oklahoma Department of Human Services (ODHS) caseworkers violated their Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights in connection with the horrific events recounted in the complaint. They generally alleged that between January 2004 and March 2014, various individuals, all with good cause, reported to ODHS that the children living in the Matthews’ home were being mentally and physically abused. At least seventeen reports of abuse and neglect were made to ODHS during this time period. “To say the ODHS caseworkers left the children with the Matthews to suffer continued abuse and neglect under deplorable conditions in a dangerous home environment is perhaps an understatement.” The caseworkers appealed the district court’s denial of their motion to dismiss the constitutional claims against them on the basis of qualified immunity. At issue before the Tenth Circuit was: (1) whether the facts alleged in the complaint gave rise to constitutional claims against each of the ODHS caseworkers; and if so, (2) whether those claims were clearly established at the time of the alleged constitutional violations. Because the caseworkers asserted the defense of qualified immunity, the burden was on Plaintiffs to establish their right to proceed. The Tenth Circuit found plaintiffs did not meet that burden as to some, but not all, of the caseworkers, and affirmed in part and reversed in part. “The people of the State of Oklahoma ‘may well prefer a system of liability which would place upon the State and its officials the responsibility for failure to act in situations such as the present one.’ The people may create such a system if they have not already done so. But ‘when the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief [under the Constitution], this basic deficiency should be exposed at the point of minimum expenditure of time and money by the parties and the court.’” View "Matthews v. Bergdorf" on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant Clifford Raymond Salas was found guilty of various arson-related offenses, after he used a Molotov cocktail to firebomb a tattoo parlor. For his offenses, Salas was sentenced to a total of 35 years’ imprisonment: 5 years for counts 1, 2, and 4 and, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(B)(ii)’s mandatory minimum sentence, 30 years for count 3. He was also sentenced to 3 years’ supervised release. He appealed the sentence, arguing that section 924(c)(3)’s residual clause was unconstitutionally vague. The Tenth Circuit agreed, remanding this case to the district court with instructions to vacate Salas’s 924(c)(1) conviction and resentence him because 924(c)(3)(B), the provision defining a “crime of violence” for the purposes of his conviction, was unconstitutionally vague. View "United States v. Salas" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from Raymond Hamilton’s sentencing for possession of a firearm after a felony conviction. Hamilton was sentenced to 190 months’ imprisonment under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) based in part on three Oklahoma convictions for second-degree burglary. Hamilton moved to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255, arguing that the district court had improperly applied a mandatory minimum based on the ACCA’s unconstitutional Residual Clause. The district court granted the motion and resentenced Hamilton to time served. The government appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Hamilton" on Justia Law