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Prosecutorial misconduct of systematically injecting inadmissible evidence into child pornography trial was plain but did not warrant reversal; application of obstruction of justice enhancement erroneous and warranted remand for resentencing, even where district court imposed a downward variance

United States v. WelshansAppeal No. 16-4106 (3d Cir. June 14, 2018), 2018 WL 2976804

Welshans challenged his conviction and sentence for distribution and possession of child pornography.
The Third Circuit rejected Welshans's argument that the prosecution violated his due process right to a fair trial by informing the jury that the files on his computer included deeply abhorrent videos and images of bestiality, bondage, and violent sexual assault of very young children.  At trial, the district court had admitted, with limiting instructions, two videos, without sound, which lasted two and a half minutes. The rest of the collection was excluded under Rule 403 and United States v. Cunningham, 694 F.3d 372, 391 (3d Cir. 2012). However, the government introduced exhibits which gave detailed paragraph-length descriptions of gruesome images and disturbing file names, and also elicited testimony from three agents that the images the jury saw were not the worst of what was recovered from W…
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Second-degree aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (Pa) is categorically a crime of violence based on the elements clause of the career offender guideline.

United States v. RamosAppeal No. 17-2720 (3d Cir. June 15, 2018), 2018 WL 2994410
On the government’s appeal, the Third Circuit found that second-degree aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, 18 Pa. CS § 2702(a)(4), has as an element “the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another.” U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(1). Pennsylvania’s aggravated assault statute is divisible because it sets forth two alternate degrees of the offense and, within those degrees, the subsections “criminalize different conduct and set[ ] forth different (albeit overlapping) elements.” Thus, because the statute is divisible, the Court was able to consult a limited set of extra-statutory materials to establish Ramos's offense of conviction with certainty: second-degree aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The minimum conduct sufficient to sustain that conviction was attempting to cause another person to experience substantial pain with a device capable of causing serio…

Generic description of suspect sufficient to justify stop when analyzed under totality of the circumstances

In United States v. Foster, Appeal Nos. 16-3650 & 16-4225 (3d Cir. May 30, 2018), co-defendants challenged their convictions and sentences for being felons in possession of firearms. On February 5, 2015, a local barbershop employee called 911 to report two suspicious black males sitting in a Honda Accord in the shopping plaza's parking lot. When police arrived, the Accord promptly left the parking lot. The barbershop employee provided police with a picture of the Accord and its license plate. After running the plate, police learned that the Accord was reported stolen in an armed robbery. An email alert was sent to local law enforcement officers alerting them to the stolen vehicle and attaching the picture. The following morning, a police officer on routine patrol observed the Honda Accord sitting in the plaza parking lot with two black males inside. The officer left the lot briefly to call for backup and position himself to make a safe stop. When he returned, one of the men wa…

Government's failure to file motion for reconsideration of suppression ruling within 30 days deprived Third Circuit of jurisdiction over interlocutory appeal

In United States v. Kalb, Appeal No. 17-1333 (3d Cir. May 31, 2018), the Third Circuit considered whether it had jurisdiction to hear the Government's interlocutory appeal under 18 U.S.C. § 3731 where the Government filed a motion for reconsideration of a suppression ruling after the 30-day time period for filing an appeal under § 3731. Defendant Kalb successfully argued for suppression of evidence obtained from him after police stopped his vehicle. The district court granted Kalb's motion to suppress on October 21, 2016 and filed a written opinion three days later. On November 29, 2016, the government filed a motion to reconsider. The district court denied the government's motion to reconsider on the merits, rejecting Kalb's argument that the government's motion for reconsideration was untimely because the government sought leave to review the transcript of the suppression hearing within the 30-day period.

Typically, the 30-day appeal period under § 3731 begins wh…

Third Circuit Upholds Application of Sentencing Enhancements for Leadership Role and Conspiracy Relocation in Bank and Wire Fraud Conspiracy

In United States v. Thung Van Huynh, 884 F.3d 160 (3d Cir., March 6, 2018), Defendant pled guilty to participating in a bank and wire fraud conspiracy to purchase luxury wristwatches. Specifically, Defendant admitted to purchasing stolen identification and credit reporting information from prospective car buyers in order to create counterfeit driver’s licenses and credit cards. Defendant then gave the counterfeit driver’s licenses and credit cards to his co-conspirators so that they could obtain lines of credit at several financial institutions. The co-conspirators used the lines of credit to purchase the wristwatches. Defendant then sold the wristwatches to a fence in California for cash, which he used to pay his co-conspirators for their services and to cover other expenses of the fraudulent scheme.

In the plea agreement, the government reserved the right to seek an enhancement for Defendant’s leadership role under U.S.S.G. ' 3B1.1(a). However, the plea agreement did not discuss…