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Showing posts from March, 2008

Government’s failure to establish element of offense results in reversal.

In United States v, Ambrose Daniel, No. 07-2413 (3rd Cir. March 6, 2008), the defendant Ambrose Daniel was convicted of unlawful possession of ammunition, in violation of Virgin Islands’ law. Daniel had initially been charged in an eight count indictment, including several federal offenses, but was only convicted of the ammunition offense. Daniel appealed his conviction, arguing there was insufficient evidence to convict him of that offense. The Third Circuit, in an opinion by Judge Roth, reversed, holding that the government had failed to prove a requisite element of the offense.

To prove that Daniel was guilty of unlawful possession of ammunition, the government had the burden of showing that: (1) he possessed ammunition on the day of his arrest; and (2) he was not licensed or otherwise authorized to possess the ammunition. In his jury instructions, the judge explained: "The phrase, ‘unless otherwise authorized by law’ means that the defendant had no license nor other legal auth…

Juvenile adjudication of "discontinuance" not a "sentence" under 4A1.2. Improper Guidelines calculation not harmless error.

United States v. Langford, No. 06-2774 (3d Cir. February 22, 2008) - Langford entered a guilty plea to bank robbery, armed bank robbery, and carrying and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence. At sentencing, defense counsel argued that a prior juvenile adjudication that was "discontinued" should not be counted in Langford’s criminal history category. Specifically, that a "discontinuance" was not a sentence under § 4A1.2(a) and therefore a point should not be added - making Langford a category III, rather than a IV. The sentencing court disagreed and ruled that the "discontinuance" counted under § 4A1.2(a) and concluded that Langford was a criminal history category IV.

On appeal Langford argued that the district court improperly calculated his criminal history score and, as a result, started with an incorrect Guidelines range in the sentencing process. In turn, the government argued it was harmless error. In a majority opinion drafted by Judge Re…

Third Circuit reverses for insufficiency in gun possession case - no evidence of constructive possession or aiding and abetting

United States v. Cunningham, No. 06-3899 (3d Cir. February 21, 2008) - After a jury trial, Cunningham was convicted of three counts - 1) distribution of crack cocaine, 2) possession with intent to distribute more than 5 grams of crack cocaine and aiding abetting, and 3) a possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and aiding and abetting. On appeal, Cunningham challenged the sufficiency of the evidence with respect to the two possession convictions.

The gun and drugs that formed the basis for Cunningham’s conviction were found in a back-pack, which Cunningham never held or carried. Rather, the person who held or carried the back pack was Cunningham’s co-defendant. Therefore, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals focused its analysis on whether or not the evidence was sufficient to show that Cunningham constructively possessed the items or aided and abetted his co-defendant’s possession of them.

In an opinion drafted by Judge Fisher, the Court of Appeals affirmed as …