United States v Spaulding

Spaulding pled guilty to drug charges and received a sentence which was not lowered for significant assistance to the government. He was allowed to withdraw his plea, was eventually given a bench trial found guilty of different drug charges and received the same sentence as the first sentence. The panel, 2-1, held the pela withdrawal was not authorized and vacated all proceedings after the first sentence.  The majority held that the ban in Rule of Criminal Proceeding 11(e) on post sentence withdrawals of guilty plea is jurisdictional and thus the withdrawal of plea was void and all proceedings thereafter were likewise void. It reasoned that 18 USC 3582 mandates that criminal sentences are final and sentences cannot be modified except in certain limited circumstances and rule 11(e) implements those provisions and is thus a restriction on district court subject matter jurisdiction. It also reasoned that allowing post sentence withdrawals would render rule of Criminal Procedure 35 a nullity which cannot be what Congress intended and that rule 11 (e) is directed to courts which is a contextual clue that it is jurisdictional and there is no mechanism for the government to seek review of a withdrawal of plea which also suggests Rule 11(e) is jurisdictional. The majority also noted that the lack of historical practice allowing post sentence withdrawals of plea also supports the conclusion the rule is jurisdictional. The majority held the proper course in this case was remanding the case to vacate the judgment from the bench trial, reenter the original sentence and allow Spaulding to have a direct appeal of that judgment. The dissent argued that district courts have a grant of jurisdiction over criminal cases under 18 USC 3231 that lasts until the judgment is fully executed, that Rule 11(e) does not withdraw that grant and is a claim processing rule which can be waived if not raised, that 3582 only applies to modifications of sentences not withdrawals of guilty pleas and the structure of Title 18 which was passed in its entirety by Congress demonstrates that jurisdiction is granted in 3231 and 3582 is not in the jurisdiction section and thus cannot change the grant of jurisdiction. The dissent argued that the majority’s concerns about finality are overblown and that guilty pleas are not more reliable that jury verdicts which at least require the government to present its evidence to a neutral decision maker.  

United States v Worku

Worku appealed his convictions and sentence for immigration fraud and identity theft. The panel affirmed. It held that two of convictions for immigration fraud were not barred by double jeopardy as each was based on a different form and the jury specifically found he used the name of another person so if the jury were correctly charged as to which document belonged to which charge, Worku would have been convicted based on overwhelming evidence. The panel held Worku claim that he had permission to use the other person’s name and thus could not have committed identity theft was unsupported by precedent anywhere and thus rejected it. The panel held there was no clear error in the district court’s ruling that Worku committed the fraud to hide human rights violations as there was a conviction for those crimes in Ethiopia and Worku admitted fears about returning to Ethiopia. The panel rejected Worku’s arguments about witness identification holding the photo arrays were not unduly suggestive as all pictured Ethiopian men of roughly the same age and while the identifications were done more than 30 years after last contact between Worku and the witnesses, this was not a basis to reject the identifications as the witnesses saw Worku daily for several months and were tortured by him. The apneal finally held the sentence was not substantively unreasonable given Worku’s violations of human rights and lies about them to gain admission to the United States.

United States v LeCompte

LaCompte appealed the denial of his motion to dismiss the revocation of supervised release and the sentence for violating supervised release. The Panel reversed and remanded on the motion to dismiss. It first held that LaCompte could raise and the district court could rule on as applied challenges to conditions of release even though LaCompte did not appeal eth conditions. The panel reasoned that allowing such challenges was sound as review is unavailable before a violation is found and not allowing review when a violation is found would mean as applied challenges could never be heard. Turing to the challenge here, the panel held that the district court’s analysis was incomplete as it did not consider LaCompte long period of no improper relationships with minors, the remoteness of his conviction and also failed to explain how sitting on a porch with serval adults and a three year old girl was connected to fears of grooming another victim. The case was thus remanded for further proceedings.