Second Circuit Criminal Law Blog

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The Second Circuit Criminal Law Blog is your place to follow the criminal law decisions rendered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  With a rich 225-year history of legendary judges like Learned Hand and Henry Friendly, the Second Circuit has long been known for writing important and thoughtful opinions on many subjects, including the criminal law.  We review every published criminal law opinion handed down by the Second Circuit in order to provide you with a summary of the holding, an assessment of the key legal issues, and practice pointers based on the Court’s ruling.  Our focus is on white-collar criminal cases and matters relating to internal investigations.  Our blog is written by a team of experienced attorneys, including many former law clerks for the Second Circuit and other federal courts.  The blog’s editor in chief is a former Deputy Chief Appellate Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York who has appeared in more than 100 Second Circuit criminal appeals.

Circuit Holds No Hearing Requirement In First Step Act Resentencing Challenge

In United States v. Gadsden, the Second Circuit (Walker, Katzmann and Wesley, per curiam) affirmed the decision of the Southern District of New York denying Damone Gadsden’s motion for resentencing under the First Step Act.  The opinion is consistent with recent decisions in other circuits, and reinforces the principle that the exercise of sentencing discretion is not synonymous with specific procedural requirements.


Circuit Reverses Grant of New Trial, Clarifies High Standard for Rule 33 Motions

In United States v. Archer, the Second Circuit (Walker, Sullivan and Nathan, sitting by designation) reversed the grant of a Rule 33 motion for new trial in the Southern District of New York to Defendant Devon Archer, following his conviction for securities fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud.  The Circuit reinstated the jury verdict and remanded the case for sentencing.  Its decision emphasized that a successful Rule 33 motion based on the weight of the evidence requires a showing that the evidence “preponderates heavily” against the verdict.  The decision seems to harmonize prior law in the Circuit that offered somewhat different formulations of the relevant standard.  It is a reminder of the limited nature of post-verdict relief that is available to a trial defendant.


Circuit Affirms Bank Robbery Conviction From the Wild Western District

In United States v. Peeples, the Second Circuit (Walker, Cabranes and Sack) affirmed the conviction of Joseph W. Peeples, III in the Western District of New York on bank robbery charges.  Peeples argued that the district court should have dismissed his charges based on violations of Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 3 and 5(c)(2), and that it erroneously admitted bank employee testimony and certain physical evidence at trial.  The Circuit rejected the challenge on all fronts.


Circuit Upholds FIFA Convictions, Denying Extraterritoriality and Vagueness Challenges

In United States v. Napout, the Second Circuit (Sack, Hall and Bianco) affirmed the 2017 convictions of Juan Ángel Napout and José Maria Marin in the Eastern District of New York on charges arising out of commercial bribery related to the International Federation of Association Football (“FIFA”) scandal.  The Circuit rejected all of the defendants’ arguments:  the Circuit held that (i) that there had not been an impermissible extraterritorial application of the wire fraud statute, and (ii) the honest service wire fraud statute was not unconstitutionally vague as applied to them.  The Circuit also denied challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence and several trial rulings.  Judge Hall wrote a short concurring opinion that addressed one aspect of the parties’ contentions relating to their vagueness challenge.


Second Circuit Rejects Challenge to ACCA “Serious Drug Offense”

In United States v. Ojeda, the Second Circuit (Cabranes, Raggi, Korman, by designation) affirmed a 2018 judgment issued in the Southern District of New York ordering a mandatory minimum sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”) for a felon-in-possession conviction.  The Court rejected defendant’s arguments that his prior convictions did not qualify as ACCA predicates and that ACCA’s definition of “serious drug offense” is unconstitutionally vague.  Defense counsel made the right arguments, but recent changes in the law seem to have compelled this ruling.