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The appellants in U.S. v. Rushin were correctional officers at the Macon state Prison in Georgia who were charged and convicted of conspiracy to obstruct and obstruction of justice stemming from alleged abuses of prisoners and the subsequent cover ups while they were working as members of the Correctional Emergency Response Team, (CERT) which is a specially trained group responsible for responding to and controlling disturbances as the Macon State Prison. Of the three issues raised only one was addressed in depth by this opinion and that was whether the district court improperly limited the cross examination of cooperating witness in violation of the defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights. The case arose from the beatings of several inmates at the Macon State Prison by CERT members against certain inmates in retaliation for assaulting officers. The CERT members would then take the inmate to the medical unit and lie about how the inmates’ injuries were sustained.

Multiple members of the CERT entered plea agreements and cooperated with the government by testifying at trial. The defense counsel wanted to cross-examine the cooperating witnesses about their potential sentences had they not cooperated. The government requested a limitation on the defendants cross examining witnesses about to the specific numerical sentence that could have been imposed had they not cooperated as this would speak to the potential sentences that could be received by the defendants and encourage jury nullification.

The district court granted this motion explaining that the defendants were permitted to inquire into whether the cooperating witnesses about a plea agreement, that they face a more severe penalty prior to cooperating, and that the witness received or expected to receive benefits in exchange for their testimony (charges dropped or consideration of a sentence reductions). However, the defendants’ attorneys were not permitted to inquire as to the statutory sentencing range for charges against cooperating witnesses.

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Ammar was convicted and sentenced to life following trial for robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and using or carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. In United States v. Ammar he challenged his conviction contending that the district court should have dismissed his indictment pursuant to the Speedy Trial Act. The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution provides that in all criminal prosecutions the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy trial. To enforce this provision Congress passed the Speedy Trial Act which provides that the trial must begin within 70 days of either the filing of the indictment or the date the defendant first appears before a judicial officer to answer the charges, whichever occurs later. If a defendant is not tried within that window of time then the district court must grant the defendant’s motion to dismiss the indictment.

A district court may grant a continuance of the trial date when the ends of justice support the continuance and the district court is required to say its reasons for finding that the ends of justice served by the granting of a continuance outweigh the best interest of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial. Furthermore a defendant’s agreement to waive the protections of the Act cannot by itself justify an ends of justice continuance because the public interest in a speedy trial is also protected by the Act.

Ammar was detained following his arrest without a bond.   Soon after the district court held a scheduling conference with the defendants and scheduled trial to begin about one year later. Ammar appealed the magistrate’s detention order contending that the district court set an extended trial date over his objection and that the extended detention pending a trial more than a year from the date of the indictment violated his due process and speedy trial rights. Prior to trial Amar filed his motion to dismiss on speedy trial grounds.

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Phyllis May was involuntarily taken to a hospital police officer Tommy Allen of the City of Nahunta, Georgia Police Department for a mental health evaluation. She subsequently sued pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 for an unlawful seizure in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. May took this appeal from the district court’s order granting Officer Allen’s motion for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity. The issue in May v. City of Nahunta, Georgia is whether an otherwise authorized mental-health seizure was converted into an unconstitutional one by virtue of the seizing law enforcement officer’s conduct.
May was the sole care taker for her Alzheimer-stricken mother fell into a deep sleep after a taxing few days of caring for her mother. When May’s brother was unable to rouses May from her sleep he called 911 and four emergency medical technicians arrived in response. Officer Allen also arrived at the residence in response to the 911 call requesting his assistance and was told information by the EMT and his observations, he decided to seize May in her bedroom and transport her to the hospital for a psychological evaluation.
In conducting the mental health seizure Officer Allen asked the EMTs to leave the room and locked the door behind and informed May that she was going to the hospitals and instructed her to change from her nightgown to more suitable clothes. Despite her urging he refused to leave while he changed, handed her clothing, touched her shoulder roughly in an effort to pull off her nightgown, instructed her to remove her shorts and first put on her undergarments, and when she refused he insisted that she will while patting his gun. Officer Allen remained in the locked room alone with May for 15-20 minutes while ignoring May’s sister’s request from the other side that he open the door.
After she was taken to the hospital where she spent two hours she was released when it was determined there was nothing wrong with her.

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In Bailey v. Wheeler, the court reviewed the district court’s decision denying the defendant, Wheeler, qualified immunity protection in a section 1983 action by Bailey. Here is how the facts unfold. Bailey, an officer for the City of Douglasville, Georgia, filed written complaint with his chief reporting that police officers from his department and from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office were racially profiling minority citizens and committing other constitutional violations.   Bailey complained that law-enforcement officers made racially offensive comments and jokes about minorities. Eventually repercussions of Baileys’ complaints followed and soon after he was terminated from his position with the police department. He appealed his termination to the City of Douglasville complaining that he was fired for speaking out against profiling and other unconstitutional conduct by the police department and the Sheriff’ Office deputies. The night the city held a hearing he was followed by two deputies that stared him down. The next day Major Tommy Wheeler of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office issued a county-wide alert to all law-enforcement officers warning that Baily was a “loose cannon” who presented a danger to any law enforcement officer in Douglas County and directing officer to act accordingly. He issued a BOLO with his picture. For the second day in a row law enforcement vehicles from both the Sheriff’s Office and the Police Department followed Bailey as he drove his personal car. About three weeks later Bailey was permitted to return to work at the Douglasville Police Department.

Bailey filed a lawsuit claiming a violation of 42 U.S.C. §1983 for retaliation for exercising his First Amendment rights and a claim that Wheeler had defamed Bailey under Georgia law. The district court denied Wheeler’s claim he was entitled to qualified immunity and filed this appeal.

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In U.S v. Leon, Leon appeals from her conviction following a jury trial of three counts of attempting to cause a financial institution to not file a required currency transaction report (a CTR) in violation of 31 U.S.C. § 5324(a)(1). On appeal Leon claimed that the government and the district court constructively amended the indictment allowing her to be tried and convicted of violation §5324(a)(3) and not §5324(a)(1). The indictment alleges that Leon knowingly willfully and for the purpose of avoiding federal reporting requirements attempted to cause Bank of America not to file required CTRs concerning currency transactions exceeding $10,000 while violating another federal law and as part of a pattern of illegal activity involving more than $100,000 in a 12-month period. She was charged with making five cash withdrawals in the amounts of $9,500, $5,500, $1,430, $1,000 and $400. Another count charge her with making three cash withdrawals in amounts of $6,000, $3,995 and $500. And two cash withdrawals in the amounts of $9,846 and $300. The indictments alleged that these withdrawals, when aggregated on a daily basis, triggered Bank of America’s obligation to file CTRs and that Leon make the withdrawals in amounts less than $10,000 to try to cause Bank of America to not file CTRs.

Leon contended that the government’s theory and evidence as well as the district court’s jury instructions constructively amended the federal criminal indictment by allowing her to be convicted of violating §5324(a)(3) instead of §5324(a)(1). She claimed that the offense of structuring is prohibited by §5423(a)(3) but not by §5423(a)(1). Building on this premise Leon argues that there was a constructive amendment allowing her to be convicted of uncharged §5342(a)(3) offenses because the government repeatedly use the term “structuring” when referring to the three counts.

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In this appeal, Hughes was charged with knowingly possessing a firearm and ammunition as a twice convicted felon. Witnesses at a bar told police he was brandishing a gun and a police officer retrieved a gun from a trash can in the vicinity of the spot Hughes had stood. Fingerprints were found on the gun but were not linked to Hughes until almost two years later when the police ran them through a law enforcement fingerprint identification system matching Hughes’ prints to the gun. Following his arrest the government filed a motion to detain Hughes pending trial. Hughes’ attorney requested a six day continuance which was granted by the judge but did not make any factual findings or give any reasons for granting Hughes’s request for a continuance.

Prior to the trial Hughes moved to dismiss his indictment for a violation of the Speedy Trial Act arguing that the period of delay resulting from the court granting of a continuance was only excludable if the court stated in the record the reasons for finding that the ends of justice served by the granting of such continuance outweigh the best interests of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial.

During trial the trial judge allowed the government to offer in evidence the Computer Assisted Dispatch (CAD) report as a business record. Hughes challenged its admission because the report contained hearsay and violated his right under the Confrontation clause of the Sixth Amendment since he had no opportunity to cross examine the anonymous 911 caller documented in the CAD report. Hughes also raised a Batson challenge to the government’s strike of the only African American member of the venire. Hughes challenged a jury instruction that allowed the jury to find that if it found the defendant gave a false statement to the police in order to divert suspicion from himself, the jury could infer he was guilty.

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In U.S. v Plate the defendant worked at Wells Fargo in Orlando Florida as a financial advisor. One of her long time clients was an elderly couple for whom she managed their securities and bond portfolio. She became close friends with the couple. As their mental capacities diminished with age Plate began to perform personal duties for the couple beyond the traditional financial advisor role. After Plate’s husband died, she eventually induced the husband to execute a Wells Fargo ACH authorization agreement allowing for the transfer of funds from the couples’ Wells Fargo trust account into a separate account. Plate manipulated the husband into writing her personal checks and then she liquidated the securities in the trust account by making a number of unauthorized sales. In total she defrauded the couple of $176,079 and left noting in the account.

She was charged with a single count of embezzlement by a bank officer in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 656 and pled guilty to the offense. The PSI came back with a guideline range of 27-33 months.  Prior to sentencing Plate filed a memorandum asking for a probation sentence and to show remorse she sold her house to pay restitution and expressed determination to pay everything back. She argued probation was appropriate because her crime was an anomaly brought on by depression and reduced mental capacity following the death of her husband. To support her position she attached a forensic evaluation by a licensed psychologist who concluded that she had developed a maladaptive coping style of avoidance characterized by apathy and impaired emotional understanding and reduced mental capacity brought on by the loss of her husband.

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In Wate v Kubler, a Civil Rights lawsuit for the wrongful death of Barnes, it began when Barnes went with his aunt to the Honeywell Island Beach in Pinellas County, Florida for a baptismal ritual in the water along the Beach. While in the water Barns began acting erratically by flailing, flopping, and thrusting his arms and body and yelling loudly about a demon. His actions attracted the attention of a law enforcement officer on the Honeywell Island that day. When Barnes failed to comply with the officers’ order to calm down and leave the water, a struggle ensued and the officer placed a handcuff on one of his hands. More struggling occurred resulting in the officer placing Barnes in a choke hold and dragged him out of the water by his head.

Barnes was just lying on the beach with the officer kneeling beside him as the officer tried to secure both hands with the handcuffs. The officer continued to hit him as he attempted to place the other arm in handcuffs. After the handcuff was secured Barnes spewed blood and fluids from his mouth and struggled to breath. When Barnes continued to struggle the officer pepper sprayed his eyes and hit his face multiple times.

Another officer Kubler, arrived on the scene in response to the first officer’s call for help. At this point eyewitnesses stated that when the first officer had Barnes pinned down, Barnes was starting to wear down and that the situation was under control.   Witnesses testified that Kubler stood over Barnes and put his foot on his buttocks and Kubler put his knee on Barnes’ back and that Barnes was immobilized.   After warning Barnes not to raise up (witnesses say he was arching his back when the officer’s foot pressed against his buttocks) Kubler threatened to taser Barnes and after he struggled Kubler deployed the taser a few minutes later. Kubler used the taser a total of 5 times. Barnes became still and another officer on the scene noticed Barnes was not breathing. Two days later Barnes died. The autopsy showed case of death to be asphyxia contributed by blunt trauma and restraint.

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Fish v. Brown involves a civil rights lawsuit against two Holmes County, Florida, deputy sheriffs for entering the plaintiff’s home without a warrant and for a search and search in violation of the Fourth Amendment. This is an appeal from the district court’s dismissal on the ground that the deputies were entitled to qualified immunity.

The Plaintiff, Fish, had a sexual relationship with Margo Riesco which ended with ill feelings when Fish told Riesco’s husband about their affair. Unconnected to their relationship, a Florida State court entered an injunction in favor of Fish’s sister and brother-in-law protecting them from Fish and his acts of domestic violence. The injunction included a prohibition from having any firearm in his care custody or possession. Riesco learned of the injunction through the sister-in-law.

Riesco wanted to retrieve her personal belongings from Fish and before driving there she stopped at the Sheriff’s office to request an escort to Rieso’s house, claiming she that she feared for her safety during the encounter. She called Riesco to tell him she was in route to his home for the purpose of retrieving personal items left there.

When they arrived Riesco walked through screen porch doors into the sunroom and the deputies followed. Fish came to the door and the deputies stood behind her. She told Riesco why she was there and that she brought the deputies to watch her so she would not steal anything of hers. He allowed Riesco into the house and the deputies followed. While inside the house they spotted his firearms in the bedroom and he was placed under arrest for violating the domestic violence injunction and resisting without violence. After the criminal charges were dismissed he filed a federal civil rights claim for false arrest, illegal search and seizure, and claims under state law for false arrest, imprisonment, and malicious prosecution

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In DH v. Clayton County School District, Defendant McDowell appealed the district court’s finding that as assistant principal his strip search of a minor student was a violation of clearly established constitutional law. McDowell, an assistant Principal at a public school in Georgia, conducted a strip search of a 12-year old 7th grader in an office, based upon reports and his individualized suspicion that DH possessed marijuana at school DH. Prior to the search McDowell discovered marijuana in the backpack of another student who said that DH his classmate also had marijuana. In response to D.V.’s implication of DH, McDowell searched DH, starting with his backpack. When no marijuana was found, he had DH remove his clothes down to his underpants. When nothing was found in his clothes McDowell instructed him to remove his underpants exposing his genitals to McDowell. Another officer was present along with the other student suspects. No marijuana was found.

McDowell raised the defense of qualified Immunity. First the court considers whether McDowell’s search deprived DH of a constitutional right. The second determination was whether the law was clearly established so as to justify imposition of §1983 liability. In determining whether a search of a student violates the Fourth amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure  the court made a two-prong inquiry. First, it asks whether the search is justified at its inception and there are reasonable grounds for suspect in that the search will turn up evidence of a violation of law or school rules, and second, whether the scope of the search is reasonably related to the circumstances which justified the interference in the first place.

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