Articles Posted in Federal Trial Issues

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Litzky’s live-in boyfriend, Roberto Oquendo, was a passenger in a car pulled over for a traffic stop in Melbourne, Florida.  The officer conducting the traffic stop learned that he had child pornography on his phone.  He gave an interview and admitted having pictures of the genital areas of his daughters for his sexual gratification.  Law enforcement officers also discovered thousands of lewd images of naked children on his electronic devices.  Oquendo was of course a pedophile.

Among those images were screenshots of video conversations between Oquendo and Litzky over several months where Litzky had posed the two children-victims focusing on their vaginal and buttocks area.  Litzky was interviewed and eventually she confessed to sending approximately 500 hundred nude images and videos of their children to Oquendo. Litzky was charged with violating various federal child-pornography offenses and convicted.

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Two Miami Police officers were charged and convicted in federal court with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute over five kilograms of cocaine, for protecting drug couriers, and for possession of a firearm during and in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.  The investigation began with an F.B.I. investigation into police corruption in the Miami Police Department.  Posing as would-be drug dealers, the F.B.I.’s investigation focused on an officer named Anderson, who agreed to cooperate.  The F.B.I. created a reverse sting posing as drug dealers in need of protection for delivering drugs and money.

Wearing a wire, Anderson approached an officer named Schonton who agreed to give protection for the undercover drug dealer.  When Schonton was asked if she knew other law enforcement officers willing to participate, she suggested Kelvin Harris, who become involved in this reverse sting operation designed by the F.B.I.  Harris received money for his assistance from the undercover agent posing as a drug dealer.  The undercover F.B.I. agent told Schonton and Harris that more officers were needed for a bigger job, and the two officers also recruited Miami Police officer Archibald.  The F.B.I. set up an undercover sting that involved transporting 20 kilograms of cocaine that would arrive in Miami. The recruited officers provided protection by providing a police escort to the hotel where the undercover agents transporting the contraband.  All the officers were present when the drugs were unloaded and unpacked at the hotel.  Each paid $4,000.

Archibald and Harris went to trial in federal court.  Archibald claimed he did not know what was going on during the first sting operation.  He also argued he was entrapped then he met the undercover agents who scared him.   Harris testified in his defense claiming that while he realized Schonton and Anderson were involved in illegal conduct, he decided to conduct his own surreptitious but lawful investigation by infiltrating the drug operation.  The jury found Harris guilty on all counts and found Archibald guilty on most counts.

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Michael Anderson owned and operated a shrimping business called Shrimpy’s in Savannah Georgia.  From 2005 through 2007, Anderson submitted CBP (Customs & Border Protection) Forms 7401 in which he falsely claimed large business expenses as part of a scheme to acquire federal government subsidies under the Continued Dumping and Subsidy Act of 2000 (CDSOA).   This federal program is designed to compensate U.S. domestic producers for losses that foreign producers caused by dumping underpriced goods into the American market.  Enacted by Congress and administered by Customs, the program allowed the federal government to levy duties on specific foreign goods and distribute the funds to affected domestic producers of products, such shrimpers, who could claim subsidies by identifying their business expenses on the Form 7401 and mailing it to the Customs office in Indiana.  Customs would then use the claimed expenses to calculate each qualifying domestic producer’s pro rata share of the funds and distribute the funds accordingly.

Mr. Anderson’s claims for 2005 through 2007 stated he had expenses exceeding $24 million in raw material expenses.  He submitted 47 invoices from a company called R&R Seafood, which happened to be identical invoices except they bore different dates ranging from February 2005 to September 2006 and listed different rates for shrimp.  The invoices showed he purchased 4.7 million pounds of shrimp for more than $29 million in two years.  Based on his CDSOA claims, Anderson received a total of $864,292.40 in federal subsidies.

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Phillips went to trial and was convicted of a three-count federal indictment charging him with 1) persuading, inducing, and enticing a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction, 2) receiving material containing child pornography, and possessing material containing child pornography.  He argued in this appeal that the district court constructively amended the indictment which charged him with knowingly and intentionally causing a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a video.  He claimed the trial court committed reversible error to instruct the jury that the government need not prove he knew the boy was a minor.  He also argued there was a Double Jeopardy violation of the constitution because that he was sentenced for both a crime and a lesser included crime based on the same set of facts.

The federal appeals court rejected his argument that the district court constructively amended the indictment, but it agreed that he was sentenced for both a crime and a lesser included crime.  Here Phillips, who is a 33-year old man went on line pretending to be a 17 or 18 year old girl on a social media website where he met a minor boy.

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Susan Khoury filed a lawsuit against the Miami Dade County School Board and Officer Williams, a school board police officer, for false arrest, excessive force, and First Amendment retaliation pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983.  Williams had detained and committed her for an involuntary mental health examination under Florida’s Baker Act statute, Fla. Stat. §394.463 after Williams characterized her as being a danger to herself or others.  Khoury also made a Monell claim against the school board.  The district court granted summary judgment to as to all claims against the officer and the school board.  In this opinion, the court of appeals reversed the district court’s dismissal against the police officer but upheld the dismissal as to the school board.

Her claims arose from an incident that began when Khoury, who lived across the street from a middle school baseball field in Miami Dade County, was using her phone to record cars she believed were illegally parked around the baseball field.  Khoury had an argument with one of the drivers, who then called the police.  Officer Williams arrived, and after advising the driver that Khoury had a First Amendment right to film, Khoury and Williams had an argument which led to Williams arresting and detainer Khoury pursuant to the Baker Act.

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Williams appeals his conviction and sentence by a federal judge for the federal offense of sex trafficking involving a minor, and two adults.  The evidence presented at his trial showed Williams used physical abuse and emotional manipulation to force vulnerable young women to work for him as prostitutes.  The evidence was graphic because the women who worked for Williams described Williams’ violent behavior and punishments.  He was sentenced to five terms of life imprisonment and ordered to pay restitution to his victims.  In his appeal he raised three issues.

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Castaneda appealed his conviction for enticing a minor to engage in unlawful sexual activity in violation of 18 U.S.C. §2422 and one count of crossing a state line with intent to engage in sexual activity with a person under the age of 12, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §2241(c).  Following a federal jury trial, he was convicted of both counts and sentenced to 420 months.  In his appeal he argued the indictment should have been dismissed because the government’s conduct in investigating him was so outrageous that it violated his due process rights.  He also claimed the evidence of child pornography that was found on his computer should have been suppressed and not admitted at trial.  Though he was not indicted with possession of child pornography, the evidence that he possessed it was admitted at his trial to prove his intent.

Law enforcement began its investigation when he responded to an ad on Craigslist from a purported 37- year-old female in Atlanta, Georgia who was “looking for someone with experience with REAL taboo to be a good teacher” for her 9-year-old daughter.   Castaneda grabbed the bait and began communicating with Kandi, telling her he was experienced in “incest, pedophilia, and grooming” and went on about his own experiences with minors.  Kandi responded that she had a 9-year-old daughter “wanting to learn more and looking for someone with experience like you.”   It turned out that Kandi was an undercover law enforcement officer, and not the mother of a 9-year old, who had posted the ad on Craigslist.

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This appeal involved a 1983 civil rights lawsuit under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and various state law claims against the Columbus Georgia, the chief of police, and an officer Brown from the department.  This is how the appellate court stated the issue.  Whether, after a high-speed chase, a police officer reasonably used deadly force when he stepped out of his vehicle to make an arrest and the suspect’s nearby car suddenly went into reverse.

Here are how the facts unfolded.  A car driven by the deceased led the officers from Columbus Police Department on a high speed chase across state lines before crashing into bushes on the side of the road.  The lead police vehicle driven by Officer Brown stopped behind and to the right of the car.  Seconds after Brown stepped out to make an arrest, the car’s reverse lights turned on, and the car started backing up.  Brown fired 11 shots through the back windshield and side windows as the car passed near him.  Then he changed magazines and fired another 10 shots.  The driver was killed, and his two passengers were injured.

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A man named Robert Lawrence was shot by a police officer in front of his wife and children after an incident that began when took a stray dog to the animal shelter in Dothan, Alabama. Lawrence and his family found a stray dog in a Walmart parking lot and decided to take the dog to the shelter. When he arrived there with the dog, he was asked to show some identification and to fill out some paperwork before leaving the dog. He felt that he should not have to do that and out of frustration he told the official he would leave and just let the dog out along the road leading to the shelter.

When people who are at the shelter threaten to abandon an animal, their policy is to have a police officer follow them to their vehicle to write down their tag number. That happened when Lawrence left the shelter. The police officer asked for his driver’s license when he arrive at his car, and he told her he did not have to show her one.   The officer called for a backup officer and detained Lawrence at his car where they argued while waiting for the backup.

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Toddrey Bruce appealed his conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Bruce was arrested when he was found in the possession of a firearm which was illegal under federal law for him to possess. In this appeal he claimed the trial court erred by not granting his motion to suppress the evidence of his gun possession because the seizure was a violation of the Fourth Amendment violation. Here are the facts leading to his seizure and arrest.

A 911 call came to the police at 3:00 a.m. by an anonymous person about a disturbance in the front yard of a “drug house” and that one of the men involved had a gun. He told the 911 operator that while he was speaking to the operator, they we were arguing and the person holding the gun he described as a black man standing next to a white car in front of the house. The tipster warned that the police should use caution because there might me shooting any minute. The dispatcher quickly related key parts of the call to the police and several officers who were nearby arrived on the scene with flashing police lights. The approaching officers saw two men in the white car at the address given by the tipster and for officer safety they drew their guns as they approached the car. The police approached Bruce while he was sitting in parked in front of a house. When the police approached the car, they told the men to exit the car, and Bruce tried to make a break for it. When one of the officers grabbed him, a semi-automatic pistol dropped from his waistband.

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