Thursday, January 24, 2008

Findings Needed to Support 3A1.4 Terrorism Enhancement

US v. Chandia: Chandia was charged with conspiracy and a substantive count of providing material support to terrorists and conspiracy and substantive count of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization. The charges arose from Chandia's ties to a group called Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), with whom he attended a training camp in Pakistan. He also provided assistance to an LET member who came to the United States to secure equipment and support for LET. After a jury trial, Chandia was convicted on all counts except the substantive count of providing material support to terrorists. At sentencing, the district court applied the terrorism enhancement under USSG 3A1.4, jumping Chandia's advisory Guideline range from 63-78 months to 360 months to life. The district court imposed the statutory maximum sentence of 180 months in prison.

On appeal, Chandia challenged both his convictions and sentence. The Fourth Circuit rejected the arguments Chandia raised with regards to his conviction. First, the court concluded the affidavits submitted to obtain warrants to search Chandia's home and car were sufficient to support probable cause and that Chandia was not entitled to a Franks hearing on the issue of inaccuracies/omissions from those affidavits (using a plain error standard because Chandia did not specifically request a Franks hearing in the district court). Second, the court rejected several constitutional arguments against the statutes under which Chandia was convicted, relying on the prior resolution of those issues in US v. Hammoud, 381 F.3d 316 (4th Cir. 2004). Third, the court rejected Chandia's argument that the counts on which he was convicted were duplicitous and violated due process. Finally, the court rejected Chandia's argument that the district court erred by allowing the Government to play for the jury excepts of a CD-ROM video glorifying the 9-11 attacks that was found in Chandia's home. Even if it was error (which the court doesn't say), the error would be harmless given the limited roll of the excerpts at trial.

While sustaining Chandia's convictions, the court did vacate his 180-month sentence. The court concluded that, although the district court utilized the Guideline range provided by the 3A1.4 terrorism enhancement, it failed to make specific findings supporting the enhancement. The court rejected the idea that the mere fact that Chandia was convicted of one material support count justified the enhancement. In a footnote, the court noted that it was not resolving the issue of the proper burden of proof for 3A1.4 enhancements (preponderance of the evidence v. clear and convincing evidence), leaving the issue open for a case "where we are presented to relevant findings."

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