US v. McNeal: In this appeal, two of three co-defendants raised several trial issues (the third co-defendant pleaded guilty), including the sufficiency of the evidence of their brandishing convictions, the adequacy of proof regarding a conspiracy conviction, the denial of a motion to suppress, and other evidentiary rulings. The main focus of this appeal appears to be the Fourth Circuit’s determination that the federal offense of armed bank robbery is a “crime of violence” in the context of the brandishing offenses. The Fourth Circuit rejected all of the defendants’ arguments, affirming the convictions here.
The defendants failed to contend that armed bank robbery was not a crime of violence at the district court, rendering their claim on this issue to plain error review. The defendants faced a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for the carrying a firearm during or in relation to a crime of violence, consecutive to any sentence for the underlying offense. Here, the brandishing of a firearm during a crime of violence would add two years to the mandatory minimum sentence the defendants faced. The co-defendants argued that their convictions for brandishing a firearm must be vacated because the statutory language lacked as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force.
The government argued that bank robbery, a lesser included offense of armed bank robbery, satisfied the force element because it includes the element that property must be taken “by force and violence, or by intimidation,” and the Fourth Circuit agreed with the government. The Fourth Circuit cited to its own earlier case and case law from other circuits which held that other federal crimes with language similar to the instant statute have as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force, and those are crimes of violence. The Fourth Circuit reached the same conclusion here, and held that armed bank robbery is a crime of violence.