Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Maryland First-Degree Burglary Conviction Not "Crime of Violence"

US v. Henriquez: Henriquez pleaded guilty to illegal reentry.  His advisory Guideline range included a 16-level enhancement for have been previously convicted of a "crime of violence" - a 2000 first-degree burglary conviction in Maryland.  The district court overruled Henriquez's objection that the Maryland burglary statute is broader than the "generic" burglary recognized by the Supreme Court and imposed a within-Guideline sentence of 41 months.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit vacated that sentence, 2-1, after concluding that the enhancement was improper.  For illegal reentry purposes, the definition of crime of violence includes "burglary of a dwelling," which the court has recognized previously matches the definition of "generic" burglary promulgated by the Supreme Court.  Although the Maryland statute does specify that it only applies to burglary of a dwelling, it does not define "dwelling."  As a result, Maryland courts have defined the term as being broader than just a home (extending it to include RVs and unoccupied apartments), broadening the definition beyond that set forth by the Supreme Court.  Applying the categorical approach, the court concluded that it was not clear whether Henriquez's 2000 conviction involved a home or one of the places specifically excluded by the Supreme Court, such as a boat or a car.  Therefore, it was error to enhance his sentence.

Judge Motz dissented, arguing that the majority misconstrued Maryland court decisions on the scope of the burglary statute.

Congrats to the Defender office in Maryland on the win!

More Than Fraudulent Scheme Needed for Sophisticated Means Enhancement

US v. Adepoju: Adepoju was involved in a bank fraud scheme, along with another person who happened to be a confidential informant.  Adepoju provided the CI with false identification documents to use to open two bank accounts.  Adepoju was then to provide checks to the CI for deposit, then split the cash withdrawals with the CI and the CI's "insider" at the bank.  As a result, Adepoju was charged with two counts of bank fraud and identity theft.  After a jury convicted him of all counts, the district court sentenced Adepoju to 70 months in prison.

Adepoju appealed his convictions to the Fourth Circuit, which were affirmed, as well as his sentence, which was vacated.  On the convictions,  the court rejected Adepoju's argument that there was insufficient evidence to support them, based largely on the testimony of the CI.  As to his sentence, however, the court concluded that the district court had incorrectly applied a two-level Guideline enhancement for use of a sophisticated means in the scheme.  The court concluded that the Government had failed to prove the enhancement applied, noting that it takes more than mere fraud to qualify as "sophisticated."  The district court had erred by essentially putting the burden on Adepoju to disprove sophistication.  Finally, the court rejected an Allenyne-based due process argument with regard to Adepoju's two-year sentence on the identity theft charge, noting that there is only one possible sentence for such a conviction, not a staggered series of mandatory minimums.