December 20, 2013 4th Circuit published opinions

United States v Steffen

Steffen pled guilty to a drug charge. The district court ruled he was a supervisor in the conspiracy and enhanced his sentence. The panel affirmed. It held that because supervisor status is a factual determination, albeit a complex one, the standard of review is for clear error. It held there was no clear error because Steffen followed a coconspirator in his patrol car to prevent other law enforcement form stopping the coconspirator and transferred the utility bill to another coconspirator to avoid detection. This was sufficient to support the conclusion he acted as a manger or supervisor and the panel therefore affirmed.

United States v Woods

Woods was ruled a sexually dangerous person and committed to the custody of the Attorney General. The panel affirmed. The panel held that Woods’ due process rights were not violated by the district court’s refusal to allow him to have ex parte contact with his testifying expert because that is not a right under precedent or the governing statute, he had the opportunity to have a confidential expert appointed and did not ask for one and in any event his expert testified he was not a sexually dangerous person. The panel also rejected his hearsay argument noting the police reports he wanted kept out were admissible because experts would rely on those reports in forming their opinions and in any event the reports were cumulative a presentence report admitted without objection.

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