July 1, 2014 4th Circuit published opinions

United States v Seignious

Seignious was ordered t pay over $1 million in restitution. The panel affirmed. It first held that the district court did not follow the statutorily mandated procedures for imposing restitution but this was harmless under plain error review given the sentencing court’s statements that the loss was $7 million and the amount actually awarded was identical to the amounts sought by the government on behalf of banks, stores and individuals. It next held that there was no plain error as to the amount of the restitution given the documentary evidence and testimony of a coconspirator. It finally held there was no prejudice from the inadequate reasoning stated by the sentencing court or from the belated filing of the identities of the persons entitled to restitution.

Flying Pigs, LLC v RRAJ Franchising, Inc.

Flying sued RRAJ in state court to enforce an equitable lien n certain intellectual property. RRAJ removed the case to federal court. Flying moved to remand the case which the district court denied and further granted dismissed the case. The panel vacated and remanded. It held that the case must be remanded to state court as it is a state law claim and Flying can prove its case without resort to the federal Lanham Act. Thus there is no significant federal question involved and no basis for federal question jurisdiction.

United States v Perry

Perry was convicted of fraud through failing to report his ability to work thus improperly receiving government disability benefits. The panel affirmed. It held that his indictment was sufficient as it tracked the statutory language, identified the facts that triggered the disclosure requirements and alleged specific intent o defraud.  The panel rejected Perry’s statute of limitations argument holding that there is no discovery rule which triggers the limitation period and his fraud was a continuing offense which brought all of his criminal conduct within the five year window. Finally, the panel held that Perry knew of the duty to disclose and failed to disclose his employment status which was sufficient to sustain the guilty verdicts in his case.

United States v Brown

Brown was convicted of drug trafficking, murder and other charges. She challenged her conviction and sentence. The panel affirmed. It held there was no clear evidence that Brown’s first attorney was ineffective when he did not accompany her to a police interview and thus no basis to suppress the interview tapes. The panel held that while it was improper for the district judge to leave the courtroom while evidence was being read back to the jury, there was no prejudicial error as the absence was brief, no rulings were requested and nothing else happened while the judge was gone. The panel finally affirmed her life sentence for drug trafficking holding that Brown approved the faulty pounds to kilogram conversion given to the jury and in any event the government presented evidence of several tons of marijuana being trafficked over the course of the conspiracy.



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