Case News, Staff News, First Step Act
Not Guilty in Alleged Child Pornography Bench Trial
Seattle AFDs Vanessa Pai-Thompson and Corey Endo and Paralegal Patricia Stordeur won a bench trial for a client accused of possessing child pornography who faced a mandatory minimum ten-year prison sentence if convicted. In acquitting Pai-Thompson, Endo, and Stordeur's client, the Court found that none of the images the government charged their client with possessing qualified as child pornography. Paralegals Barbara Hughes, Charlotte Ponikvar, and Suzie Strait, a Seattle investigator, law student and undergraduate interns, and many others in the Seattle and Tacoma offices also contributed significantly to the defense team's work. Amazing work and congrats to the entire team!
Two Ninth Circuit Victories!
Seattle AFDs Ann Wagner and Greg Geist achieved an important victory in the Ninth Circuit when the Court squarely held that prior Washington convictions in which the person’s mandatory guideline range did not extend beyond a year do not qualify as predicate felonies for the purpose of a 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) felon-in-possession conviction. This decision in United States v. McAdory explicitly extends the U.S.S.G. § 2L1.2(b)(2) holding in United States v. Valencia-Mendoza, 912 F.3d 1215 (2019), to § 922(g)(1)’s similar statutory definition of a prohibited person as someone who had a prior conviction that was “punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.” Because the client lacked such a conviction, his § 922(g) conviction was reversed and remanded with instructions to vacate the conviction and dismiss the indictment.
Arguing on behalf of a pro se petitioner, the Office of the Federal Public Defender won a ruling from the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that the government had acted unlawfully when seized money received during pretrial detention to satisfy an old restitution obligation. The case is United States v. Lillard.
Welcome Our New Financial Administrative Assistant!
The Federal Public Defender welcomes our new Financial Administrator, Zhanna Kachurina. Zhanna has ten years of experience working in the accounting field and has a B.S. in Business/Accounting and a M.A. in Criminal Justice. In her free time, she likes to volunteer, read, and spend time with her family and friends. Zhanna is excited about being a member of the Federal Defender Office and honored to be part of our team.
First Step Act:
First Step Projection for Crack Cases. Under the First Step Act, clients who were convicted of crack cocaine offenses before 2010 became eligible for possible sentence reductions. Staff at the Federal Defenders combed through hundreds of cases looking for potentially eligible clients convicted in the Western District of Washington, eventually finding a dozen potentially eligible clients. We filed motions on behalf of these clients and won time-served sentence reductions for nine so far, with one motion still pending. Some of these clients had been in prison decades. The government opposed reductions in all but one case. FPD staff working on the project include: AFDs Dennis Carroll, Colin Fieman, Vicki Lai, and Ann Wagner, along with Defender Mike Filipovic, and Seattle paralegals Janet Stanton and Suzie Strait.