Neil M. Schuster, P.A.

555 N.E. 15th St.
Suite 2C
Miami, FL 33132
305-416-0324 (phone)
305-416-0325 (fax)

(preguntas en español)


Noteworthy Cases

Fraud Conviction Vacated

In Fall 2008, Schuster convinced the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate the $40 million dollar fraud conviction and nearly twenty-year sentence of Larry Schwartz based upon a Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause violation. See United States v. Schwartz, 541 F.3d 1331 (11th Cir. 2008). (more...)

Court Vacates Sentence

Also in September of 2008, Schuster convinced the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate the sentence of Pedro Gonzalez based upon the imposition of an unfair financial penalty as part of the sentencing package of sanctions. See United States v. Gonzalez, 541 F.3d 1250 (11th Cir. 2008). (more...)

Brady Due Process Cause Violation

In addition to these reported decisions which now serve as governing law, in March of 2008, in a 19-page Report which is available upon request, Schuster convinced the Chief Magistrate Judge in the Southern District of Florida that the prosecution kept evidence from the Defendant, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, that should have been made available to prove his defense. The Judge found there was a Brady Due Process Clause violation, because the government withheld exculpatory evidence, which required a new trial in Juan Miguel Gonzalez v. United States, Cases Nos. 07-CV-21001, 00-CR-00239, S.D. Fla. Conviction was vacated five years after trial. Ultimately, the Defendant reached an agreement, rather than try the case again, under which he will be released from jail next year, thereby reducing approximately 10 years from his earlier prison sentence. Persistence, finding additional evidence, and using the opportunities available made a terrible case into a victory.

Overturning a Life Sentence

In the world of appeals, vacating a life sentence is particularly rewarding. Arguing before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, from the Middle District of Florida, Criminal Defense Attorney Neil Schuster successfully vacated the life sentence imposed against alleged drug kingpin William Harvey. (This case represents a rare victory against a Continuing Criminal Enterprise conviction.) Attorney Neil Schuster proved that Harvey never should have been charged with the most serious drug offense because of the Fifth Amendment protection against double jeopardy. After convincing the appellate court that the prosecutor misrepresented facts, Attorney Schuster next convinced the Eleventh Circuit to permit additional briefing to document and correct the misstatements made by the prosecution. As a result, Attorney Neil Schuster was successful in having the appeals court vacate the life sentence.

U.S. v. Harvey, 78 F.3d 501, 11th Cir. Mar 21, 1996 (NO. 93-3574) ... §§ 406, 408, 21 U.S.C.A. §§ 846, 848. William J. Harvey, Jr., Pro se. Neil M. Schuster, Miami Beach, FL, for Appellant. Cynthia R. Hawkins, Asst. U.S. Atty., James Glazebrook, Orlando, FL, Tamra Phipps, Paul G. Byron.

Overturning a “Conspiracy to Import Drugs” Conviction

Mr. Arbane, born in Iran, was jailed serving a 235-month sentence for conspiracy to import drugs into the United States. He retained Mr. Schuster to handle his direct appeal. Arguing before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, Schuster successfully convinced the court there was insufficient evidence to prove that Mr. Arbane sought to import the hundreds of kilograms stashed in Ecuador into the United States as distinguished from his intent to perhaps import cocaine into Mexico or elsewhere. The court also found that "the government did not meet its burden to show an agreement between two or more culpable co-conspirators to commit the illegal act charged." As a result, the conviction was overturned and the prosecution was dismissed.

U.S. v. Arbane, 446 F.3d 1223, 19 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. C 491, (11th Cir. Apr 21, 2006) (NO. 04-15727) ... in a conspiracy case is that the government must prove a meeting of the minds to achieve the unlawful result. Neil M. Schuster, Miami, FL, for Arbane. Kathleen M. Salyer, Anne R. Schultz, Asst. U.S. Atty., Lisa A. Hirsch, Miami, FL, for U.S.

Re-instatement of Civil Rights Lawsuit

Mr. Schuster wrote many briefs and appeared three times for oral argument before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, winning reinstatement of a Civil Rights suit. The Firm is extremely proud of the language used by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, in setting extraordinarily important precedent for all prison inmates. For those inmates suffering the indignity of solitary confinement or particularly harsh prison conditions, the precedent from these cases establishes a claim of intent to punish a pretrial detainee on the part of detention facility officials is sufficient to show unconstitutional pretrial punishment, in violation of the due process clause, and if a restriction or condition is not reasonably related to a legitimate goal, a court permissibly may infer the purpose of the governmental action is punishment.

Magluta v. Samples, et al. 375 F.3d 1269 (11th Cir. 2004). Neil M. Schuster, Miami, FL, for Magluta. R. Craig Green, Robert M. Loeb, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Civ. Div., App. Staff, Washington, DC.
Magluta v. Samples, 250 F.3d 749 (11th Cir. 2001);
Magluta v. Samples, 162 F.3d 662, 665 (11th Cir. 1998). Neil M. Schuster, South Beach, FL, for Petitioner-Appellant. Amy Weil, Asst. U.S. Atty., Atlanta, GA, Barbara C. Biddle, Maria Simon.

Court Vacates Sentence

At sentencing, the court noted that Defendant's sentence was about five times greater than the sentence imposed on his co-defendant. The sentencing judge also queried the government asking “[d]on't you find this an exceptionally harsh sentence that the Court has to impose?” We cannot say with fair assurance that Defendant's sentence was not substantially impacted by the statutory Booker error. What sentence the district court would have imposed had it considered the guidelines advisory is impossible to tell. Accordingly, we vacate Defendant's sentence and remand for resentencing consistent with Booker.

U.S. v. Anthony, 159 Fed. Appx. 162 (Not selected for publication in the Federal Reporter), 2005 WL 3487527 (11th Cir. Dec. 21, 2005 (NO. 04-16011). Susan Hollis Rothstein-Youakim, U.S. Attorney's Office, Tampa, FL, for Plaintiff-Appellee. Neil M. Schuster, Miami, FL, for Defendant-Appellant. Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. D.C. Docket No.

Court Vacates Sentence

The client was serving a 235-month jail sentence at the time he asked Mr. Schuster to handle his direct appeal. Arguing that both the prosecution and the court violated the terms of the defendant's plea agreement, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit vacated the sentence, the former District Court judge was replaced with a new judge, and a new sentence of 97 months was imposed. The court held, “we agree…there was a clear breach by the government in this case. [Defendant’s] agreement with the government explicitly stated that the prosecution would not seek any enhancements of his sentence and the government breached that agreement when asked the court to apply the role enhancement. … Berzon’s conviction, therefore, is VACATED and this case is remanded to permit Berzon to plead anew to the original agreement and be sentenced before a different district judge.”

U.S. v. Berzon, 2003 WL 22102149, 16 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. D 605 (S.D. Fla. Aug 01, 2003) (NO. 01-35-CR-KING), but vacated and remanded (Dec 29, 2004) (unpublished but available upon request).

Sentence and Fine Reduced

As a result of Mr. Schuster’s successful efforts to convince the prosecution to file for sentencing mitigation, the Client received a substantial reduction of his jail term. However, the trial judge did not believe that he had jurisdiction to also reduce the substantial fine that was imposed. On appeal, Schuster successfully challenged the district court’s determination that there was no jurisdiction to reduce the fine.

U.S. v. McMillan, 106 F.3d 322, 10th Cir. Feb 04, 1997 (NO. 96-1277)... Kennedy, Assistant U.S. Attorney, and John M. Hutchins, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Mountain States Drug Task Force, Denver, CO, for appellee. Neil M. Schuster, Miami Beach, FL, for defendant-appellant. Before ANDERSON, HENRY, and BRISCOE, Circuit Judges. STEPHEN H. ANDERSON, Circuit Judge.

Mr. Schuster also has vast experience in prison-related matters and suits to improve jail conditions. Such suits and related administrative proceedings seek to hold the prison system accountable to protect Constitutional rights that still apply, forcing recognition that prison walls do not fully separate an inmate from the Bill of Rights. With regard to prison issues, arguing these issues before the higher court, Schuster won three appeals in which his client sued the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Department of Justice, and varied officials for deplorable prison conditions.

Political Cases

The Firm represented those indicted with spying in "The Suitcase," charged as a U.S. coverup of political payoffs from Venezuelan President Chavez to the leading candidate for the Argentine presidency.

Schuster also represents those charged in Colombia as AUC warlords, while resisting extradition to the United States.

Additional explanation of the vacation of sentence and conviction in the Schwartz case:

The Government introduced into evidence over Schwartz's objections a shortened statement made by a codefendant, who did not testify at trial. The Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment gives every defendant the constitutionally protected right to challenge at trial anyone who says anything against him. Using an out-of-court statement against the Defendant without giving him a full opportunity to attack the person who made the statement is objectionable, but there was little law to support the claim because the statement related to corporations which the Defendant owned or controlled. Schwartz argued that codefendant Meyer’s out of court statement unfairly and unconstitutionally served to shift the blame to him without giving Schwartz a chance to attack the statement. The out-of-court statement used at trial, by suggestion, named Schwartz as a criminal who defrauded investors of tens of millions of dollars in violation of the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause because it implied his guilt without affording him the opportunity to cross-examine the person who made the statement. See Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123, 88 S.Ct. 1620, 20 L.Ed.2d 476 (1968). Unlike in Bruton, the statement used at Schwartz trial did not use his name. Instead, it named corporations he owned or controlled, which I successfully argued compelled an inference of my client’s guilt. See Gray v. Maryland, 523 U.S. 185, 195, 118 S.Ct. 1151, 1156, 140 L.Ed.2d 294 (1998) (noting that the "kind of, not the simple fact of, inference" matters). The Government in its closing argument to the jury linked Schwartz to the non-testifying codefendant's statement by name. In evaluating Schwartz's 6th Amendment Confrontation Clause claim, the Court of Appeals examined the whole record to determine whether a reasonable juror was compelled to draw an inference of Schwartz's guilt from the codefendant statements. See Harrington v. California, 395 U.S. 250, 254, 89 S.Ct. 1726, 1728, 23 L.Ed.2d 284 (1969) ("Our judgment must be based on our own reading of the record and on what seems to us to have been the probable impact of the [codefendant statements] on the minds of an average jury.").

Even though there was a very lengthy trial and an extraordinary amount of other evidence supporting conviction, the Eleventh Circuit vacated the conviction and sentence. The higher court concluded that the non-testifying witnesses statements, which came in the way of an affidavit read by the FBI at trial "powerfully incriminat[ed]" Schwartz by summarizing the loans his corporation made to other companies Schwartz controlled. See Bruton, 391 U.S. at 135, 88 S.Ct. at 1627. Even though codefendant Meyer's statement "was not incriminating on its face, and became so only when linked" with other evidence, Richardson, 481 U.S. at 208, 107 S.Ct. at 1707, the Eleventh Circuit concluded that the statement compelled an inference that Schwartz directed corporations which he controlled to use investor monies to line the coffers of his personal business enterprises. Because the prosecutor, in his closing argument, expressly linked Schwartz to the companies named in Meyer's statement, there was clear prejudice. U.S. v. Schwartz, 541 F.3d 1331, 1351(C.A.11 (Fla.),2008). After Schwartz conviction was vacated and he served nearly 68 months imprisonment, a plea agreement was structured so that he would not be retried. His 210 month sentence was vacated and in 2009 an agreement was reached for a 78 month jail term.

Additional explanation of the habeas corpus victory of Juan Miguel Gonzalez:

The Juan Miguel Gonzalez habeas corpus petition was filed four years after conviction. The premise of the Section 2255 petition is based the failure of the prosecution to disclose important evidence helpful to the defense which the law requires it to do. The argument made by counsel was that the withheld evidence would have made a significant impact on a fair juror's verdict in the prosecution for conspiracy to import and sell large quantities of cocaine. We were able to prove in 2008 the existence of extremely important evidence, proved that the government possessed that evidence at the same time of the 2003 trial and further that the evidence was improperly withheld. The main witness in that case testified that Gonzalez was solely responsible for selling him an extraordinary amount of drugs over an extended period of time and that Gonzalez was the importer of large-scale shipments of cocaine from South America. However, the Department of Justice seized drug records in a separate case, possessed by separate prosecutors and separate agents, which contained the street name of the main witness. Because the seized ledgers proved that the main witness was buying approximately $1 million worth of cocaine from another individual at the same time he claimed Gonzalez was his sole supplier, constitutional principles of fairness and due process required disclosure to the defense. By proving that the government possessed these drug ledgers at the same time its main witness provided contrary testimony, the Chief Magistrate Judge issued a 19-page Report specifically finding, "that the withheld drug ledger information was a Brady violation imputed to the prosecution..." The court found that, "Luis Perez was the first witness called by the Government he testified at length about his relationship with petitioner, his purchase of cocaine... and his use of petitioner as his "sole supplier" of cocaine during this time period. Clearly, the undisclosed Brady information concerning [the main witness’] purchase of at least 70 kg of cocaine from Eddie Diaz in October 1998 would have prevented much or all of that testimony concerning his source of supply, or could have been used to impeach Perez's credibility on the key issue of his supplier at that time. Moreover, and as significantly, the undersigned finds that the government used Perez to introduce petitioner to the jury as an importer of cocaine in direct support of the importation conspiracy charge... the government cannot now argue that the evidence against petitioner on the possession and importation charges is "entirely independent" merely because the importation conspiracy is dated a few months later in March 1999." After the Report was filed, counsel was able to convince the Government the conviction should be vacated.

On numerous occasions, Schuster has successfully removed his clients from the extraordinarily harsh conditions of solitary confinement. Although the Federal Bureau of Prisons has extraordinary powers, counsel has fought to prevent limitations to the application of the Sixth Amendment and a criminal defendant’s right to counsel while jailed. Other reported cases include those filed on behalf of Ben Kramer and Augusto “Willie” Falcon.

Schuster has “ghost” authored numerous appeals for other counsel, and has presented dozens of arguments to the higher courts in the Eleventh, Fifth, Second, First and Ninth Circuits.

Neil M. Schuster served as co-counsel in the 2002 murder/money laundering/obstruction of justice trial of United States v. Magluta. This litigation was considered by the Office of the United States Attorney as the most serious case in the history of the Southern District of Florida. The jury was both anonymous and sequestered. Magluta was acquitted of all murders and attempted murder charges, along with 25 of 33 money laundering charges. In June of 2003, Schuster secured the release from imprisonment of Thomas Mottle who was serving a thirty-year jail term for drug trafficking. Schuster proved that the FBI withheld exculpatory evidence.

Neil M. Schuster, P.A.
555 N.E. 15th St., Suite 2C
Miami, FL 33132
305-416-0324 (phone)
305-416-0325 (fax)

(preguntas en español)

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