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...)
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...)
Due Process Cause Violation
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.
a Life Sentence
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.
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.
a “Conspiracy to Import Drugs” Conviction
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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).
and Fine Reduced
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
M. Schuster, P.A.
555 N.E. 15th St., Suite 2C
Miami, FL 33132
(preguntas en español)
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