The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has affirmed the 21-month sentence imposed on Mohammad Jahangir Miah, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy for the production of fraudulent CNMI driver’s licenses.
The Ninth Circuit judges said they reviewed the U.S. District Court for the NMI’s hearsay ruling for an abuse of discretion because Miah made a hearsay objection in federal court.
The Ninth Circuit judges ruled that because the challenged statements were both solidly inculpatory and was corroborated by recordings, the district court did not abuse its discretion when it admitted them as statements against interest under Federal Rule of Evidence 804(b)(3).
Prior to sentencing, the district court found Miah to have breached his plea agreement by participating in a scheme to cash stolen checks.
Miah, through counsel, contended that, at his breach-of-plea hearing, the district court ran afoul of the Confrontation Clause and improperly applied the hearsay exception when it admitted as evidence out-of-court statements of a co-conspirator in the check-cashing scheme.
“Because neither argument is meritorious, we affirm,” the Ninth Circuit judges said.
The Ninth Circuit judges noted that Miah acknowledges that their review is limited to plain error with respect to his Confrontation Clause claim because he did not make a Confrontation Clause objection in the district court.
“Under that standard, we may only reverse when an error is “clear” or “obvious,” said the judges, citing precedent.
The judges said Miah acknowledges that no court has found the Confrontation Clause to apply to breach-of-plea hearings and that this court has held that the Confrontation Clause does not apply in analogous contexts such as hearings on sentencing and revocation of supervised release.
“Thus, it is not clear or obvious that admitting the co-conspirator’s out-of-court statements at Miah’s breach-of-plea hearing violated the Confrontation Clause,” the judges said.
In March 2013, the federal court sentenced Miah to 21 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to unlawfully produce and transfer identification documents.
In August 2013, Miah pleaded guilty to 12 charges in seven cases filed in the Superior Court.
Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo sentenced Miah to a total of 14 years, all suspended except for two years, to be served day for day without parole. Miah was given credit for 424 days of time served.
In July 2012, the federal court acquitted the defendant in a criminal case of conspiracy to forge stale CNMI tax refund checks.