Archive | sentencing

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Ratio Days

United States v. Keller, No. 07-3330-cr (2d Cir. August 14, 2008) (Miner, Cabranes, CJJ, Berman, DJ)

This case provides an important clarification of the procedure that the court set out earlier this year in United States v. Regalado, 518 F.3d 143 (2d Cir. 2008). In that case, the court held that a remand was warranted on appeals of pre-Kimbrough crack sentencings where the defendant did not ask for a variance based on the 100-to-1 penalty ratio, because there would be no way for the circuit to know whether the district court would have imposed a different sentence if it knew that it had the discretion to do so.

Here, the district judge gave a two-level sentence reduction to match the anticipated amelioration of the crack sentencing guidelines, but did not specifically acknowledge its discretion to consider the crack-powder sentencing disparity as the basis for imposing a non-guideline sentence. The circuit …


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Categories: crack, regalado, sentencing, Uncategorized

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Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

CASH AS CACHE CAN

United States v. Jones, No. 05-5879-cr (2d Cir. June 24, 2008) (Leval, Cabranes, Raggi, CJJ)

In 2004, Jones was present in a “gatehouse” – an apartment used solely for the purpose of selling drugs – when Rochester police executed a search warrant. The officers found, inter alia, twenty-two grams of crack residue and $883 in cash hidden in the apartment. Jones admitted “selling a little.” Despite this admission, the jury convicted him only of simple crack possession.

At sentencing, the court held him accountable for possessing forty-seven grams of crack. This comprised the twenty-two grams of crack residue, plus an estimated twenty-five additional grams, which was based on the probable amount that Jones had sold to realize the $883.

The Appeal

Drug Quantity

On appeal, Jones argued, primarily, that it was unreasonable for the court to translate the money into drugs for the purposes of calculating drug quantity under the …


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Categories: discretion, drug quantity, sentencing, Uncategorized

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Friday, May 9th, 2008

Quantum Mechanics

United States v. Martinez, No. 06-5502-cr (2d Cir. May 9, 2008) (per curiam).

In this brief per curiam, the court reaffirms that there is only one quantum of proof necessary for sentencing enhancements post-Booker – the preponderance standard.

Specifically, the court rejected Martinez’ argument that where the enhancement requires the sentencing judge to determine that the defendant committed a separate offense (here, the 4-level bump under § 2K2.1(b)(6) for using a gun in connection with another felony offense), those facts should be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The circuit noted that the district court did not sentence Martinez for the other offense; it merely determined that the separate offense was relevant to the sentence to be imposed on the offense of conviction, and that Martinez did not receive a sentence longer than the applicable statutory maximum.…


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Categories: preponderance, sentencing, standard of proof, Uncategorized

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Friday, May 2nd, 2008

Rejection Letter

United States v. Negron, 06-3614-cr (2d Cir. April 24, 2008) (Jacobs, Kearse, Pooler, CJJ) (per curiam)

Defendant Silverio, who was sentenced to 272 months (22 years, 8 months) in prison, had been offered, and rejected, a plea agreement with a binding sentencing recommendation of 17 years. On appeal, he argued that district court erred in refusing to consider the terms of the rejected agreement at sentencing.

Not surprisingly, the appellate court disagreed. There is nothing in § 3553(a) – or circuit precedent – that requires a district court to do so. Accordingly, finding no substantive or procedural defect with the sentence, the court affirmed.


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Categories: plea agreement, sentencing, Uncategorized

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Friday, April 4th, 2008

Consecutive Privilege

United States v. Donoso, No. 07-0635-cr (2d Cir. April 3, 2008) (McLaughlin, Hall, CJJ, Sand, DJ) (per curiam)

Resolving an open question in this circuit, the court here holds that, under 18 U.S.C. § 3584(a), a district judge cannot order the federal sentence to run consecutively to another sentence that has not yet been imposed.

Facts: Richard Donoso violated his federal supervised release by committing a state offense. He pled guilty in state court, then came into federal court and admitted the supervised release violation. Judge Spatt sentenced him to 24 months’ imprisonment and ordered it to run consecutively to the state sentence. Donoso was not sentenced in the state case, however, until the next day. A few days later, Judge Spatt recalled the case, questioning whether he had the power to impose a consecutive sentence before the state sentence had been imposed. Invoking Fed.R.Cr.Proc. 35(a), and over objection, he …


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Categories: concurrent, consecutive, sentencing, Uncategorized

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Monday, March 24th, 2008

Fraud Man Out

United States v. Cutler, No. 05-2516(L) (2d Cir. March 17, 2008) (Jacobs, Kearse, Pooler, CJJ)

In this case, the government successfully appealed the exceptionally lenient sentences that Judge Preska imposed on two defendants convicted of a multi-million dollar fraud. The circuit found that the sentences were both procedurally and substantively unreasonable, and remanded the case for resentencing.

Facts

James Cutler was the CFO of a holding company that owned hotels; Sanford Freedman was its general counsel. Together, they helped the company and its principals cheat a number of banks out of more than $100 million. In very brief, the scheme worked like this:

In the 1990’s, the holding company restructured its debt, and its principals executed deficiency notes that made them personally liable for those debts. Around the same time, they sold key assets of their company to another company for stock worth more than $100 million. Although they therefore …


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Categories: procedural reasonableness, sentencing, substantive reasonableness, Uncategorized

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Thursday, March 6th, 2008

The “Regalado Remand”

United States v. Regalado, No. 05-5379-cr (2d Cir. March 4, 2008) (Jacobs, Pooler, Sack, CJJ) (per curiam)

At last, the circuit has told us what to do in light of Kimbrough. And the answer is, in essence, a Crosby remand.

Regalado received a 262-month crack sentence, the bottom of the Guideline range (he was not a career offender). The sentencing judge said nothing about the 100-to-1 crack/cocaine disparity and the defendant never raised it. Due to this silence, the appellate court concluded that it could not “tell whether the district court would have exercised its now clear discretion to mitigate the sentencing range produced by the 100-to-1 ratio.” To solve the problem, the court decided to import the “Crosby mechanism” to crack cases.

Specifically, where a “defendant has not preserved the argument that the sentencing range for the crack cocaine offense fails to serve the [statutory] …


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Categories: crack, sentencing, Uncategorized

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Sunday, February 24th, 2008

The Government Giveth and the Government Taketh Away

United States v. Dominguez, No. 05-7005-cr (2d Cir. February 15, 2008) (Miner, Sack, Hall, CJJ)

Carol Dominguez faced 240-months in prison: a ten-year crack minimum that was doubled because of her prior conviction. The government moved for a downward departure under 5K1.1 and 18 U.S.C. § 3553(e), then asked the court to sentence her somewhere within a 151 to 188 month range. At sentencing, the judge granted the government’s motions, and then considered mitigating information from Dominguez’ family, friends, employers and the defendant herself. The judge indicated that he believed he had the “discretion to sentence you as to what I feel would be fair and reasonable under the circumstances.” He said that he had “reviewed and considered all the pertinent information including but not limited to the presentence investigation report, submissions by counsel the factors outlined in 18 U.S.C. Section 3553 and the sentencing guidelines” and sentenced her to …


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Categories: cooperation, sentencing, Uncategorized

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Russian Revolution

United States v. Verkhoglyad, No. 05-4210-cr (2d Cir. February 14, 2008) (Cabranes, Raggi, CJJ, Berman, DJ)

Oleg Verkhoglyad was a Russian mobster who repeatedly received lenient treatment. First, after cooperating in a 1998 extortion case, he received a 5K1.1 departure. Six months after getting out of jail, he violated his supervised release by committing a multitude of new offenses. He pled guilty to the supervised release violation and a new felon-in-possession charge, then talked his way into another cooperation agreement. After nearly four years of working with the government, he received another 5K letter. This time, he got 4 years’ probation on the gun charge and 3 years of supervised release on the supervised release violation. Within weeks of his sentencing, he violated his supervision by using marijuana and leaving the district without permission. This time, however, his luck ran out. The district judge slammed him, giving him 57 months’ …


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Categories: probation violation, sentencing, Uncategorized

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Monday, December 31st, 2007

Permanent Waive

United States v. Quinones, No. 04-5554 (2d Cir. December 28, 2007) (Winter, Cabranes, Raggi, CJJ)

This case has lengthy discussions of two important issues. It turns out that the one that has received the less press is actually the more interesting of the two, so we’ll begin with that.

1. Sentencing Error Waived

Facts: In this capital case, the defendants initially faced three counts that exposed them to the death penalty. Two related to murder in aid of racketeering under 18 U.S.C. § 1959; for these, a life sentence was mandatory if death was not imposed. The defendants were acquitted of these counts.

They were convicted only of murder in relation to a continuing drug enterprise (“CCE”) under 21 U.S.C. § 848(e). At the time, that section provided for a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment and a maximum of life if death was not imposed. Nevertheless, the defendants …


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Categories: jury selection, sentencing, Uncategorized, waiver

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Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

Blurry Vision Leads to Clear Error

United States v. Lin Guang, No. 05-4724(L)-cr (2d Cir. December 13, 2007) (McLaughlin, Wesley, CJJ, Sessions, DJ)

Two defendants in an extortion case raised a host of garden-variety challenges to their conviction, to little effect, and to their sentence, one of which prevailed.

During one of the extortions, a victim was beaten and a caustic substance was sprayed into his eyes, briefly blinding him. Once he rinsed it out, his eyes felt better, but from that point on he found it painful to read for long periods of time, and thus had stopped reading the newspaper. Based on this account, the district court imposed a six-level Guideline enhancement for permanent injury, which is defined as “loss or substantial impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty that is likely to be permanent.”

The circuit held that the district court’s finding that the impairment, as described, was …


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Categories: clear error, sentencing, Uncategorized

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