United States v. Sanchez, No. 05-3812-cr (2d Cir. February 29, 2008) (Kearse, Straub, Pooler, CJJ).
In this long opinion, the court considered several challenges to recidivist sentences in a drug case. Two defendants, both “career offenders” under Guidelines section 4B1.1, got relief. A third, sentenced to an enhanced mandatory minimum, did not.
Title 28 U.S.C. § 994(h) directed the Sentencing Commission to develop Sentencing Guidelines for career offenders that would fix a Guideline range “at or near” the statutory maximum. Here, the district judge made statements that seemed to indicate that she believed that this section required her to sentence the defendants above the mandatory minimum, which was 120 months. She gave one defendant 235 months, and the other 188.
The court appellate court concluded that the district court’s apparent belief was incorrect. It noted that § 994(h) is a direction to the Commission, not the courts; moreover, …