Sunday, March 4th, 2012

Rehab? No, No, No.

United States v. Gilliard, No. 11-1088 (2d Cir. February 16, 2012) (Wesley, Lohier, CJJ, Rosenthal, DJ)

Tapia v. United States, 131 S.Ct. 2382 (2011), held that the district court cannot impose or lengthen a prison sentence based on the defendant’s rehabilitative needs. Here, the circuit joins the national trend of reading Tapia narrowly.

Troy Gilliard, sentenced before Tapia came down, faced a 57 to 71 month range for heroin trafficking; both the defendant and the government sought a within-guideline sentence, and probation recommended 65 months, also within the range. In imposing sentence, the court mentioned Gilliard’s criminal history, the seriousness of the offense, the need for specific deterrence, and also mentioned Gillard’s rehabilitative needs – he had both substance abuse and medical issues – while in custody, noting that it was “important” that he be “sentenced in such a way that you are able to address those problems.” Taking into account “everything [that it had] talked about,” the court sentenced Gilliard to 96 months’ imprisonment.

The appellate court rejected the argument that the court’s reference to Gilliard’s rehabilitative needs violated Tapia. The court did not see those comments as connecting the rehabilitative needs to the length of Gilliard’s sentence, which the sentencing court explicitly did in Tapia. “Unlike in Tapia, the record here does not suggest that the length of Gilliard’s sentence was based on the district court’s consideration of his rehabilitative needs.” Rather, to the circuit, the court’s mention of Gilliard’s rehabilitative needs was confined to the – permissible – context of recommending to the BOP appropriate treatment programs.

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