Friday, September 01, 2006

Third Circuit affirms post-Booker sentence modeled on pre-Booker sentence of defendant's co-conspirator

The Third Circuit affirmed a sentence that the District Court modeled on the sentence of the defendant's co-conspirator, which was issued prior to the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220, 160 L.Ed.2d. 621 (2005) and under the then-mandatory Sentencing Guidelines. In United States v. Flores, No. 05-1271 (3d Cir. July 21, 2006), the District Court imposed a sentence of 32 months imprisonment for defendant's convictions of conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering, and conspiracy to structure currency transactions. The sentence is 38 months less than the bottom of the District Court's calculated advisory Sentencing Guidelines range. The District Court stated that it was issuing the 32 month sentence to avoid disparities between the sentences of the defendant and his co-conspirator.

Defendant argued that by modeling his sentence on a pre-Booker sentence issued under the mandatory Sentencing Guidelines, the District Court essentially and erroneously bound itself to the mandatory Guidelines, and that his sentence was therefore unreasonable. The Third Circuit affirmed the sentence. It found that the sentence was reasonable under Booker because the District Court (1) was aware that the co-conspirator's sentence was calculated under the mandatory Sentencing Guidelines; (2) did not consider the co-conspirator's Guidelines range binding; and (3) deliberately entered a sentence below the advisory Guidelines to "create parity with a far less culpable co-defendant."

The Third Circuit also held in this case that it did not need to reach the merits of the defendant's challenge to the District Court's calculation of his advisory Sentencing Guidelines range because the sentence issued by the District Court was within the Guidelines range that would have resulted if the District Court had calculated defendant's sentence in the manner suggested by the defendant.

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