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Showing posts from December, 2006

Supervised Release - Consecutive sentences allowed upon revocation

In US v. Joseph Dees, No 05-4949 (Nov. 8, 2006), the Circuit joined with six other circuits in ruling that under 18 usc sect 3584(a), a district court may "impose consecutive terms of imprisonment upon revocation of supervised release -- even when the sentences for the underlying crimes ran concurrently."

Dees had pleaded guilty on three separate dates to three separate offenses. He was sentenced, however, for all 3 cases at the same time by one judge. The sentence was 51 months in prison and 3 years supervised release on each of three separate convictions to run concurrently. Dees served his sentence and upon release accumulated multiple violations of his release conditions. At a violation hearing, the judge revoked supervised release and imposed 24 months in prison on each of the three supervised release terms, to run consecutively, for a total of 72 months. The Circuit found that nothing in the statute precludes such consecutive sentences upon violation, even though …

Third Circuit finds unlimited "but for" theory of restitution calculation erroneous; reiterates admissibility of custom & practice testimony

On December 12, 2006, the Third Circuit ruled in United States v. Fallon, Case No. 03-4184, that awarding restitution owed under the Mandatory Victims Resolution Act ("MVRA") pursuant to a theory of unlimited "but for" causation is error requiring a new restitution hearing. The Third Circuit also held that the exclusion of testimony about industry custom and practice was error as a matter of law, but that such error was harmless in this case.

At the restitution hearing, the district court found by a preponderance that American Business Leasing ("ABL"), which had purchased microdermabraders from Mr. Fallon’s company and then leased the devices to doctors, would not have purchased the devices but for Mr. Fallon’s forgery of the FDA approval letter that Mr. Fallon provided to ABL during their negotiations. The district court consequently found that all of ABL’s losses from unpaid lease payments were caused by Mr. Fallon’s misrepresentation. It assessed res…

Another guideline sentence affirmed, more specific reasons for sentence not required

On November 28, 2006, the Third Circuit issued another precedential decision affirming a within-guideline sentence. In United States v. Lloyd, No. 05-4241, the defendant pled guilty to a drug conspiracy and faced a range of 168-210 months. The district court imposed 168 months and, after a Booker remand, imposed the same sentence. The court reaffirmed its practice of applying plain error review to an unpreserved argument that the district court failed in its procedural approach to sentencing. While counsel may have strategic reasons for not making certain objections, any hope of meaningful review on these questions requires an objection in the district court. The court found no plain error in the failure to give more specific reasons, stating that "a court can provide concrete reasons for its sentence without speaking at great length." Also, the court found no plain error in failure to give greater weight to the defendant's post-sentencing rehabilitation efforts, c…

3d Cir emphasized adherence to Gunter in finding sentence reasonable

The Third Circuit in United States v. Charles, No. 05-5326, emphasized reliance on the three-step sentencing procedure articulated in United States v. Gunter, No. 05-2592. In rejecting appellant's arguments that his sentence was unreasonable, the Court held that the district court complied with steps one and three by determining the applicable guideline range and discussing the parties' arguments regarding his background and personal circumstances. Analogizing to United States v. King, No. 05-1728, the Court determined that the record supported a maximum guideline sentence of 46 months. The Court rejected Charles's parsimony argument that the district court was required to note why a low-end guideline sentence was insufficient to meet section 3553(a)(2)'s penological goals, and his argument regarding unwarranted disparities, stating that any alleged disparities here were non-statutory and resulted from the district court's reasonable exercise of discretion after…

Letter classification of offense under § 3559(a) does not require reference to guidelines

The Third Circuit in United States v. Lovett, No. 05-4171 (3d Cir. Nov. 6, 2006), rejected the contention that under § 3559(a), the "maximum term of imprisonment authorized" is based on the maximum term of imprisonment authorized by the Guidelines, rather than the statute of conviction. Lovett received a 16-month sentence for his conviction of making a false statement to a federally licensed firearms dealer in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6), and, on appeal, challenged only the imposition of his three-year term of supervised release. Since his range would have been 12-18 months, he argued, he would have thus been classified as a Class E felony, for which the term of supervised release would not have exceeded one year. The Third Circuit rejected the argument, reasoning that the classification process in § 3559 requires, first, identifying the offense of conviction, then, if a letter grade has not been assigned, looking to the "maximum term of imprisonment authorized.&…

Mummert Survives Booker, but Sentences Require Minimal Explanation

The Third Circuit has carried its rule requiring remand of ambiguous departure rulings forward into the post-Booker world. The doctrine, originating in United States v. Mummert, 34 F.3d 201 (3d Cir. 1994), stemmed from the need to determine whether the appellate court had jurisdiction to hear an appeal challenging a Guidelines sentence--legal departure denials were reviewable while discretionary denials were not. Since sentencing courts must still rule on departure motions in the Third Circuit, and since reviewability of such rulings still turns on their legal or discretionary nature, Mummert continues to serve a purpose, the Court held in United States v. Jackson, No. 05-4091 (3d Cir. Nov. 9, 2006).

Unfortunately, Jackson continues the Court's trend of watering down Mummert. In this case, although the district court never addressed the departure motion at all, the Third Circuit infers that the "implicit denial" of the motion was discretionary, since it viewed the gove…