Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Greater Sentence OK After Booker Remand

US v Williams: Williams pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess counterfeit securities, stemming from a scheme in which he and others (not codefendants) stole commercial checks from businesses, altered them, and cashed them at various locations. At sentencing, the Guideline sentencing range, largely driven by the amount of loss, was 77 to 96 months for an offense with a statutory maximum of 60 months. Williams objected to the sentencing enhancements under Blakely. The district court agreed and imposed a "statutory sentence" of 36 months. Both Williams and the Government appealed. When Booker came down, the Government moved to remand for resentencing. That motion was granted. At resentencing, the district court made the same Guideline calculations and imposed the statutory maximum term of 60 months in prison. Williams appealed.

The Fourth Circuit affirmed, briefly shooting down three arguments. First, the court held (finally, in a published opinion) that applying the remedial post-Booker "advisory" Guideline scheme to persons whose conduct took place prior to Booker does not violate due process or ex post facto principles. Second, the court held that the increased sentence was not evidence of vindictiveness. "In short," the court concluded, "we hold that there is no vindictiveness in a post-Booker sentence that exceeds the original pre-Booker sentence solely because Booker changed the law." Finally, the court held that the 60-month sentence was not unreasonable.

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