Thursday, April 26, 2007

Lack of Notice of Upward Variance Does Not Require Remand

US v. McClung: McClung was an assistant state school superintendent who was responsible for, among other things, getting the Mingo County (WV) school system running again after a series of devastating floods. During his tenure, McClung renewed an old friendship with Philip "Porkchop" Booth, who ran several businesses that sold furniture and other supplies. McClung basically funnelled business Porkchop's way in return for cash. As a result, McClung pleaded guilty to extortion and filing a false tax return. His Guideline range, to which neither party objected, was 51 to 63 months. Without notice, the district court imposed a sentence of 84 months.

McClung made two arguments on appeal regarding his sentence. First, he argued that the district court erred by imposing an above-the-Guidelines sentence without notice. Because McClung did not object to the imposition of that sentence at the time, review was only for plain error. While conceding that the district court was erroneous in proceeding without notice, the court held that McClung could not show any prejudice from the error. He filed a sentencing memorandum that addressed the 3553(a) factors and included a long letter addressing his personal conduct and remorse. Because McClung could not point to any other argument he might have made had he been given notice, the court rejected that argument. Second, and similarly, McClung argued that his sentence was unreasonable. For reasons similar to the first issue, the Fourth Circuit disagreed and upheld McClung's sentence.

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