Monday, February 02, 2009

NC Felony Stalking = "Crime of Violence" Under USSG 4B1.2(a)

US v. Seay: Seay was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm and sentenced to 96 months in prison. On appeal, he argued that the district court made two errors at sentencing and argued that his sentence was unreasonable. The Fourth Circuit concluded otherwise and affirmed.

On appeal, Seay first argued that his prior conviction for felony stalking in North Carolina was not a "crime of violence," as defined in USSG 4B1.2(a) and applied in 2K2.1. The Fourth Circuit, after first looking to the indictment to see in which of two possible ways Seay violated the statute, concluded that his conduct was "purposely carried out with the intended effect of placing a reasonably prudent person in fear of bodily harm." The statute, the court noted, requires "more than mere harassment," which is sufficient under some similar statutes in other states. Seay then argued that the district court erred in considering a risk assessment report prepared by a police officer based on an interview with Seay (done with permission of counsel). Without concluding whether there was error, the court held that any error would be harmless, as the record showed that the district court did not rely on the report in any meaningful way. Finally, Seay's argument that his sentence, an upward variance, was unreasonable was rejected by the court.

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