Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Court Vacates SR Sentence for Procedural Unreasonableness

US v. Thompson: This appeal arises from a supervised release revocation. While Thompson was on supervision, a petition was filed seeking revocation based on two counts of battery on/obstruction of a police officer and possession of methamphetamine. At the revocation hearing, Thompson conceded that the Government could prove the violations by a preponderance of the evidence. The agreed to advisory Guideline range was 12 to 18 months. Thompson argued for a sentence of six months, followed by more supervised release, based on his history of employment, family obligations, and that these were his first violations while on supervised release. The Government pointed out that the incident underlying the petition involved two police officers and happened at 2:00 in the morning, but did not request a specific sentence. The district court imposed a sentence of 18 months, without explanation. Only when the issue of self reporting arose did the district court explain that while Thompson was not a flight right, he was a danger to the community.

Thompson appealed his sentence, arguing that the district court failed to adequately explain its reasons for imposing the 18-month sentence. The Fourth Circuit agreed, 2-1, and vacated the sentence. First, the court held that, in light of its recent decision in Lynn, Thompson had preserved the issue for appeal and a plainly unreasonable standard of review applied. Second, the court went on to conclude that the sentence was procedurally unreasonable because the district court, while required to make a statement of reasons for the sentence imposed, "provided no such statement here." It rejected the Government's argument that the reasoning behind the sentence was apparent from the context of the case. Third, the court concluded that the sentence was "plainly" unreasonable because the requirement that a district court provide an explanation for its sentence is "settled." Finally, the court noted that the err was not harmless and that the Government did not argue otherwise.

Judge Niemeyer dissented, arguing that the court did not afford the proper deference to the district court and that the basis for the sentence was clear from the context of the case.

Congrats to the SDWV Defender office on the win!

No comments: