US v. McCoy: McCoy was charged with two drug charges at trial, at which the jury concluded he was responsible for between 500 grams and 5 kilograms of cocaine. Testimony at trial concerned three separate purchases of cocaine, one of which was "returned for poor quality." At sentencing, the probation officer included all three buys (including the "returned" one) as relevant conduct, producing a total of 7 kilograms and a guideline range of 135 to 168 months. McCoy argued for a sentence of 120 months (the mandatory minimum). while the Government sought an upward departure based on three juvenile convictions which did not factor in the Guideline calculations and a sentence of 192 months. The district court departed (to a slightly higher Guideline range than the Government requested) and imposed a sentence of 188 months in prison.
McCoy appealed, arguing only that his sentence was substantively unreasonable, for several reasons, all of which the Fourth Circuit rejected. First, the court rejected McCoy's argument that the district court should not have considered the juvenile convictions. The court noted that the district court was free to base a departure on convictions that were otherwise too old to count in the criminal history score and that the "seriousness of the juvenile crimes" demonstrated McCoy's likelihood of recidivism. Second, the court rejected McCoy's argument that the district court erred by departing to Criminal History Category V, rather than IV as the Government requested, noting that while the Government's request is an important consideration, it's not binding on the district court. In addition, though the district court's Guideline range was higher than the one requested by the Government, the actual sentence imposed was slightly lower. Finally, the court rejected McCoy's argument that his sentence overstated the seriousness of his offense. The court also pointed out that the proper remedy for the amendment of the Guidelines between sentencing and appeal was to file a 3582 motion seeking a reduction in the district court.