Tuesday, March 06, 2007

No Allocution = Plain Error in Booker Remand

US v. Muhammad: Muhammad was convicted of wire fraud and money laundering and setenced to the Guideline maximum 121 months in prison. While on appeal, the Supreme Court decided Booker and Muhammad's case remanded to the district court for resentencing. At resentencing, while Muhammad's counsel was able to make arguments with regards to a new sentence, the district court never directly addressed Muhammad and allowed him to allocute. The district court imposed the same 121 month sentence.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit vacates Muhammad's sentence for a second time. The court holds that the district court erred by failing to allow Muhammad to allocute, that the error was plain, and that it prejudiced his substantial rights. The court went on to notice the error and vacate Muhammad's sentence. In doing so, the court rejected arguments by the Government (which admitted the error and that it was plain) that Muhammad suffered no prejudice because he fully allocuted at the original sentencing and the district court's top-of-the-Guidelines sentence doesn't support an inference that the district court would have imposed a lesser sentence regardless of what Muhammad said during his allocution.

Congrats to the Raleigh, NC FPD Office on the win!

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