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7th Circuit rules on drug sentences

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In a consolidated appeal, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld one man’s sentence following a guilty plea to drug offenses, but sent the other man’s case back to the District Court to reconsider his sentence in light of United States v. Corner.

In United States of America v. Michael Redmond and Charles Avery Jr., Nos. 10-1947, 10-3914, Michael Redmond and Charles Avery Jr. challenged their sentences following guilty pleas to crack cocaine distribution conspiracy and crack cocaine distribution, respectively.

Avery attempted to have his guilty plea withdrawn after learning the prosecution was going to attribute a higher crack cocaine quantity to him. He pleaded guilty without a plea agreement.

The 7th Circuit pointed out that by pleading guilty without the benefit of the plea agreement, he had no guarantees from the government regarding any of this points of contention.

“Even if Avery was under a reasonable misapprehension of what quantity would be attributable to him based on his reliance on the government’s representations, Avery’s status as a career offender, which raised his offense level to 34, made the relevant conduct drug weight irrelevant in determining his Guidelines sentencing range,” wrote Judge Joel Flaum.

The judges affirmed his sentence, finding the government set forth facts to establish the amount of cocaine attributable to Avery and the District Court reasonably concluded that the readily provable quantity of crack cocaine attributable to him for purposes of determining his advisory sentencing guideline range was 51.5 grams.

Regarding Redmond, the 7th Circuit remanded his case to the District Court for the limited purpose of allowing the court to consider his sentence in light of Corner, 598 F.3d 411 (7th Cir. 2010), which was decided after Redmond was sentenced.

Redmond was classified as a career offender under 18 U.S.C. Section 4B1.1, with a criminal history category of VI. The advisory guidelines sentencing range was to be 262 to 327 months. While the District Court agreed that Redmond’s career criminal status “may have overstated the seriousness of his arrest history” and that it would “deviate down from the guidelines,” the court still sentenced Redmond to a longer sentence than he expected – 240 months. Redmond wanted a sentence of 15 or 16 years.

In Corner, the 7th Circuit held that a District Court can vary categorically from every guideline, including the career offender guidelines.

“Though the court certainly could have varied its sentence further, Redmond presents little to show that the district court was constrained in its decision making process. Moreover, that the court sentenced Redmond below the advisory career offender range, suggests that it was not constrained by the guideline calculation. Even so, the district court did suggest that Redmond’s status as a career offender was a significant factor in its sentence, and it is not clear that the court recognized its complete discretion to deviate from the Guidelines career-offender calculation,” wrote the judge.

 

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