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7th Circuit orders judge to reconsider sentence

January 8, 2014

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a limited remand in a drug case Tuesday after finding the lower court should have sentenced the defendant based on the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which took effect after his crimes were committed but before he was sentenced.

In United States of America v. Tony Currie, 12-1666, Tony Currie appealed his 121-month sentence following a guilty plea to conspiring to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base and possession of a firearm following a felony conviction. The sentence was just above what the court and parties believed to be the statutory 10-year minimum prison term.

Currie was charged in June 2010 following several controlled buys with a confidential informant. He was sentenced by Judge Sarah Evans Barker after the FSA took effect, but the parties involved assumed that the FSA did not apply since the crimes were committed prior to the enactment of the Act. But several months after Currie was sentenced, the Supreme Court of the United States held in Dorsey v. United States, 132 S. Ct. 2321 (2012), that the FSA applies to any defendant sentenced after its effective date, even if the offense was committed before the Act’s enactment.

“The district judge’s remarks at sentencing give us no indication that she ever considered the possibility that a lower statutory minimum might apply to Currie (recall that Currie did not challenge the applicability of the ten-year minimum term below), nor do they include an unambiguous statement to the effect that the judge would have considered the 121-month sentence it imposed reasonable even if the five-year minimum specified by the Fair Sentencing Act applied, as we now know (in hindsight) that it does,” Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner wrote.

“We therefore order a limited remand so that the district judge may consider, and state on the record, whether she would have imposed the same sentence on Currie knowing that he was subject to a five-year rather than a ten-year statutory minimum term of imprisonment. We shall retain jurisdiction over this appeal pending the district court’s answer to our inquiry.”
 

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