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Judges uphold man’s sentence under newer guidelines

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals had to decide Thursday whether the sentencing of a man under the 2011 Sentencing Guidelines for child pornography offenses that took place over the course of seven years created constitutional problems since different guidelines were in place when he committed the crimes.

The judges unanimously decided that any error by the District Court in sentencing Randall Ray Fletcher Jr. to a 30-year term in prison with lifetime supervised release was harmless, and they affirmed his sentence in United States of America v. Randall Ray Fletcher Jr., 12-3104.
 
Fletcher pleaded guilty to five charges of child pornography: Counts I, II, and III alleged the offense took place in 2002; Count IV alleged the offense occurred between November 2004 and July 2006; and Count V alleged the offense occurred between November 2004 and May 2009. He was sentenced in August 2012, when the Nov. 1, 2011 Sentencing Guidelines were in effect. The District judge grouped Counts II-V together when sentencing Fletcher. The guidelines range for all of the counts, when combined with his criminal history category of IV, was life imprisonment. That exceeded the statutory maximum for all of the offenses, so the judge sentenced Fletcher to 240 months on Count I and an aggregate of 240 months on the rest of the counts, to be served concurrently.

Fletcher appeals, claiming he should have been sentenced under previous versions of the sentencing guidelines because he committed the crimes prior to when the 2011 version took effect. He argued this is a violation of the ex post facto clause. The previous versions of the sentencing guidelines were not as severe.

“[T]he application of the newer, harsher version of the guidelines to grouped offenses that straddle an amendment poses no ex post facto problem because the grouping guidelines together with one book rule provide adequate notice to defendants that they will face the harsher version of the guidelines if they choose to continue a course of conduct after the guidelines are amended,” Judge Ilana Rovner wrote.

Counts II through V were grouped together at sentencing and Fletcher did not object to that, the judge pointed out.

After looking at Count I, the judges decided that any error related to Count I is harmless. The earlier version of the guidelines would give the count, when factoring in his criminal history category of IV, a sentencing range of 292-365 months. The low end of this range exceeds statutory maximum, just as it did under the District Court’s calculation under the 2011 guidelines. As a result, the statutorily authorized maximum sentence under the 2001 guidelines is the guidelines sentence, which brings it down to 240 months – the same range the District Court calculated under the 2011 guidelines.   

“Because the court was constrained by the statutory maximum under either version of the guidelines, any error in calculating the range for Count I could not have affected the District Court’s choice of a sentence and thus any possible error was harmless,” she wrote.
 

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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