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7th Circuit declines to second guess co-defendant credibility in firearm sentence

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Contradictory testimony given in two plea agreements presented the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Evansville Division, with the “classic choice” of whom to believe.

However, the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to second guess the District Court’s decision, saying the lower court was “uniquely and well-situated to assess the credibility of these witnesses.”

The 7th Circuit affirmed Farshad Ghiassi’s 70-month sentence in United States of America v. Farshad Ghiassi, 12-3596. It found the District Court committed no error in determining Ghiassi’s offense level and the resulting sentence.

Ghiassi pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S. code 922(g)(1) after he was arrested for selling an AK-47 to an undercover federal agent. During his court appearance, he disputed his co-defendant’s claim that she had purchased eight firearms on his behalf.

The District Court postponed the decision to accept Ghiassi’s plea until it had questioned his co-defendant. Ultimately, the court believed the co-defendant that she had purchased the guns at the request of Ghiassi.

The finding that Ghiassi possessed more weapons and that he was not credible increased his offense level, bumping him into the higher sentencing range of 70 to 87 months.

Although the 7th Circuit agreed with Ghiassi that in his co-defendant’s guilty plea she admitted to lying, the court noted the District Court would have been aware of this but still found her to be credible.

Also, the 7th Circuit ruled that Ghiassi’s alternative argument that the District Court deprived him of due process by relying on the statements of his co-defendant is a non-starter. Ghiassi knew the court intended to rely on the co-defendant’s statements and he had opportunity to contest those statements.

   
 

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