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7th Circuit upholds precedent but asks for further guidance from U.S. Sentencing Commission

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Although a gun buyer had his sentence affirmed, his argument for reduced time has caused the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to call upon the Sentencing Commission to clarify a section of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.

The case, United States of America v. Tristan Davis, 12-3552, was appealed from the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division.

Davis pleaded guilty to two counts of lying to gun dealers and was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. His offense level, and possibly his sentence, would have been lower if the District judge had given him a three-level reduction for accepting responsibility by pleading guilty. However, the prosecutor declined to move for the subtraction of a third level under U.S.S.G. 3E1.1(b) because Davis refused to waive his right to appeal.  

Davis contended that a motion from the prosecutor is mandatory whenever the defendant pleads guilty early enough and spares the prosecutor the burden of trial preparation.

In United States v. Deberry, 576 F.3d 708 (7th Cir. 2009), the court rejected that 3E1.1(b) requires a prosecutor to file a motion, noting the statute confers an entitlement on the prosecutor, not on the defendant.

Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, in his opinion for Davis, noted the courts of appeals are divided on this issue. While a majority has reached the same conclusion as Deberry, two have sided with Davis’s contention that a court may direct the prosecutor to file a motion even if the prosecutor’s reason for withholding that motion does not violate the Constitution.

“This circuit could not eliminate the conflict by changing sides, so stare decisis supports standing pat,” Easterbrook wrote. “Resolution of this conflict is the province of the Supreme Court or the Sentencing Commission.”

Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner wrote a concurring opinion, also calling upon the Sentencing Commission to give further guidance.

However, she explained she does not believe that section 3E1.1(b) permits the government to insist that a defendant waive his appellate rights before it will ask the court to grant him an addition one-level decrease in his offense level for acceptance of responsibility.

Rovner noted sentencing judges can err when imposing sentences and these errors are rarely attributable to the defendant. Consequently, the defendant has a right to be sentenced accurately and fairly. Nothing in section 3E1.1(b), she continued, requires the defendant to accept responsibility for the court’s errors as well as his own.

 

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  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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