7th Circuit: Indiana man waived right to challenge arrest history at sentencing

An Indiana man convicted of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine will not have his prison time reduced after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals opined he waived his right to challenge the consideration of his arrest history at sentencing.

In January 2019, law enforcement officers intercepted a package containing 6.6 kilograms of methamphetamine. The officers then conducted a controlled delivery to Nathan Mansfield’s home, which was the package’s original destination. Once the package was opened, the officers executed an anticipatory search warrant and arrested Mansfield as he exited the house.

A grand jury convicted Mansfield for violating 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A) and 18 U.S.C. § 2.

Mansfield’s presentence investigation report calculated a total offense level of 31 and a criminal history category of VI and recommended an imprisonment range under the Sentencing Guidelines of 188 to 235 months. The PSR listed 26 “[o]ther [a]rrests” of Mansfield between 1992 to 2013, which involved at least 49 charges, including, among other things, domestic battery and battery resulting in bodily injury, resisting law enforcement, felony intimidation and neglect of a dependent.

The arrests also included a series of drug possession charges in 2005, 2006, and 2007, culminating in two 2013 felony charges for “Dealing in Cocaine or Narcotic,” and three 2013 felony charges for “Possession of Cocaine or Narcotic.” The disposition for 48 of these charges was listed as “Dismissed,” “No Action Taken,” or “Unknown disposition.” For the other charge — a 1999 criminal trespass charge — the disposition was listed as “Not guilty.”

Mansfield entered an open guilty plea, and less than a month before sentencing, filed a notice of request for departure due to role reduction at sentencing. The notice stated Mansfield would request “the court depart downward and adjust his base level commensurate to his minimal role in the criminal activity that led to his arrest.” The notice did not challenge the accuracy of the PSR or the inclusion of Mansfield’s arrest history.

In advance of his sentencing hearing, Mansfield filed a sentencing memorandum. Once again, he did not challenge the accuracy of the report or the inclusion or accuracy of his arrest history.

At the sentencing hearing, Mansfield’s counsel confirmed she and Mansfield had “read and discussed [the] presentence report.” The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana also asked Mansfield’s counsel if she had any objections “other than” the notice Mansfield filed, which “could be deemed as a request for departure.” Counsel confirmed there were none.

The district court then explained its conclusions and asked if there was “any objection or response” to the offense level and criminal history category. Counsel responded, “No, Your Honor, subject to my argument for departure, which I have preserved for the Court’s consideration.”

Circumstances warranted a sentence at the upper end of the guideline range, the district court noted, yet it pronounced a sentence of 188 months’ imprisonment, a term at the very bottom of Mansfield’s guideline range.

In imposing the sentence, the district court asked whether Mansfield had “[a]nything further.” For the final time, Mansfield’s counsel responded she did not.

Mansfield appealed later that day.

On appeal, the 7th Circuit held Mansfield waived his right to challenge the use of his arrest history during sentencing.

“At his sentencing hearing, Mansfield’s counsel represented that she and Mansfield had reviewed and discussed the PSR. She also made several statements constituting express waiver,” 7th Circuit Judge Michael Brennan wrote for the court. “The district court directly asked whether Mansfield had (1) any objection to the PSR, (2) ‘any objection or response’ to the court’s calculation of the offense level and criminal history category, and (3) any ‘legal objection to the [proposed] sentence.’ Each time, Mansfield’s counsel stated she had no objection. These express denials, combined with the missed opportunities, constitute waiver.”

In finding the district court didn’t err, the appellate court also pointed to several cases where arrest history contributed to a sentence.

“As explained above, ‘a substantial history of arrests, especially if they are similar to the offense of conviction, can be a reliable indicator of a pattern of criminality, suggesting a recidivism risk, and may be considered in weighing the sentencing factors under,’ Brennan wrote, pointing to United States v. Drain. “At least 13 of Mansfield’s 26 arrests were related to narcotics, firearms, battery, intimidation, resisting law enforcement, or escape charges. This number of arrests, and their similarity to the offense of conviction, is consistent with our case law.”

The case is United States of America v. Nathan Mansfield, 20-2981.

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