Drug sentence remanded to reconsider term of supervised release

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has remanded an erroneous sentence for a drug conviction for the limited purpose of reconsidering the defendant’s term of supervised release.

After admitting that he had been hired to transport drugs and money across the United States on multiple occasions, Stanford Wylie pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine. The statutory minimum sentence for Wylie’s conviction was 10 years to life, plus at least five years of supervised release.

However, Wylie met all of the requirements for the “safety valve” in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(f), so the Indiana Northern District Court had the discretion to impose a sentence below the statutory minimum. The court ultimately sentenced him to 97 months plus five years of supervised release, finding it was “require(d)” to impose at least five years of supervised release. The defense made no objection.

On appeal in United States of America v. Stanford Wylie, 19-2140, Wylie challenged only his term of supervised release. Reviewing that portion of his sentence for plain error, the 7th Circuit vacated that portion of his sentence in a Tuesday opinion.

“Here, Wylie argues that the district court erred in two ways: It incorrectly calculated the Guidelines range, and it believed that it was required to impose at least 5 years of supervision,” Judge Amy St. Eve wrote. “Wylie is wrong on the first point.

“The district court properly calculated the range for Wylie’s supervised release under the Guidelines,” St. Eve wrote. “The court stated that it was adopting the (presentence investigation report’s) calculations. When a district court does this, and the PSR includes a correct calculation of the supervised release range (as Wylie concedes the PSR here did), we assume the district court was aware of the correctly calculated range. …

“Wylie is correct, however, that the district court erroneously believed that it had to adhere to the statutory minimum term of supervision (at least 5 years), without considering the lower Guidelines range (2 to 5 years),” the judge continued. “… The district court believed that the 5-year minimum set the floor even though Wylie, under the safety valve, was permitted a ‘sentence’ without regard to the statutory minimum. … An application note makes clear that this relief applies to the term of supervise release. USSG § 5C1.2, comment. (n.9).”

Thus, finding it “prudent” to allow the district court to reconsider the length of supervise release it was required to impose, the 7th Circuit remanded for a limited sentencing review.

“Because we have no reason to believe the other components of Wylie’s sentence, including his prison term and the conditions of supervised release, need revisiting, the remand is limited to reconsidering the length of supervised release in light of the correct Guidelines range,” the panel concluded.

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