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Thursday, October 07, 2010

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit ruling on fast track sentencing [Updated]

In USA v. Jaime Reyes-Hernandez, a 36-page opinion in two cases out of Illinois, Judge Kanne writes:

The Supreme Court’s decision in Kimbrough v. United States, 552 U.S. 85 (2007), taken together with other recent cases, has rekindled debate about whether sentencing disparities created by fasttrack programs can be considered by district court judges in non-fast-track districts when crafting individual sentences. We address that issue today. Because both cases present the same issue on appeal, we consolidate them for the purpose of our review.

In the first case, Jaime Reyes-Hernandez pled guilty for illegally re-entering the United States after he had been removed twice following a conviction for the aggravated felony of robbery. The district court sentenced him to forty-one months’ imprisonment, the most lenient sentence available under the applicable guideline range for his offense level and criminal history category. In the second case, Pedro Sanchez-Gonzalez pled guilty to illegally re-entering the United States after being removed following a conviction for the aggravated felony of domestic battery. The district court sentenced him to seventy-seven months’ imprisonment, which was at the lowest end of the guidelines range for his offense level and criminal history category.

In both cases, the district court refused to even consider imposing below-guidelines sentences, thereby refuting defendants’ claims that they should receive lesser sentences based on comparisons to sentences imposed on similarly situated individuals prosecuted in “fast-track” districts. Both defendants ask us on appeal to abandon our precedent and provide district courts with the latitude to consider fast-track-type sentences as part of their 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) analyses. For reasons stated below, we grant their requests. We therefore vacate both sentences and remand to the district court for resentencing. * * *

We hold that § 5K3.1 should be treated as any other guideline, thereby affording district court judges the ability to consider the absence of a fast-track program in crafting an individual sentence. Because the judges in the district courts were precluded by our prior precedent from considering the defendants’ fast-track arguments, we do not determine today whether the appellants would have in fact been eligible for such consideration, nor do we opine on the reasonableness of their sentences. The sentences of Reyes-Hernandez’s and Sanchez-Gonzalez’s are VACATED, and their cases are REMANDED for re-sentencing consistent with this opinion.

[Updated at 2:32 pm] The Sentencing Law Blog has now posted this entry headed "Major Seventh Circuit ruling permitting judges to vary from guidelines based on fast-track disparity."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 7, 2010 11:19 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions