Seventh Circuit Affirms Sentencing Analysis Using Guideline Departure Factors as Consideration in Fashioning Sentence

In this case, ATF executed a search warrant on the defendant’s residence, and he was found in possession of a .40 caliber pistol. He was charged with the federal offense of being a felon in possession of a firearm. He entered into a guilty plea and received a sentence of 98 months in prison followed by three years of mandatory supervised release.

The defendant appealed, first claiming that the three year period of mandatory supervised release (MSR). was improper because the District Court judge never entered a specific Guideline calculation regarding the MSR. The Seventh Circuit disagreed, noting that an explicit announcement of the guidelines recommendation for supervised release is not required. They decided to affirm because they felt the district court was aware of
and understood the Guidelines recommendation for supervised release based on a review of all of the statements that the judge made on the record and the fact that the sentence was a within Guidelines sentence.

The second main argument was that the district court used the departure provisions of the sentencing guidelines improperly during sentencing in deciding not to give the defendant a lower sentence. The Seventh Circuit again disagreed, noting first that the departure provisions are now obsolete since the Sentencing Guidelines are no longer mandatory upon sentencing judges. The Seventh Circuit decided that it was proper for the district court to use the departure provisions as guidance to consider the defendant’s mitigation arguments in the course of its 3553(a) analysis. The Seventh Circuit decided that the District court did not treat the policy statements regarding mitigating departure factors as controlling authority, but rather considered them as part of the entire § 3553(a) analysis in finding that a below-Guidelines sentence was not warranted.

The case is United States v. Derrick D. Bell, AKA Rock; 17-2307.

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