Monday, May 01, 2006

Review of Below Guidelines Sentence

United States v. John B. Baker, No. 05-2499 (April 28, 2006): Mr. Baker entered a plea of guilty to distribution of child pornography. His advisory guidelines range was 108 to 135 months. The district court rejected a defense plea for a sentence of 60 months and sentenced him to an 87-month term of imprisonment. The government appealed the sentence.

The government did not contend that the sentence was unreasonable. Instead, it argued that the district court did not adequately explain its below-guidelines sentence. The district judge's written explanation was brief. "There is no evidence in the record to indicate that the defendant has acted out against any child. The sentence of 87 months is sufficient, but not greater than necessary to comply with sentencing purpose [sic]."

The Seventh Circuit held that it could consider the oral explanation as well as the written explanation. It then found the explanation, written and oral portions taken together, sufficient to justify the sentence. The district court paid close attention to Mr. Baker's lack of criminal history, his age, his religious background, and his work history. The Seventh Circuit quoted at length the district court's recognition that Congress regards child pornography as a serious problem. The Court also stressed that the district judge imposed a life term of supervised release.