Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Review of Below-Guidelines Sentences

United States v. Darryl Wallace, No. 05-3675 (August 14, 2006): The Court reversed a below Guidelines sentence. It perceived that the district court had taken into account the actual loss, not the intended loss, the latter being considerably higher. Although it reversed and remanded, the Court emphasized several points of importance to the defense bar.

The government complained vigorously that the sentence imposed was a 100% reduction, which was a higher percentage than the reductions disapproved in several cases from the Eighth Circuit. To this, the Seventh Circuit replied, "We are reluctant to distill the reasonableness inquiry into a numbers game . . ."

The Court also addressed the distinction between reasons for a variance that cut across all cases and reasons that are more individualized. As an example of the former, the disparity for crack cases is not, by itself, a basis for a variance, since the disparity implicates all defendants charged in crack cases. By contrast, the district judge could take into account Mr. Wallace’s crime-free life before the offense of conviction, his various personal difficulties, his remorse, and his participation in Gamblers Anonymous. These were individualized factors.

Nor did the Court rule out the possibility that the district court could, on remand, impose the same sentence. It noted that the "government has vigorously defended similarly substantial upward deviations from the recommended range, and we are concerned to maintain evenhanded standards of reasonableness on both sides of the line."

Disclosure note: Mr. Wallace is represented by our office.