Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Gearing up for the Post-Rita/Claiborne World?

United States v. Nitch, No. 05-2603 (February 21, 2007): Mr. Nitch received a sentence of 168 months, which was apparently within his calculated guidelines range, although the opinion does not state what that range was. In imposing sentence, the district court stated:

Mr. Nitch, I sentenced you to 14 years. It was not the top of the guideline, not at the bottom. You messed up when you were out on bond and that affected you. The jury found you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and the jury believed, based upon the testimony, that you were involved in more than you believed you were involved in. And I know you got started at an early age, young age in this, and I know you tried to get out, but the law is the law. And you knew better.

On appeal, Mr. Nitch argued that the sentence was unreasonable because the district court did not explain why it chose that sentence.

The Court invoked its doctrine, e.g., United States v. Mykytiuk, 415 F.3d 606 (7th Cir. 2005), that a sentence within the guidelines is, on appeal, presumptively reasonable.

But the Court also recognized that the Supreme Court is currently considering the validity of such a presumption. It declared that it had also considered the sentence without employing a presumption. Without much explanation, it concluded that a sentence of 168 months was not unreasonable. Mr. Nitch’s use of drugs while on bond and the amount of the drugs involved in the conspiracy justified a "significant sentence."