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February 12, 2005

Reports on recent Booker district court sentencings

As evidenced by all the action detailed here and here and here and here, the federal circuit courts are taking over the Booker headlines as they try to sort through all the "pipeline cases."  But, in the end, the mess of all these pipeline cases (which I will comment on later this weekend) are just short-term transition realities of the Booker shift.  Of greater long-term importance is how Booker gets applied in the district courts.

I have stressed here (and will stress to the Sentencing Commission next week) the importance of focusing upon data rather than anecdote when assessing how Booker is really being applied in the district courts.  But, because I do not have access to such data, I have to report here only the interesting anecdotes I find in the papers.  So, with that caveat, here come notable post-Booker district court sentencing anecdotes (most of which do not actually discuss Booker):

  • This article from Peoria, Illinois reports on US District Judge Joe McDade's decision to impose a 10-year sentence in a crack case, which was below the guidelines range for crack but seemed, according to the story, to bring the sentence more in line with powder cocaine sentencing levels.  The article suggests Judge McDade may have, as I suggested here, concluded in the crack/powder context that sentencing uniformity may be better achieved by not following the guidelines (and, if it plays in Peoria).  The article also has this notable quote from the Judge McDade:

Given the Draconian punishment associated with crack cocaine, to follow the guideline range for this case would go beyond what is needed to serve the purpose of sentencing," McDade said. "Respect for the law doesn't always mean sending people to prison for as long as you can."

  • This story from California reports on a defendant sentenced to 51 months for theft and possession of explosives, which was, according to the article, "the maximum allowed within federal sentencing guidelines."

  • This story from Texas reports on a felon getting additional federal time on top of a state sentence on a gun charge, and it appears from the facts that federal prosecutors may have been able in this case to use new Booker discretion to their advantage.
  • This story from Philadelphia reports on a long probation sentence imposed on a plumber involved in paying kick-backs to a corrupt city clerk, which was in line with the federal prosecutor's recommended sentence.
  • This story from Orlando reports on a federal re-sentencing (prompted by non-Booker issues) that involved a long sentence imposed, and then reimposed, on a non-violent, first offender in a high-profile case involving the theft of moon rocks.  (You just can't make this stuff up, can you?)

February 12, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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Have you undertaken any effort to canvas the scope of ex post facto arguments being advanced by defense lawyers?

Posted by: Michael Sommer | Feb 16, 2005 2:00:43 PM

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