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October 3, 2005

Major 5th Circuit ruling upholding sizeable sentences in tax case

Those in the mood to read sentencing opinions rather than Miers' buzz (posts here and here) will be pleased the Fifth Circuit is back in action with US v. Saldana, No. 04-50527 (5th Cir. Sept. 30, 2005) (available here).  The last 20 pages of Saldana cover a lot of ground on the way to upholding two sizeable sentences involving upward departures in a tax case.  Here are a few snippets which reveal the Fifth Circuit's highly deferential approach to reasonableness review:

Even though, in this case, we concur with the district court's decision to depart above the Guidelines, we conclude that the extent of that departure approaches the outer boundary of reasonableness.... 

Despite our misgivings about the length of this sentence, however, we are unwilling to hold that it is unreasonable.  The sentence does overstate the degree of harm, does not appear to advance the goal of uniformity, and does over-compensate for the number of counts, but each of these was a permissible reason for the district court to depart from the Guidelines' range and, taken together, would likely justify a sentence at least within striking distance of that imposed by the district court.  Given the deference we owe to the district court that has properly applied the Guidelines, we decline to hold the degree of the departure unreasonable.

October 3, 2005 at 03:33 PM | Permalink


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