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November 17, 2005

Busy and important sentencing day in the Eighth Circuit

The Eighth Circuit today continues its busy post-Booker ways: this official opinion page has nearly a dozen dispositions that include sentencing issues.  The two published dispositions that appear to be most noteworthy are US v. Coyle, No. 04-1944 (8th Cir. Nov. 17, 2005) (available here) and US v. Saenz, No. 04-2673 (8th Cir. Nov. 17, 2005) (available here), both of which reverse sentences imposed below the applicable guideline range because the "extent of reduction granted" as a result of the defendant's substantial assistance "was unreasonably large."

The discussion of substantial assistance issues in Saenz is the most thorough, especially because it explores at some length the significance of the government's recommended reduction based on substantial assistance.  Here is how Saenz concludes:

Our decision in this case ... turns not on the degree to which the district court's decision varies from the government's recommended reduction, but rather on our independent conclusion that the degree of reduction is not reasonable in light of the evidence concerning the defendant's assistance, the factors set forth in § 5K1.1, and the overall structure and theory of the guidelines, including the statutory command to reduce unwarranted sentence disparities. The appropriate degree of sentencing reduction cannot be calculated with "mathematical precision," Haack, 403 F.3d at 1005, and there is a range of reasonableness available to the district court in any given case.  On this record, however, we conclude that the district court's analysis was flawed by its conclusion that timely and truthful cooperation always warrants a reduction of more than 50 percent, and that the degree of reduction was excessive and unreasonable under the circumstances of this case.

November 17, 2005 at 11:45 AM | Permalink

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