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August 31, 2010

Two little and notable Ninth Circuit sentencing opinions

The Ninth Circuit handed down two notable little sentencing opinions this afternoon.  Here are links to the unanmious panel rulings, along with snippets from the decisions:

United States v. Wipf, No. 09-50291 (9th Cir. Aug. 31, 2010) (available here):

Appellant argued that the district court had discretion under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) to impose a sentence below the mandatory minimum, and that it should do so given her particular circumstances. She contended that there was a conflict between § 3553(a )— which requires district courts to impose the lowest sentence possible to achieve Congress’s sentencing goals — and the ten-year mandatory statutory minimum....

We have never addressed explicitly the question of whether 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) permits a district court to impose a sentence below a mandatory statutory minimum.  Every other circuit to have done so has held that § 3553(a) does not confer such authority.  We reach the same conclusion.

United States v. Armstrong, No. 09-30395 (9th Cir. Aug. 31, 2010) (available here):

Richard C. Armstrong was convicted by a jury of participating in a racially motivated assault against an African American man.  Armstrong now appeals his sentence.  He contends that the district court erred in imposing two enhancements: one for selecting a victim on the basis of race and one for obstruction of justice.  Additionally, he argues that the sentence as a whole was procedurally flawed and substantively unreasonable.  We address whether a defendant may avoid an enhancement for selecting a victim on the basis of race if his co-defendant selected the victim before he did.  We decide that he may not.  Because we also disagree with Armstrong’s other two contentions, we affirm the sentence imposed by the district court.

August 31, 2010 at 04:54 PM | Permalink


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