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January 7, 2015

Intriguing Sixth Circuit procedural sentencing reversal of upward variance

A helpful reader alerted me to a thoughtful Sixth Circuit panel ruling in US v. Coppenger, No. 13-3863 (6th Cir. Jan. 7, 2015) (available here), which covers effectively a (little?) procedural problem at sentencing.  Here is how it starts:

Defendant Jack Coppenger, Jr., pled guilty to conspiracy to commit mortgage fraud. Pursuant to the parties’ plea agreement, the government agreed not to recommend a sentence in excess of the applicable advisory Guidelines range, which was 78 to 97 months’ imprisonment.  Nonetheless, the district court used information in presentence reports prepared for Coppenger’s co-conspirators to vary upward and sentenced Coppenger to 120 months in prison.  Coppenger contends the sentence is substantively and procedurally unreasonable.  He asserts two claims of error: the district court impermissibly treated coconspirators as victims; and the district court failed to provide him with notice and opportunity to respond to its intent to vary upward based on information contained in co-conspirators’ presentence reports.  Because the district court abused its discretion when it failed to provide Coppenger meaningful opportunity to respond to information used to vary upward, we vacate and remand for resentencing.  

January 7, 2015 at 09:09 PM | Permalink

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