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May 11, 2006

Important (unpublished) 11th Circuit decision affirming large downward variance

A helpful reader alerted me to an important Eleventh Circuit decision from earlier this week that affirms a significant downward variance.  Here are highlights from the unpublished decision in US v. Halsema, No. 05-13016 (11th Cir. May 9, 2006) (available here):

At Halsema's sentencing the district court correctly calculated the Guidelines range as 57 to 71 months.  The district court, however, sentenced Halsema to 24 months imprisonment.  The district court explicitly stated that it had "reviewed and fully considered the factors set out in 18 United States Code, Section 3553(a)." ...

The district court stated that Halsema's 24-month sentence "is sufficient to provide just punishment . . . and serves as an adequate deterrent to others."  The district court also offered specific reasons for its sentence.  The district court relied on expert testimony that a longer sentence would negatively affect Halsema's rehabilitation.  The district court noted that Halsema had progressed with treatment and, furthermore, that he had suffered greatly from his incarceration thus far.  The district court believed that 24 months was sufficient punishment for Halsema's offense. These reasons are appropriate considerations under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a).

We are satisfied that the district court seriously considered the § 3553(a) factors.  The government has failed to establish that the sentence was unreasonable.  Although the district court's reasons for the lesser sentence might not have supported a downward departure under the mandatory Guidelines, they are appropriate considerations under an advisory system.

Especially because there have been so few downward variances affirmed (details here), I find it curious and somewhat troubling that Halsema is a "do not publish" decision.  But, that concern aside, this ruling confirms my sense that the Eleventh Circuit (unlike some others) really understands and appreciates that Booker must be understood and applied in a way that gives district judges a meaningful measure of additional sentencing discretion.

May 11, 2006 at 10:23 AM | Permalink


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