Federal Court of Appeals Affirms Sentence Reductions in Federal Criminal Case

In a federal criminal case originating in Atlanta, Georgia, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed substantial sentence reductions for two executives who were convicted of public corruption charges. In the lower court, the two defendants faced sentencing ranges under the United States Sentencing Guidelines of 41 to 51 months. Based on a variety of factors, however, the lower court varied from that guideline range and imposed custodial sentences of thirteen months, and seven months, respectively.

In its third appeal to the Eleventh Circuit, the Government attacked the downward variances on a number of grounds. Among other arguments, the Government claimed that the defendants’s sentences were unreasonably low given the nature of the crimes. The Court of Appeals rejected this argument, stating that “whether we agree or not with the disrict court’s rationale for the downward variances or its characterization of the crimes, we cannot say that the sentences imposed in consideration of the factors delineated in 18 U.S.C. section 3553(a) were unreasonable.”

Unlike most of the decisions that come out of the Court of Appeals, the decision in this case was not unanimous. In dissent, Judge Carnes stated that the sentences imposed should be vacated, because in calculating the guidelines ranges the court violated the law of the case doctrine.

As Paul Kish pointed out in the previous post, a recent decision involving an affirmance of a substantial variance in a child pornography case provoked a dissent from Judge Dubina. Two dissents in less than one week from the Eleventh Circuit is certainly an anomaly. And this surely seems to suggest that in spite of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Gall v. United States, sentencing law in the Eleventh Circuit remains unsettled at this point.