Monday, June 19, 2006

"Reasonableness" of Sentence

Since Blakely and Booker these past few years, many of us perhaps have come to equate sentencing laws with more overt, “in-your-face” crimes like kidnapping, murder, and death penalty appeals, but it is, of course, more than those. Still, it is evolving territory, so to speak.

A article, this morning, examines a recent 2nd. U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision, vacating a defendant’s sentence of home incarceration for violating antitrust laws, finding that sentence “unreasonably lenient even under the now-advisory federal sentencing guidelines.” (See U.S. v. Rattoballi, case 05-1562-cr)

“Following Booker,” the article says, “the 2nd. Circuit issued an opinion in U.S. v. Crosby, saying Booker, despite its apparent promise of far greater discretion for sentencing judges, did not allow for ‘unfettered discretion to select any sentence within the applicable statutory minimum & maximum …. Instead, district court judges must exercise their discretion informed by factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. §3553 (a), and their sentences reviewed for reasonableness.’”

2nd. Circuit Chief Judge John Walker, said of this current instance that “non-guideline sentences a district court imposes in reliance on factors incompatible with the (U.S. Sentencing) Commission’s policy statements may be deemed substantially unreasonable in the absence of persuavive explanations as to why the sentence actually comports with § 3553(a) factors.” In Rattoballi, the recommended guideline range would’ve been 27-33 months in prison, but the Southern District of New York sentenced him to a year of home confinement and five years probation, and, while ordered to pay $155,000 restitution, did not impose a fine because Rattoballi was unable to pay.

Judge Walker said the Circuit Court ruling, in applying the reasonableness standard, “declined to adopt per se rules, opting instead to fashion the mosaic of reasonableness through case-by-case adjudication,” faulting it, as the article put it, “for running afoul of § 3553 (c)(2), which both before and after Booker requires a judge to state in open court the specific reasons for imposing a particular sentence when it departs from the advisory guideline range, and do so ‘with specificity in the written order of judgment & commitment .’”

[Additional background information on the 2nd. Circuit’s 2005 Crosby decision available at (registration)]

No comments: