Monday, April 4, 2005

A Reasonable Sentence Under Booker

The Seventh Circuit issued a decision in United States v. George (here) that discusses, in an off-handed way, whether a sentence is "reasonable" under the Booker standard if it is below the Guidelines range.  George was a former member of the Wisconsin state legislature who pled guilty to conspiracy involving the receipt of kickbacks.  He challenged his guilty plea, even though the agreement prohibited him from appealing, and the Seventh Circuit rejected his arguments on that issue quickly.  On the issue of George's sentence, he received a 48-month term of imprisonment, which was below the Guidelines range of 62-78 months. The District Judge, who entered the sentence while Booker was on appeal to the Supreme Court, treated the Guidelines as non-binding, consonant with Booker's result.  The Seventh Circuit stated with regard to the sentence:

George does not contend that his actual sentence is unreasonable, the post-Booker standard of appellate review. It is hard to conceive of below-range sentences that would be unreasonably high. George’s is not. The United States would have better claim to be the party aggrieved by the district judge’s disposition, and it has not appealed.

The case did not involve any downward departure issues, which might affect the "reasonableness" inquiry, and it will be difficult to argue successfully that a sentence below the Guidelines' recommended range will be unreasonable.  (ph)

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