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Court of Appeals Throws Out ‘Career Offender’ Sentencing
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On Wednesday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held in a case, “the district court’s error in sentencing (defendant Paul) Reyes as a career offender on this record affected his substantial rights because it resulted in an elevated offense level.” This, the appeals court held was inconsistent with the US Sentencing Guidelines. The appeals court threw out the 15 ½ year prison sentence of Paul Reyes, finding that a trial judge may not adopt inconsistent findings about the prior convictions of a defendant.

In July 2008, Reyes pleaded guilty to robbing $ 14,000 from a bank in Manhattan and threatening a bank employee with something that appeared to be an explosive device. Chief Judge Loretta Preska in the Southern District of New York agreed with the position of the prosecution that having been previously convicted twice for crimes of violence, the accused should be considered as a “career offender” for the purposes of sentencing.

On 7 April 2010, Reyes was sentenced to 188 months in prison. Reyes appealed, arguing that the court had committed an error in adopting the PSR’s conclusions that he was a career offender. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and sent back the case for resentencing.

  
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According to the panel, the issue was “whether a district court may rely on a PSR’s description of a defendant’s pre-arrest conduct that culminated in a prior conviction to determine whether that prior conviction constitutes one for a ‘crime of violence’ under U.S.S.G. 4B1.2(a)(1), where the defendant makes no objection to the PSR’s description.”

And the appeals court was unanimous in finding “We hold that it may not.”

The case is United States v. Reyes in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 10-1400.

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