Time-served sentence for enticement of minor was not error: Davis
In United States v. Fredrick Davis, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the decision of a lower court to sentence a defendant to time served. The Eighth Circuit held that it was not an abuse of discretion to vary below the guidelines and give a sentence of time served for attempted enticement of a minor.
RELEVANT FACTS: Fake sting, 20 year military vet, PTSD
This is a story that you read in federal courts almost every day. Davis contacted two different profiles online which he thought belonged to two different teenagers. In a plot twist, the profiles were not operated by teenagers. They were operated by law enforcement.
Davis sent dirty messages and what could be called a sext message. He asked to meet them at a motel. He went to the motel. He was arrested. Davis pleaded guilty to 1 count attempted enticement of a minor.
His guideline range was 46-57 months. The plea agreement required both sides to jointly recommend to the court a 60 month sentence. However, this request was not binding (i.e., an 11(c)(1)(C)).
The district court entered a variant sentence on its own initiative (meaning no one asked for it). Davis was sentenced to time served (two months) and 120 months of supervised release.
The Government was ticked off and appealed.
ISSUE PRESENTED: Was it an Abuse of Discretion to vary downward to time served?
HOLDING: No. Court properly addressed and weighed 3553(a) factors.
ANALYSIS: What is good for the goose is good for the gander.
The Government’s argument was essentially the same one that defendants raise when they don’t have anything else to argue. The Government argued the district court’s sentence was substantively unreasonable.
The Eighth Circuit flat out rejected this argument. The 3553(a) factors were properly weighed in the case, the district court engaged in thoughtful analysis, and there was no issue of a sentence that was shocking.
Davis was a 20 year military veteran. While on pretrial release he sought mental health treatment for his service-related PTSD, acknowledged his criminal conduct, and expressed remorse. He was also perfectly behaved during the whole time he was on pre-trial release.
Time served was not an abuse of discretion.
What Does this case mean?
The Government argues every single day in every single U.S. Court of Appeals that district courts have wide discretion and can impose sentences outside the advisory guidelines for almost any reason. The difference is that the sentence is usually above the guideline range, but the reasoning is the same.
Right or wrong, district courts have enormous discretion to fashion criminal sentences. It’s not the job of appellate courts to micro-manage these decisions.
Why is the Davis case so important? This fact scenario of a fake minor profile and law enforcement posing as a minor comes up in federal court every day. At least one judge saw fit to impose a sentence of time served in these circumstances. Even when the Government and defendant BOTH asked for 60 months.
Your editor thinks that this court got Davis’ sentence right and the Eighth Circuit rightfully told the Government to go pound sand.
If you were convicted involving a fake sting operation and want to discuss your options, you should reach out to the Law Office of Jeremy Gordon. Contact our office via email at [email protected] or telephone at 972-483-4865 to see if we can help you fight your case.