United States v. Sindima, Docket No. 06-2245-cr, 2007 WL 642592 (2d Cir. March 5, 2007) (found here)
Sindima was sentenced to three years probation following a guilty plea on federal mail fraud charges -- a sentence that was within Sindima's Guidelines range of 0-6 months imprisonment. While on probation, Sindima allegedly committed certain offenses that violated the terms of his probation. The district court calculated Sindima's Guidelines range for that probation violation at 4-10 months imprisonment, but sentenced him to 36 months imprisonment -- below the statutory maximum 60 months imprisonment for his underlying offense but more than 3.5 times higher than the high-end of the advisory Guidelines range for his probation violation.
Why the harsh sentence? Well, first, the district court found that Sindima had engaged in "egregious conduct" despite being given a "substantial break" at the time of his original sentencing. The Second Circuit, however, found that the district court's consideration of the underlynig offense was improper because that conduct is only to be considered to a limited degree -- "sentences for probation violations are not intended to substitute for sentences resulting from commission of the crime constituting the violation." Instead, "at revocation the court should sanction primarily the defendant's breach of trust, while taking into account, to a limited degree, the seriousness of the underlying violation and the criminal history of the violator." (The Second Circuit never noted that the "break" was not so substantial given his original Guidelines range of 0-6 months imprisonment.) Second, the Second Circuit considered Sindima's personal characteristics "only with regard to its initial inclination to sentence Sindima to the statutory maximum penalty." The error here is that the district court worked down from the statutory maximum of 60 months imprisonment based on Sindima's personal characteristics, rather than using the advisory Guidelines range of 4-10 months imprisonment as a "starting point for the district court's analysis."
So, where did this leave the Second Circuit? Relying on Rattoballi (discussed and critiqued here), it found that "on the present record, we are not confident that the grounds upon which the district court relied are 'sufficiently compelling [and] present to the degree necessary to support the sentence imposed."
Rattoballi -- the double-edged sword.