United States v. Hodges, No. 07-CR-706 (CPS), 2009 WL 366231 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 12, 2009)
In a decision apparently written for purposes of justifying the non-Guidelines sentence that the Court intended to consider at sentencing, Judge Sifton draws some smart conclusions concerning the imposition of non-Guidelines sentences, particularly in the context of a defendant who qualifies as a career offender.
Hodges pled guilty to conspiracy to import an unspecified amount of heroin into the United States. Based on his offense and conduct, the Court determined that Hodges' offense level was 29. And based on his criminal history, Hodges qualified as a career offender -- in other words, criminal history category VI. The Guidelines range of imprisonment indicated was therefore 151 to 188 months.
Having engaged in that Guidelines analysis, however, Judge Sifton set forth his Section 3553(a) analysis in order to impose a sentence sufficient, but not greater than necessary, as is required by Booker. With regard to criminal history, the Court noted that the Sentencing Commission "recognized the potential harm of overstating a defendant's criminal history and thus exposing the defendant to punishment far in excess of what may be necessary to deter recidivism." The Court acknowledged, though, that the Guidelines limit horizontal criminal history departures to one criminal history category for career offenders, even though some caselaw exists permitting additional departures under Section 5K2.0(b) of the Guidelines. But all of that predates Booker. As Judge Sifton found:
More specifically, Judge Sifton noted that Hodges' is a drug addict who has suffered from multiple addictions throughout adolescence and much of his adult life, and that all of his criminal convictions arise from drug-related activity. He served ten years for a drug-related offense, was released in 1996 and, for ten years, worked and supported his family without any problems with the law. When his family situation deteriorated, however, he turned back to drugs and ultimately landed in Judge Sifton's courtroom. with regard to that history, the Court found that fact that his prior convictions stemmed from his drug use "does not provide a sufficient basis for a departure under the Guidelines." But, once again, Judge Sifton comes though, finding that "the Guideline prohibition against considering a defendant's drug addiction does not affect a sentencing court's authority to factor in remoteness of a defendant's convictions in determining whether he ought to be classified as a career offender."
There's a lot more in Hodges, and I encourage you to check it out (in particular, the description of Hodges background so far as it relates to several of the other Section 3553(a) factors). But, in sum, it represents nice work by a judge as I believe the Supreme Court expected of judges after Booker. And it represents nice work on behalf of the defense attorney, JaneAnne Murray (who also authors of New York Federal Criminal Practice Blog) in preparing what was obviously a comprehensive and persuasive sentencing package.