June 27, 2019

Tenth Circuit: Term “Case-in-Chief” Does Not Include Sentencing for Immunity Purposes

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals published its opinion in United States v. Oyegoke-Eniola on Thursday, November 14, 2013.

Defendant Eni Oyegoke-Eniola challenged his sentence following his guilty plea to charges of mail fraud and making a false statement on an immigration document. After pleading guilty, the defendant objected to two enhancements in the probation office’s presentence investigation report (PSR) that resulted in a sentencing guideline of 27-33 months’ incarceration. The government stated it would not seek one of the enhancements because it did not have evidence to prove defendant had five or more stolen-identity documents. The court wrote the parties a letter saying the defendant’s recalculated guideline sentence would be 21-27 months. At the sentencing hearing, the judge stated he would not impose the second disputed enhancement but felt an upward variance was necessary. Despite this, the judge later adopted the PSR “without change.”

On appeal, the Defendant argued  that the district court improperly imposed enhancements under the Sentencing Guidelines. Given the circumstances, the Tenth Circuit reviewed for abuse of discretion and found the defendant’s sentence had to be vacated.

The defendant also argued that statements he made under an immunity agreement should have been stricken from PSR. The immunity letter given by the government to the defendant said his statements would not be used against him “in the government’s case-in-chief.”  The term case-in-chief  does not include sentencing and so the court may use statements to vary upward from the guidelines.

The court vacated and remanded for resentencing.

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