March 24, 2019

Tenth Circuit: District Court Does Not Err by Referring to Sentencing Guidelines

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Grigsby on Tuesday, April 15, 2014.

Defendant Grigsby pled guilty to eight counts of sexual exploitation of a nine-year-old child for the purpose of producing visual depictions, one count of possessing with intent to view child pornography, and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, and was sentenced to 260 years in prison. He appealed his 260-year sentence imposed pursuant to the child pornography production guideline, U.S.S.G. § 2G2.1. Defendant contended that the guideline is “defective” because it routinely generates offense levels that result in a recommended guideline sentence in excess of the statutory maximum, and fails to distinguish between levels of culpability by establishing enhancements for conduct present in most cases and thus undeserving of punishment beyond the core offense.

Based on a total offense level of 43 and a criminal history category of II, Defendant’s initial guideline imprisonment range under the 2012 version of the Guidelines was life. But because the statutory maximum sentence of 260 years was less than life, U.S.S.G. § 5G1.2(b) established the former term as the recommended guideline sentence. Following that recommendation, the district court sentenced Defendant to 260 years imprisonment. In deciding Defendant’s sentence was sufficient but not greater than necessary to meet the sentencing factors identified in § 3553(a)(2), the court referred to the emotional damage Defendant caused his victim, the antisocial behavior Defendant had engaged in over the course of his life, and the public’s need for protection from Defendant.

A district court does not err by deferring to the Guidelines where the sentence imposed is justified in light of the factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). The Tenth Circuit affirmed Defendant’s sentence.

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