Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Monday, February 25, 2008

Dean: Accidental Discharge Still Triggers Higher Penalty

In U.S. v. Dean, No. 06-14918 (Feb. 20, 2008) (Hull, Pryor, Moore, KM, b.d.), the Court affirmed the conviction and sentences of defendants convicted as a result of an armed bank robbery which netted them $3,642.
Rejecting the challenge to a Hobbs Act conviction based on the government’s Confrontation Clause violation in proving up the fact of FDIC insurance, the Court held that no such proof was required. For Hobbs Act violations, unlike bank robbery, proof of FDIC insured status is not a required element of the offense.
The Court further rejected the argument that a sentence should not have been enhanced under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(iii) for "discharge" of a firearm, because here the discharge was "accidental." The Court noted that § 924(c) contains no separate intent element. Though noting a Circuit split on this point, the Court held that an accidental discharge sufficed to impose the higher penalty.
Finally, the Court rejected one defendant’s argument that the sentencing court improperly counted four separate prior convictions in the criminal history score, when they should have been treated as "related cases." The Court held that any error need not be addressed because the sentencing court stated that even if its calculation were wrong it would still impose the sentence it did, this time under its § 3553(a) sentencing discretion – and the Court found that such a sentence would have been "reasonable."