Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Rosales-Bruno: Affirming 60-month upward variance for illegal re-entrant

In U.S. v. Rosales-Bruno, No. 12-15089 (June 19, 2015) (2-1), the Court affirmed the imposition, at resentencing, of an 87-month sentence for illegal reentry, rejecting the argument that the upward variance from the guideline range of 21-27 months was substantively unreasonable. The resentencing followed the Court’s vacatur of an earlier 87-month sentence because it was based on the district court’s erroneous finding that a prior conviction for “false imprisonment” qualified as a “crime of violence” under U.S.S.G. § 2L1.2(b)(1)(A)(ii) – which, under the “modified categorical approach,” it did not. The Court noted the “considerable discretion” of sentencing courts. The prior convictions involved shoving a girlfriend into a stove and threatening to burn her, and, while on bond for this offense, assaulting this girlfriend and threatening to kill her. The Court noted that these offenses may properly be considered as violent crimes for sentencing purposes other than for the application of § 2L1.2(b)(1)(A)(ii). The Court also noted that Rosales-Bruno’s criminal history included several driving-related convictions, such as driving under the influence of alcohol. The Court rejected the argument that the district court failed to distinguish Rosales-Bruno’s criminal history from that of the “average” category V illegal reentrant with a felony conviction. The Court noted that this would require district courts to have a detailed profile of the average offender for each crime, including the average number and nature of his prior crimes. The Court noted that it does not require such “explicit comparison,” and that district court are “far more familiar than we are with other convicted-felon, category V illegal reentrants.” The Court also rejected the dissent’s criticism of the Court for sending a message to district courts that it will not vacate unreasonably long sentences, only unreasonably short ones. The Court cited on published case and two unpublished ones in which it had reversed unreasonably long sentences. The Court noted that it had vacated less than 1% of sentences on substantive reasonableness grounds. The Court further noted that district courts within the Circuit had varied downward for 9,307 sentences, and upwards for just 828 sentences. [Judge Wilson, dissenting, found that the published case on which the majority relied had reversed the sentence on procedural grounds, not substantive grounds.].