Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Ellis: False Statement about sex undisruptive

In U.S. v. Ellis, No. 05-10150 (Aug. 5, 2005), the Court (Tjoflat, Pryor, Alarcon b.d.) the court vacated an upward sentence departure imposed a Georgia district attorney convicted of making a false statement in response to an FBI investigator’s question whether he had ever had sex with a woman with past or pending criminal charges in his judicial circuit. (Ellis falsely answered: "No.").
The defendant was charged with a number of federal crimes, including civil rights violations, arising of alleged improper contact with a criminal defendant in his circuit. However, the defendant ultimately pled guilty to just one count, the false statement count. At sentencing, the district court imposed an upward sentence departure based on "disruption of a government function," namely the postponment of other criminal cases and the adverse effect on the integrity of the district attorney’s office.
The Court found that any disruption of a governmental function was factually and legally irrelevant to the false statement to the FBI. The false statement did not cause any disruption in the local district attorney’s office. Moreover, the Guidelines only authorize a departure for conduct underlying a charge dismissed as part of a plea agreement only to the extent necessary to reflect the seriousness of the offense. Here, the disruption of a governmental function did not shed additional light on the nature of the false statement offense. Hence, the departure was invalid.
The Court remanded the case for resentencing consistent with Booker.