Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Winning ear, losing appeal

In U.S. v. Winingear, No. 05-11198 (Aug. 30, 2005), the Court (Tjoflat, Dubina, Pryor) rejected the defendant’s argument that a sentence was unreasonable because it should have been subjected to a downward departure to reflect the amount of time he had already spent in state prison.
The Court first noted that Booker did not change the pre-Booker rule that a district court’s discretionary denial of a downward departure was unappealable. Here, the district court recognized its authority to depart based on time spent in state prison, but declined to do so; hence, its ruling was unappealable.
The Court also rejected Winningear’s argument that his sentence was unreasonable. The Court noted the government’s claim that, post-Booker, sentences within the Guidelines are per se reasonable, but the Court declined to reach this argument. The Court noted that the sentence imposed on Winningear was one-tenth the length of the twenty-year maximum for his mail fraud offense. Further, Winningear defrauded people $19,600, had multiple previous convictions, committed his crime while still under sentence for a previous crime, violated his bond, and threatened to murder arresting officers as he fled them. The district court took care that its sentence provided Winningear with needed medical care. "In light of the factors outlined in section 3553(a), the sentence of the district court was reasonable."