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Date: 07-19-2021

Case Style:

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. SCOTT CAPPS

Case Number: 20-3557

Judge: Cheryl Ann Krause

Court: UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT

Plaintiff's Attorney: Not listed

Defendant's Attorney:


Philadelphia, PA Criminal defense Lawyer Directory


Description:

Philadelphia, PA - Criminal defense lawyer represented defendant with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, money laundering, and filing a false tax return charges.



When imposing a sentence, a district court must (1) “calculate a defendant’s
Guidelines [range] precisely,” (2) “formally rul[e] on the motions of both parties and stat[e]
on the record whether [it is] granting a departure and how that departure affects the
Guidelines calculation,” and, ultimately, (3) “exercise[] [its] discretion by considering the
relevant [18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)] factors.” United States v. Gunter, 462 F.3d 237, 247 (3d
Cir. 2006) (second, third, fifth, and seventh alterations in original) (citation omitted).
While the District Court’s consideration of these factors need not include explicit findings,
its analysis “must adequately demonstrate its exercise of ‘independent judgment’ and
meaningful consideration of the relevant sentencing factors” and any “colorable
1 The District Court had jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C. § 3231 and we have
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and 18 U.S.C. § 3742(a). 3
argument[s] about the[ir] applicability” raised by the parties. United States v. Merced, 603
F.3d 203, 215 (3d Cir. 2010) (citation omitted). Capps claims that the District Court, in
carrying out this final step, committed two procedural errors, and because he failed to
object at sentencing, we review for plain error.2

But Capps cannot show error, much less plain error. First, he contends that the
District Court misconstrued its discretion to vary from its original sentence, thereby failing
to meaningfully consider the factors set forth in § 3553(a). But that assertion is belied by
the record. Far from proceeding as if “bound to consider the original sentence,” or the
erroneous Guidelines calculation, Appellant Br. 12, the Court went “back over the original
record and the record for [the resentencing] hearing,” JA 148, and concluded that the
relevant § 3553(a) factors presented no “need . . . to change the sentence,” JA 150. Using
the new Guidelines range and the “sentencing protocols established by [them],” JA 149, as
the “starting point and . . . initial benchmark,” for its analysis, Molina-Martinez v. United
States, 136 S. Ct. 1338, 1345 (2016) (citation omitted), the District Court again imposed a
below-range sentence. In light of the Court’s lengthy and “meaningful consideration” of
the sentencing factors, Merced, 603 F.3d at 215, we are satisfied it did not misconstrue its
discretion at step three of the sentencing process.
2 To establish plain error, Capps “must show that there is ‘(1) an error; (2) that is
plain; [and] (3) that affects substantial rights.’” United States v. Poulson, 871 F.3d 261,
270 (3d Cir. 2017) (citation omitted). Once those conditions have been met, this Court
may “exercise its discretion to correct the forfeited error if the error seriously affects the
fairness, integrity or public reputation of judicial proceedings.” Rosales-Mireles v. United
States, 138 S. Ct. 1897, 1905 (2018) (citation omitted).4
Neither can Capps prevail on his contention that the District Court did not
acknowledge or address his argument for a downward variance based on post-sentencing
rehabilitation. Capps argued that “he ha[d] proven his redemption,” JA 144, in prison by
taking “opportunities to self-reflect and permanently change his past . . . problematic
thinking and behavior patterns,” JA 143–44, and on that basis, he requested a sentence of
time served. In response, the Court observed that Capps had “acknowledged that he made
a terrible mistake,” and had persuaded the Court that “his future life will not include any
criminal conduct.” JA 149. Considering the relevant § 3553(a) factors, however, including
“the seriousness of the offense, . . . respect for the law, and [the need to] provide just
punishment,” JA 149, the Court concluded “that [a] time served sentence would [not]
accomplish any of those goals,” JA 149–50. The Court thus engaged with the substance
of Capps’s request.
In short, the sentencing judge “set forth enough to satisfy the appellate court that he
has considered the parties’ arguments and ha[d] a reasoned basis for exercising his own
legal decisionmaking authority.” Rita v. United States, 551 U.S. 338, 356 (2007). Because
the District Court did not err in its “exercise of discretion” and “meaningful consideration
of the relevant sentencing factors,” Merced, 603 F.3d at 215 (citation omitted), we conclude
that Capps’s sentence was procedurally reasonable.

Outcome: For the foregoing reasons, we will affirm the judgment of the District Court

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