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U.S. v. WILLIAMS

December 1, 1999

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
MARVIN WILLIAMS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Martin, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

In the introduction to the Sentencing Guidelines the Sentencing Commission noted: "Congress sought reasonable uniformity in sentencing by narrowing the wide disparity in sentences imposed for similar criminal offenses committed by similar offenders." United States Sentencing Commission, Guidelines Manual, Ch. 1, Pt. A, § 3 (Nov. 1998) ("U.S.S.G.").

Unfortunately, as prosecutors and the courts have endeavored to apply the Guidelines to accomplish this laudable goal, we sometimes overlook the fact that ending disparity in sentences imposed for similar offenses by similar offenders was not the only, or even the primary, congressional goal in adopting the Guidelines. Equally important, "Congress sought proportionality in sentencing through a system that imposes appropriately different sentences for criminal conduct of differing severity." Id.

Thus, Congress and the Commission recognized that there are two distinct types of disparity in sentencing. The first is the disparity found when two defendants who commit the same crime in identical circumstances receive different sentences. The second exists when the same sentence is imposed on two people whose crimes or circumstances are significantly different.

Experience suggests that a rigid application of the Sentencing Guidelines will eliminate the first type of disparity, but it will do so by creating the second type. Congress' goal that "appropriately different sentences [be imposed] for criminal conduct of differing severity" can only be achieved if judges recognize their obligation to depart from the guideline sentencing range in appropriate cases.

This is such a case.

FACTS

Marvin Williams, the defendant, presents a picture that is all too familiar to any District Judge sitting in an urban court. Raised by a welfare mother in the housing projects of the Bronx, Williams began using marijuana at age ten and was adjudged a juvenile delinquent at the age of fifteen. At age nineteen he was convicted in state court of Attempted Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance for having sold two glassine envelopes of heroin to an undercover officer. Nine months later Williams was convicted of selling one $10 dollar bag of crack to an undercover officer. At age twenty-one Williams had his third state drug conviction when he was arrested for selling crack on the street and was found to have sixty-one crack vials in his possession.

In the present case Williams was convicted after a bench trial for participating in the sale of twenty-nine grams of heroin to undercover police officers. From the evidence at trial it is not entirely clear what role Williams played in the transaction although he was present when the heroin was delivered and helped to count the money paid by the undercover policemen. It appears that Jerome Mayfield ran the operation and that Williams simply worked for him. It is also significant that although the undercovers purchased drugs from Mayfield on four occasions, Williams participated in only one of the transactions.

Because Williams' prior narcotics convictions make him subject to sentencing enhancements as a career offender under § 4B1.1, his total offense level is 34 and his criminal history category is VI resulting in a guideline range of 262-327 months. Without the career criminal enhancements Williams' offense level would be 20 and his criminal history category V resulting in a guideline range of 63-78 months.

DISCUSSION

The defendant urges the Court to depart from the draconian range of the career offender guidelines, relying on United States v. Rivers, 50 F.3d 1126 (2d Cir. 1995), in which the Second Circuit held:

  We agree with the other circuits that section 4A1.3
  manifests the Commission's view that a sentencing
  judge should exercise discretion whenever the judge
  concludes that the consequences of the mathematical
  prior-history calculation, prescribed by sections
  4A1.1 and 4A1.2, either underrepresent or
  overrepresent the seriousness of a defendant's prior
  record. We also agree that in the case of a defendant
  whose offense level is raised by his criminal history
  into career offender status, such discretion may ...

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