United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
Submitted March 20, 2017
from the United States District Court for the District of
Columbia (No. 1:12-cr-00155-1)
Barbara E. Kittay, appointed by the court, was on the brief
Elizabeth Trosman and Lauren R. Bates, Assistant U.S.
Attorneys, were on the brief for appellee.
Before: Garland, Chief Judge, Griffith, Circuit Judge, and
Sentelle, Senior Circuit Judge.
Griffith, Circuit Judge.
court imposed on James Brown a stiffer sentence than the U.S.
Sentencing Guidelines recommend. But the court followed
proper procedures, and the sentence was not so harsh as to be
an abuse of discretion. We therefore affirm Brown's
sentence against his procedural and substantive challenges.
facts are grim. In 2012, James Brown was drawn into an online
sting operation with a police detective. In a plea agreement,
Brown conceded that the government had clear and convincing
evidence that he had asked for sex with a prepubescent child,
talked about having sexually abused certain minors every
chance he got, expressed a preference for very young
children, and abused his daughter and granddaughters when
they were as young as three to six years old. As part of the
plea agreement, Brown pled guilty to one count of
distributing child pornography. See 18 U.S.C. §
cooperation, federal and state officials agreed not to
prosecute Brown further for any of the conduct to which he
admitted. The plea deal also specified an "offense
level" under the Guidelines for the sentencing court to
consider. An offense level is calculated by taking the number
assigned by the Guidelines to the defendant's "base
offense" and adding or subtracting points as needed to
reflect certain aggravating or mitigating factors.
See 18 U.S.C. § 3551 et seq. In
Brown's case that calculation yielded an offense level of
30, for which the Guidelines recommend 97 to 121 months of
district court, however, was not bound by that range. It
sentenced Brown to 144 months of incarceration and 240 months
of supervised release. But Brown appealed and we vacated that
sentence, finding that the judge had neglected procedures
that courts must follow to justify an above-Guidelines
sentence. On remand, the district court imposed the same
sentence, this time with a more detailed explanation, and
Brown again appealed.
authority to review Brown's sentence under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1291, and do so in two steps. We first ask if the
district court committed "significant procedural error,
" such as by "failing to adequately explain the
chosen sentence." Gall v. United States, 552
U.S. 38, 51 (2007). At this step, we review legal conclusions
de novo and factual findings for clear error. United
States v. Jones, 744 F.3d 1362, 1366 (D.C. Cir. 2014).
review the "overall . . . reasonableness" of the
district court's chosen sentence in light of several
statutorily specified factors, United States v.
Warren, 700 F.3d 528, 531 (D.C. Cir. 2012) (quoting
United States v. Locke, 664 F.3d 353, 356 n.3 (D.C.
Cir. 2011)); see also 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), but