Sixth Circuit

The Federal Docket

United States v. Ian Owens (6th Cir. May 2021)

The Sixth Circuit held that the disparity between a defendant’s actual sentence and the sentence that he or she would have received if the First Step Act’s amendments applied can, along with other factors, constitute extraordinary and compelling reasons warranting a sentence reduction.

United States v. Tony Dewayne Williams (6th Cir. March 2021)

The Sixth Circuit affirmed a defendant’s sentence which was enhanced based on a prior felony conviction under Tennessee law involving marijuana. The Court held that the sentencing court erred in enhancing the defendant’s sentence based on that conviction because the Tennessee law at issue included hemp under the definition of marijuana, while hemp was distinguishable and legal under federal law. Therefore, the Tennessee conviction was not a “controlled substance offense” under the Guidelines. However, since the defendant had only objected generally at sentencing and did not articulate grounds for his objection, plain error review applied, and the sentencing court’s error here were not clear or obvious given the complexity of the issue.

United States v. William Wheat, Jr. (11th Cir. February 12, 2021)

The Sixth Circuit reversed a defendant’s conviction for conspiracy to distribute where the defendant had only contacted the leader of a DTO and given him a sample of heroin. The Court held that “the mere transfer of drugs,” including a buyer-seller transaction, was standing alone insufficient to establish an agreement to further distribute drugs.

United States v. Jennifer Riccardi (6th Cir. March 2021)

The Sixth Circuit reversed a defendant’s sentence for possession of unauthorized access devices because the loss amount had been based on Guidelines commentary mandating that a minimum loss amount of $500 had to be added for every unauthorized access device. The Court held that the commentary improperly expanded the text of 2B1.1, not merely interpreting it.

United States v. Michael Henry (6th Cir. December 2020)

The Sixth Circuit held that defendants convicted under 924(c) and involved in resentencing proceedings on remand must be sentenced subject to the First Step Act’s amendments to 924(c).

Sixth and Seventh Circuits Hold Courts Have Broad Discretion to Determine Inmate Eligibility for Compassionate Release

The Sixth Circuit and Seventh Circuit have joined the Second Circuit in holding that district courts considering motions for sentence reductions under 18 USC 3582(c)(1)(A) can exercise their discretion in determining whether an inmate has presented “extraordinary and compelling reasons” warranting a sentence modification.

United States v. Mark Hazelwood, Heather Jones, Scott Wombold (6th Cir. October 2020)

The Sixth Circuit reversed defendants’ convictions of mail fraud and wire fraud conspiracy and remanded for new trial, holding that admission of a video showing one of the defendants using racist and misogynist language at an informal business gathering was not admissible to rebut the defendant’s good business judgment. Moreover, the Court concluded that the video’s admission was not harmless error since the defendants’ conduct and speech was irrelevant, improper character evidence, and violated Rule 403. The Court held the “utterly repulsive language” expressing personal views was not relevant to business judgement; admission of the bad acts had no purpose related to the crimes other than propensity; and so “shocked the conscience” of the jury to pose extraordinary risk for them to reach verdicts based on emotions rather than evidence.

United States v. Tyslen Baker (6th Cir. September 2020)

The Sixth Circuit held that the good faith exception under Leon applies to arrest warrants as well as search warrants, affirming the district court’s denial of defendant’s motion to suppress evidence seized when agents executed an arrest warrant at his residence and place of business.

United States v. Manndrell Evann Lee (6th Cir. September 2020)

The Sixth Circuit under abuse of discretion vacated the defendant’s sentence and remanded for resentencing, holding that upward variance applied by the district court based on the defendant’s criminal history was unreasonable because it applied too much weight to a prior conviction and parole violations from the same offense. The Court also held that it was the defendant’s first firearm offense, a 15-year gap existed from prior dangerous conduct, and compared to similar cases, the doubling of his sentence had no meaningful relationship to his likelihood of reoffending.

United States v. Bryan Bailey, Calvin Bailey, Sandra Bailey (6th Cir. September 2020)

The Sixth Circuit vacated a defendant’s sentence for healthcare fraud based on the district court’s abuse of discretion in attributing losses to the defendant stemming from his wife”s use of forged prescriptions and referral payments since there was no evidence that he agreed to undertake those acts. The Court held that while jointly undertaken criminal activity can be used to determine conspiracy criminal liability, the acts of a co-conspirator cannot be used in the scope of conduct analysis to calculate a defendant’s offense level under the sentencing guidelines if the defendant did not agree to undertake the specific activity, though those acts could be held against the defendant in calculating restitution.

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