The Court vacated the defendant's sentence and ordered that he be re-sentenced in front of another judge, holding that the Government breached the plea agreement when it argued for a sentence within the Guidelines range that was calculated by the sentencing court and that was higher than the range anticipated by the plea agreement. The plea agreement obligated the Government to argue for a sentence within the range based on the parties' stipulations in the plea agreement.
The district court declined to group the convictions together and the Court affirmed on appeal. While U.S.S.G. § 3D1.2 provides that “all counts involving substantially the same harm shall be grouped together into a single Group,” Faulker had failed to show that: a) the counts were based on the same act or transaction, b) the counts involved “substantially the same harm,” c) the charged offense was already accounted for under the Guidelines provision governing the principal offense, and d) the offense level was not determined on a loss amount or other “measure of aggregate harm.”
The Court held there was sufficient evidence to convict the defendants of identify theft and mail fraud. The Court also rejected the argument that the defendants received ineffective assistance from conflicted counsel after the defendants filed bar complaints against them. The Court held that the defendants failed to show that their attorneys had a conflict of interest, let alone were ineffective, since “the state-bar grievances did not create conflicting obligations” and thus did not put the attorneys in a position to have to choose one interest over another.
On appeal, the Court held that the sentencing court applied the wrong legal standard under U.S.S.G. § 2G2.2(b)(5), which enhances a defendant's sentence if the offense involves sexual activity with a minor between the ages of 12 and 16 "if the perpretrator was at least four years older than the minor. The district court erred by merely subtracting the victim's age from the defendant's without respect to how old each of them actually were at the time of the sexual contact.
Sitting en banc, the Fifth Circuit held that the Commission’s commentary and Application Notes cannot be read into the text of a Guidelines provision and that the Commission’s use of commentary to add elements and definitions to Guidelines provisions “deserves no deference.” Since § 4B1.2, the provisions enhancing the sentencing range for career offenders, does not, by its own text, include attempt crimes as “controlled substance offenses,” prior convictions for attempted crimes do not fall under § 4B1.2(b).