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

The Federal Docket

October 6, 2020

Sentencing – The district court abused its discretion applying 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors by failing to provide a sufficiently compelling justification for upward variance that doubled the defendant’s  sentence based on past criminal history.

Manndrell Evann Lee was convicted and sentenced to 60 months imprisonment for possession of a stolen firearm under 18 U.S.C. § 922(j), his first firearm offense.  While the guideline range was 30 to 37 months, the judge varied upwards by 23 months due to Lee’s criminal history.  Lee was convicted 15 years prior and sentenced to one year.  Due to multiple parole violations for failing to register as a sex offender, he spent 15 years continuously incarcerated.

The Court reviewed Lee’s sentence under abuse of discretion in applying 18 U.S.C. §3553(a) factors to justify the upward variance.  The Court held that the district court did not treat Lee’s sentence similarly to “like” cases where 60 months was reasonable when multiple prior gun convictions existed and little time between dangerous offenses occurred.  The Court noted that this was Lee’s first firearm offense, and it occurred nearly 15 years after his last dangerous conduct, for which he was originally sentenced one year yet served 15 years.  The Court held there was no meaningful relationship between the firearm offense and Lee’s likelihood of reoffending.  The Court vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing.

Judge Murphy dissented, holding Lee’s sentence was calculated in accordance with sentencing guidelines as his juvenile record and prior conduct were not accounted for in the sentencing range that justified upward variance, so the district court’s conviction should be upheld.

Appeal from the Western District of Michigan at Grand Rapids

Opinion by Clay, joined by Stranch.  Dissent by Murphy.

Click here to read the opinion.


Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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