United States v. Olando Harris, Jr. (11th Cir. July 2020)

The Federal Docket

July 7, 2020

Sentencing – A district court adequately explains a sentence if it enumerates factual justifications for its decision. Giving more weight to one § 3553(a) factor does not indicate that the court abused its discretion.

Olando Harris, Jr. pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and was sentenced to 92 months. Harris appealed, arguing that he should have been given a 33–44 month sentence.

The Court disagreed, holding that the district court properly considered the § 3533(a) factors by taking into account Harris’s prior convictions for violent crimes and Harris’s role as the instigator of a deadly encounter. Further, the district court “acknowledged that it had considered Harris’s salutary post-offense conduct” and “the recent turnaround in Harris’s behavior.”  The Court held that giving more weight to criminal history and the seriousness of an offense, and less to post-offense conduct, is not an abuse of discretion.

The Court noted that the 92-month sentence does not change the calculus despite being at the bottom of the Guideline range “the probation officer would have applied.” The Court held that neither verbalized skepticism of a plea agreement nor a sentence above the Guidelines range demonstrate the trial court rejected a plea agreement that was explicitly accepted.

Appeal from the Middle District of Alabama

Opinion by Pryor, joined by Grant and Jung (by designation from M.D. Fla)

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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