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United States v. Chapman

July 10, 2008

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
DARRYL W. CHAPMAN AND JOHN FRANK, ALSO KNOWN AS JACK FRANK, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeals from the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. Nos. 06 CR 9 and 06 CR 65-John C. Shabaz, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ripple, Circuit Judge

ARGUED MAY 28, 2008

Before EASTERBROOK, Chief Judge, and RIPPLE and WOOD, Circuit Judges.

Darryl Chapman and John Frank each were convicted and sentenced for unrelated drug crimes. While serving their sentences, both men independently provided substantial assistance to the Government. Accordingly, the Government filed motions to reduce their otherwise final sentences under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35(b). The district court granted the Government's motions, reducing Mr. Chap-man's sentence from 120 to 102 months and Mr. Frank's sentence from 84 to 72 months. On appeal, the defendants contend that the district court failed to consider properly their arguments for greater sentence reductions. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

I. BACKGROUND

Darryl Chapman and John Frank each pleaded guilty to unrelated charges of knowingly and intentionally distributing cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). On April 19, 2006, the district court sentenced Mr. Chapman to 120 months' imprisonment. On September 13, 2006, the district court sentenced Mr. Frank to 84 months' imprisonment. Both of these sentences were within the applicable sentencing guidelines range, but both were at the higher end of their respective ranges.

After they were sentenced, both defendants independently gave substantial assistance to the Government. At great risk to the safety of his family and himself, Mr. Chapman gave law enforcement officers the name of his former cocaine source. His cooperation resulted in the apprehension and conviction of a major source of marijuana and cocaine distribution in the area. Mr. Frank also named his drug source, and that information assisted in the conviction of three other individuals. In return for this assistance, the Government filed a motion to request a reduction in their sentences under Rule 35(b).

At Mr. Chapman's hearing before the district court, both the Government and Mr. Chapman's counsel noted the timeliness, truthfulness, completeness and reliability of his assistance, as well as the fact that Mr. Chapman had been threatened in prison because of his cooperation. In light of these circumstances, the Government requested that the court reduce Mr. Chapman's offense level by two levels and then impose a sentence at the bottom of the resulting guidelines range-specifically, 84 months. Mr. Chapman agreed with this recommendation.

The district court granted the Government's motion and reduced Mr. Chapman's offense level by two levels; however, it imposed a sentence of 102 months, a sentence at the high end of the guidelines range. The court remarked that Mr. Chapman's significant criminal history counseled against imposing a lower sentence, and it stated that a sentence of 102 months "will still hold this defendant accountable for his criminal conduct while factoring in his substantial assistance." Chapman Tr. at 7-8.

Similarly, at Mr. Frank's hearing, the Government and the defense counsel requested that the court reduce Mr. Frank's sentence based upon his significant assistance. The Government did not propose a particular reduction, but Mr. Frank suggested a five-level reduction. The court granted the Government's motion and decided to reduce Mr. Frank's offense level by one level. It sentenced Mr. Chapman to 72 months' imprisonment, a sentence at the high end of the new guidelines range. Much like it did in Mr. Chapman's case, the court emphasized Mr. Frank's significant prior criminal history as well as the substantial quantity of drugs that had been involved in his crime. The court stated that 72 months' imprisonment will "hold this defendant accountable for his criminal conduct while factoring in his substantial assistance." Frank Tr. at 8.

II. DISCUSSION

A.

An appeal from a Rule 35(b) order is an appeal from an "otherwise final sentence," over which we have jurisdiction only in limited circumstances. United States v. McGee, 508 F.3d 442, 444 (7th Cir. 2007); see also 18 U.S.C. § 3742(a). Section 3742 does not grant appellate courts jurisdiction to review a district court's exercise of its discretion under Rule 35(b). See McGee, 508 F.3d at 444-45 ("[O]ur jurisdictional mandate is limited and does not extend to a district court's discretionary decisions regarding sentencing.").*fn1 Accordingly, our review of a sentence reduction here is more limited than our review of an original sentence. We ask only whether the reduction was imposed in violation of the law, not whether the new sentence imposed was reasonable. See id. at 445.

The Government characterizes the defendants' claims as mere complaints that the district court did not exercise its discretion to reduce their sentences to the extent they had hoped. In the Government's view, the defendants' arguments do not amount to an allegation that they were sentenced "in violation of law"; therefore, ...


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