The opinion of the court was delivered by: David Herndon Chief Judge United States District Court
Pursuant to the declaration during the sentencing hearing of October 16, 2009, the Court issues this Order setting forth Louis E. Hopkins' sentence and the rationale for that sentence.
The sentencing landscape has changed considerably since the landmark case of United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220, 125 S.Ct. 738, 160 L.Ed. 621 (2005). Gone are the days when the sentencing court merely applies the sentencing guideline to a case, explaining to the Defendant that his hands are, for all practical purposes, tied. That, within some range, his sentence is predetermined once the variables of his offense conduct, acceptance of responsibility and criminal history are plugged into the formula.It is further clear now that the Supreme Court has given us Rita v. United States, 551 U.S. 338, 127 S.Ct. 2456, 168 L.Ed.2d 203 (2007) and Gall v. United States, 552 U.S. 38, 128 S.Ct. 586, 169 L.Ed.2d 445 (2007) that the proper procedure, as a starting point and initial benchmark, is for the sentencing court to correctly calculate the sentencing range as determined by the Guidelines. Each party is to be given an opportunity to argue for whatever sentence he or she deems appropriate in the case. Thereafter, the district judge is to consider all of the section 3553(a) factors, without giving a presumption of reasonableness to the Guidelines. An individualized assessment of the factors as weighed against the facts in the case must be made. According to the nation's highest court: "If he decides that an outside-Guidelines sentence is warranted, he must consider the extent of the deviation and ensure that the justification is sufficiently compelling to support the degree of the variance. We find it uncontroversial that a major departure should be supported by a more significant justification than a minor one." Gall, 128 S.Ct. at 597.
CRIMES OF CONVICTION STATUTORY MAXIMUM GUIDELINE RANGE
Hopkins has been convicted in Count 1 of unlawful possession by a previously convicted felon which is a Class C Felony that has a statutory range of not more than ten years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000 and a special assessment of $100. He also has been convicted in Counts 2-4 of distribution of Cocaine Base which are Class B Felonies that have a statutory range of not more than thirty years in prison, a maximum fine of $2,000,000 and a special assessment of $100 per count. Further, he has been convicted in Counts 5-6 of Tampering With a Witness which are Class C Felonies that have a statutory range of not more than twenty years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000 and a special assessment of $100 per count. Based on Hopkins' total offense level of 22 and a criminal history of category of II, the guideline range is 46 to 57 months in prison to run concurrently, a fine range of $7,500 to $6,000,000 and a special assessment of $600.
In sentencing Hopkins, the Court considers the following relevant factors outlined in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a): (1) the nature and circumstances of the offenses; (2) the history and characteristics of the defendant; (3) the need for the sentence imposed to reflect the seriousness of the offense, to promote respect for the law, and to provide just punishment for the offense; (4) the need to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct; (5) the need to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant;(6) the need to provide the defendant with needed educational or vocational training, medical care or other correctional treatment in the most effective manner; (7) the need to consider restitution; (8) the need to consider the kinds of sentences available, as well as the sentencing range established for the applicable category of offenses committed by the applicable category of defendant set forth in the sentencing guidelines, in effect, including amendments yet to be implemented as called for by Congress; (9) consider any policy statements the Sentencing Commission has in place or about to be in place; and (10) the need to avoid unwarranted sentencing disparities among defendants everywhere with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct.
The Court determines that Defendant should serve 9 years, (108 months) in prison for his crimes: 48 months in prison on Count 1; 24 months in prison on Counts 2, 3 and 4 to run concurrent to each other and to run consecutively to Count 1; and 36 months in prison on Counts 5 and 6 to run concurrent to each other and to run consecutively to Counts 1, 2, 3 and 4.
NATURE AND CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE OFFENSE
Unlike what defense counsel suggests, this is not a simple felon in possession case, it is clear to the Court that Hopkins is a habitual criminal that was convicted of three very serious offenses -- the unlawful possession of three firearms by a previously convicted felon, three counts of distribution of crack cocaine and two counts of witness tampering. ...