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United States of America v. Billy Covington

May 25, 2012

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
BILLY COVINGTON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT,



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 1:09-cr-00253-1--James B. Zagel, Judge.

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

ARGUED JANUARY 18, 2012--

Before BAUER, MANION and WOOD, Circuit Judges.

The defendant-appellant, Billy Covington, robbed a bank in Lansing, Illinois. He was arrested and pleaded guilty to the crimes of bank robbery ("Count 1") and brandishing a firearm during a bank robbery ("Count 2") under 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) and 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A). On July 14, 2011, the district court sentenced Covington to 36 months in prison on Count 1 and a consecutive sentence of 84 months on Count 2.

Covington appeals, arguing that during the sentencing hearing, the district court denied him his right of allocution under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32. We disagree and affirm the sentence.

I. BACKGROUND

Because Covington's challenge turns only on the proce- dures employed at the sentencing hearing, we confine our discussion of the facts to the hearing only. The district court began the proceeding by hearing argu- ments in favor of each party's proposed sentence. Then, pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32 (i)(4)(A), the court invited the defendant to speak on his own behalf, and Covington obliged. Although the exact amount of time Covington spoke is unknown, the transcript indicates a 6-page span in which he spoke at length on a variety of topics, including his troubled childhood, his relationships with various family members, and his time in the U.S. military.

Eventually, in the midst of Covington's detailed discus- sion of his military experience, the district court interjected:

The Court: Mr. Covington.

Covington: Yes.

The Court: Maybe you ought to start someplace else. Covington: Pardon me?

The Court: Why did you go into the bank, Mr. Cov- ington?

Covington: Okay. I am going to tell you. The Court: No, tell me right now.

Covington: Okay. I went into the bank to kill myself. Covington then proceeded to speak further, but he brought the topic back to his war experience. ...


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