February 20, 2018
from the United States District Court for the Central
District of Illinois. No. 4:07-cr-40048 - James E.
Shadid, Chief Judge.
Wood, Chief Judge, and Easterbrook and Barrett, Circuit
BARRETT, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Lee appeals the sentence he received when his supervised
release was revoked. He faults the district court for not
addressing what he now characterizes as his principal
argument in mitigation: that a longer sentence would
unjustifiably subject him to harsher treatment than similarly
situated defendants. But Lee did not make this argument in
the district court, so the district court had no ob- ligation
to address it. Lee also complains that the district court
failed to fill out a form stating the reasons for his
sentence. It is not clear that a district court has an
obligation to fill out such a form when revoking supervised
release. Even if it does, however, Lee suffered no prejudice
from the district court's failure to complete this
Lee was sentenced to life imprisonment and ten years of
supervised release for several drug-trafficking convictions.
His term of imprisonment was reduced to 312 months in prison
in return for his substantial assistance to the government,
and it was later reduced still further-to 112 months-because
of a retroactive change in the Sentencing Guidelines. After
he was discharged from prison, he moved to Iowa, where he
began serving his term of supervised re- lease.
did not adopt a law-abiding lifestyle. He violated conditions
of his supervised release by missing numerous scheduled drug
tests and meetings with his probation officer. And more
seriously, he battered his girlfriend, Delisa Roland, by
chasing her down a flight of stairs and repeatedly kicking
her after she fell. Lee fled, but he was ultimately arrested.
He then called several friends and relatives from jail,
cajoling them to get Roland to change her story. Roland
testified any- way, and the district court found that Lee had
violated the conditions of his supervised release by
battering her and by missing required appointments with his
sentencing, the government argued for three years'
imprisonment, while Lee argued for no more than a year and a
day. He made several arguments in favor of the shorter
sentence, but only one is at issue in this appeal: that using
the federal revocation proceedings to punish him for the
battery would be "the tail wagging the dog." Lee
pointed out that the battery was "a state court
misdemeanor in Scott County," and a misdemeanor
"under Iowa law can't get more than a year." If
the matter were "handled in the state court
system," Lee argued, the court "probably would have
made both parties go to counseling, get treatment to try to
repair the family unit." Instead, the government had
gone "full-bore litigation for a Grade C violation, a
misdemeanor," and was seeking three years'
imprisonment even though the Guidelines range was eight to
district court sentenced Roland to 30 months'
imprisonment and six years of supervised release. It
justified that sentence by recounting Lee's numerous
violations of super- vised release leading up to his attack
on Roland, by crediting Roland's account of Lee's
battery, and by acknowledging the need to deter further
criminal conduct and protect the public. Lee appeals that
our decision in United States v. Cunningham, a
district court imposing a sentence must address a criminal
defendant's "principal" arguments in mitigation
unless they are "so weak as not to merit
discussion." 429 F.3d 673, 679 (7th Cir. 2005); see
also United States v. Davis, 764 F.3d 690, 694 (7th Cir.
2014); United States v. Rita, 551 U.S. 338, 357-58
(2007) ("The sentencing judge should set forth enough to
satisfy the appellate court that he has considered the
parties' arguments and has a reasoned basis for
exercising his own legal decisionmaking authority.");
cf. ChavezMeza v. United States, __U.S.__, 138 S.Ct.
1959, 1965 (2018) (acknowledging that the sentencing judge
should "make clear that he or she has con- sidered the
parties' arguments"). To trigger that requirement,
the defendant's argument must be "fully
developed" and "supported by a compelling factual
basis." United States v. Jackson, 547 F.3d 786,
795 (7th Cir. 2008). And it must be one of the
defendant's "principal" arguments; a district
court need not offer a reason for rejecting every one of the
defendant's contentions. United States v.
Martinez, 650 F.3d 667, 672 (7th Cir. 2011).
claims that the district court violated Cunningham
by ignoring one of his principal arguments in mitigation.
When it imposes a sentence, the district court must consider
a set of statutory factors, including "the need to avoid
unwarranted sentencing disparities among defendants with
similar records who have been found guilty of similar
conduct." See 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(6)
(initial sentence) & 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e) (revocation
of supervised release). Lee characterizes his discussion of
the penalties for battery under Iowa law as an argument about
this sentencing factor, and he complains that the district
court did not respond to it in articulating the basis for
Lee's sen- tence. Invoking Cunningham, he
insists that we must remand his sentence with instructions
that the court put its reasons for rejecting Lee's
"unwarranted disparities" argument on the record.
problem is that Lee did not make an "unwarranted
disparities" argument, so he did not trigger the
district court's duty under Cunningham. At
sentencing, Lee contended that he would face only a one-year
sentence if he were being prosecuted in state court for
domestic battery; he also asserted (apparently without
evidence) that such a prosecution would "probably"
just result in his being sent to counseling. This is
certainly an argument that the worst of his offenses was not
serious enough to justify a higher sentence. But it is not an
argument that an above-Guidelines sentence would create a
disparity "among defendants with similar
records who have been found guilty of similar
conduct," and that such a disparity would be
unwarranted. United States v. Durham, 645 F.3d 883,
897 (7th Cir. 2011). Lee did not identify any defendant with
a similar record (for example, one with a conviction for drug
trafficking) found guilty of similar conduct (for example,
violating multiple conditions of supervised release,
including by committing a domestic battery), much less
explain why a comparatively higher sentence was unwarranted
in his case. See United States v. Anaya-Aguirre, 704
F.3d 514, 518 (7th Cir. 2013) (holding that a sentencing
court need not address an unwarranted-disparities argument
unless the defendant provides a "sufficient evidentiary
showing" that his situation is comparable to defendants