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United States v. Adams

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

October 11, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Ernest Larry Adams, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan at Detroit. No. 2:09-cr-20224-5-Gerald E. Rosen, District Judge.

          Colleen P. Fitzharris, Brandy Y. Robinson, FEDERAL DEFENDER OFFICE, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellant.

          Wayne F. Pratt, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellee.

          Before: MOORE, WHITE, and DONALD, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          KAREN NELSON MOORE, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Ernest Adams is a seventy-one-year-old opiate addict with an extensive criminal history; most of his convictions stem from his substance-abuse problems. While on supervised release, Adams tested positive for opiates on numerous occasions and subsequently pleaded guilty to violating a condition of his supervised release. The district court then revoked his supervised release and imposed a below-Guidelines sentence of eighteen months' imprisonment. On appeal, Adams argues that the district court abused its discretion by imposing a procedurally and substantively unreasonable sentence.

         We hold that the district court's sentencing decision was procedurally unreasonable because the court violated Adams's due-process right when it based his sentence upon unreliable information about rehabilitation. We further hold that the sentence was substantively unreasonable because the district court violated Tapia v. United States, 564 U.S. 319 (2011), when it considered rehabilitation as a factor when calculating the length of the period of incarceration. We therefore VACATE the defendant's sentence and REMAND for resentencing.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Adams is seventy-one and has been addicted to opiates for the last thirty-five to forty years. R. 411 (Supervised-Release Violation Hr'g ("Hr'g") at 20) (Page ID #2818). He has an extensive criminal history-approximately twenty convictions and numerous other contacts with the criminal justice system-and these crimes were all closely linked with Adams's addiction. Id. at 20, 22 (Page ID #2818, 2820).

         In 2011, Adams pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1). R. 275 (Judgment at 1) (Page ID #2247). He was sentenced to sixty months' imprisonment and a term of three years of supervised release. Id. at 2-3 (Page ID #2248-49). After serving his custodial sentence, Adams began his term of supervised release in July 2015. R. 395 (Supervision Report at 2) (Page ID #2771); R. 411 (Hr'g at 12) (Page ID #2810). Starting in October 2015, Adams repeatedly tested positive for opiates. R. 411 (Hr'g at 12-13) (Page ID #2810-11). In response, the U.S. Probation Office placed Adams in multiple drug-treatment programs. Id. at 13-14 (Page ID #2811-12). These programs did not succeed, and he continued to abuse unlawful substances. Id. at 14 (Page ID #2812).

         After Adams tested positive for opiates three times between October 24, 2016 and November 15, 2016, the Probation Office filed another violation report with the district court. R. 404 (Violation Report at 2) (Page ID #2788). Following Adams's failure of yet another drug test on November 30, 2016, the Probation Office filed an amended violation report. R. 407 (Violation Report at 2) (Page ID #2793).

         At his hearing in December 2016, Adams admitted guilt to the violation of a condition of his supervised release-namely that he had unlawfully used controlled substances. R. 411 (Hr'g at 4) (Page ID #2802); R. 408 (Judgment at 1) (Page ID #2795). The Guidelines range for the violation was for a term of incarceration between twenty-one and twenty-seven months. R. 411 (Hr'g at 4) (Page ID #2802). After extensive discussion of Adams's substance-abuse problems and the failure of numerous treatment programs to end his addiction, the district court revoked Adams's supervised release and sentenced him to a period of incarceration of eighteen months with no period of supervision to follow. Id. at 22-23 (Page ID #2820-21); R. 408 (Judgment at 2) (Page ID #2796). Adams then timely filed this appeal. R. 409 (Notice of Appeal) (Page ID #2797).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         We review sentences imposed for violations of supervised release "'under a deferential abuse of discretion standard' for reasonableness." United States v. Bolds, 511 F.3d 568, 575 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting United States v. Lalonde, 509 F.3d 750, 769 (6th Cir. 2007)). Reasonableness is comprised of both procedural and substantive reasonableness; we review both for abuse of discretion.[1] United States v. Carson, 560 F.3d 566, 585 (6th Cir. 2009).

         We first review the procedural reasonableness of the district court's sentencing decision. Bolds, 511 F.3d at 581. In order for a sentence to be procedurally reasonable, the district court must have:

(1) properly calculated the applicable advisory Guidelines range; (2) considered the other [18 U.S.C.] § 3553(a) factors as well as the parties' arguments for a sentence outside the Guidelines range; and (3) adequately articulated its reasoning for imposing the particular sentence chosen, including any rejection of the parties' arguments for an outside-Guidelines sentence and any decision to deviate from the advisory Guidelines range.

Id. Furthermore, a district court "necessarily abuses its sentencing discretion if it 'commit[s] [a] significant procedural error, such as . . . selecting a sentence based on clearly erroneous facts . . . .'" Id. at 579 (first and second alteration in the original) ...


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