from the United States District Court for the Western
District of Michigan at Marquette. No. 2:17-cr-00025-1-Robert
J. Jonker, Chief District Judge.
Elizabeth A. LaCosse, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER,
Marquette, Michigan, for Appellant.
Maarten Vermaat, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE,
Marquette, Michigan, for Appellee.
Before: BATCHELDER, McKEAGUE, and NALBANDIAN, Circuit Judges.
NALBANDIAN, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Scott Ruska appeals his sentence of life imprisonment to the
extent that the district court imposed it under the federal
three strikes statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3559(c). For the
following reasons, we affirm.
2002, Ruska drove a nineteen-year-old woman down a two-track
road in rural Michigan. He then stopped the car and revealed
he had a handgun. The woman asked him several times to take
her home, but Ruska refused. Instead, he raped her three
times. Although Ruska was first charged with three counts of
first-degree criminal sexual conduct, he pleaded guilty to a
reduced charge-assault with intent to do great bodily harm
less than murder. As a result, the court sentenced him to one
year in jail and two years of probation.
his release from jail the following year, Ruska raped another
woman. He also forced this woman to sit partially naked on a
sofa for about three hours while he threatened to beat her.
He then drove her around for several hours and suggested he
would kill her before he eventually took her back to her
home. For this crime, Ruska pleaded guilty to one count of
third-degree criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping. And he
was sentenced to between ten and fifteen years in prison.
two years after he was discharged on parole, Ruska attacked
another woman. This woman had the misfortune of accepting his
invitation to join him on a fishing trip. The two had been
fishing on Ruska's boat for a few hours before Ruska
"snapped" and said to her: "I'm not out
here for the enjoyment of fishing, but this is what I'm
about to do and you either go along with it or I have a gun
and I'll shoot you with it." [R. 57, Presentence
Report at PageID #322 ¶ 30.] He then raped her
repeatedly over several days until the police found them both
and arrested Ruska.
these offenses-committed in the Hiawatha National Forest,
which is under federal territorial jurisdiction-the
government charged Ruska with one count of kidnapping and
three counts of sexual abuse. Ruska pleaded guilty to all the
charges and the district court sentenced him to life in
prison for each count. The court arrived at that sentence
based on three alternative grounds: First, the court ruled
that the federal "three strikes" statute, 18 U.S.C.
§ 3559(c), mandated a life sentence. Second, the court
ruled that an upward departure to life from Ruska's
Guidelines range was justified based on U.S.S.G. §§
4A1.3, 5K2.21, and 5K2.8. And third, the court ruled that an
upward variance to life was warranted based on the 18 U.S.C.
§ 3553(a) factors. Ruska now appeals this sentence.
only challenges the first of these rulings: that he qualified
for a life sentence under the federal three strikes statute.
Because that ruling is a legal conclusion, we review it de
novo. See ...