U.S. v. Washington
When ruling on whether a defendant qualifies as a "career offender," a sentencing court can consider crimes that were committed before the defendant was 18 years old, if the government prosecuted the defendant for those crimes as an adult in an adult forum. Ronnie Washington, also known as "Gotti," pled guilty to conspiracy to possess, with intent to distribute 28 grams or more of cocaine base. The District Court found that Washington qualified as a "career offender." The Sentencing Guidelines range was 262 to 327 months, and the District Court sentenced Washington to 240 months in prison and 96 months of supervised release. He appealed, arguing that because he pled guilty to narcotics-related offenses in November 1998, when he was 17, those offenses should not count with respect to whether he qualified as a "career offender," because he was a minor when he committed them. The 2nd Circuit rejected that argument. The government prosecuted the defendant as an adult in an adult forum. Even though he was only 17, the crimes counted as adult convictions. Washington also argued that crimes to which he pled guilty in 1998 should count as only one crime, because he simultaneously pled guilty and was sentenced for both. "Prior sentences always are counted separately if the sentences were imposed for offenses that were separated by an intervening arrest (i.e., the defendant is arrested for the first offense prior to committing the second offense)," pursuant to U.S. Sentencing Guideline §4A1.2(a)(2). Because the police arrested the defendant in connection with one drug-related offense and then, when he was on pre-trial release, the police arrested the defendant in connection with another drug-related offense, it was not wrong to count them as two separate offenses. "The district court did not abuse its discretion," wrote the 2nd Circuit, "in treating Washington as a career offender." There was no evidence the District Court punished the defendant for failure to cooperate or that the sentence of 240 months, which was below the Sentencing Guidelines range, was substantively or procedurally unreasonable. The 2nd Circuit affirmed the judgment of the District Court, Burns, J.