In another case concerning Sentencing Guidelines before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, Cory Kent Traxler pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. A probation officer concluded that Traxler’s base offense level was a 33 due to his history as a career criminal. Three levels were subtracted due to Traxler’s having taken responsibility for his crimes resulting in a total offense level of 30.
Based on his offense level and a criminal history category of V, Traxler’s guideline range was 151 to 188 months of in prison. Traxler, however, was subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 180 months, making his actual range between 180 and 188 months of imprisonment.
The District Court granted the government’s motion to depart downward from the statutory minimum based on Traxler’s substantial assistance and the court sentenced Traxler to 60 months of incarceration followed by three years of supervised release.
On appeal the government now argues that the district court erred by considering factors other than Traxler’s substantial assistance when deciding to depart downward from the sentencing guidelines.
The 6th Circuit wrote that a district court’s decision to depart downward from a statutory minimum sentence “must be based solely upon the substantial assistance rendered by the defendant.” Before there can be a remand for re-sentencing there must be an indication of error in the record. Such an error exists in this case. The worry, according to the 6th Circuit, is that the District Court based its decision not solely on the motion by the government, but also on a motion by Traxler asking for a downward variance in his sentence. The District Court was not clear regarding exactly what criteria it weighed in making its decision and it appears that the district court relied on non-substantial assistance factors when making its decision.
The 6th Circuit ultimately held that because the District Court failed to adequately explain its decision, the sentence was deemed to be procedurally unreasonable and the case was remanded for re-sentencing.