Often, NLPA is contacted by attorneys who represent federal criminal defendants who are in
need of sentencing assistance to help a defendant receive a lower sentence than being requested
by the prosecution. The case of United States v. Chandra Ross, case number 2:13-cr-00214-1
(S.D.W.Va. 2013) demonstrates how NLPA can assist counsel in the preparation of sentencing
research upon issues that, while not typically considered under the Guidelines, can be utilized to
great effect to receive a fair sentence under 18 U.S.C. §3553. Ms. Ross pleaded guilty to
possession with intent to distribute heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. §841(a)(1), possession of a
firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense in violation of 18 U.S.C. §924(c)(1)(A)(I),
and possession of a firearm with an altered serial number in violation of 18 U.S.C. §922(k) and
After the conviction, the United States Probation Office prepared a Pre-Sentence Investigation
Report (PSR). A mandatory five year consecutive sentence was also called for based upon the
conviction for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense, meaning that
the total sentence range was between 130 and 157 months incarceration. Facing such a harsh
sentence, and needing assistance in the preparation of research challenging the harsh Guideline
sentence, Ms. Ross contacted NLPA to conduct research upon possible means to avoid an unduly
harsh sentence. Therefore, NLPA conducted research on the potential sentence faced by Ms.
Ross, as well as the possibility of avoiding the harsh sentence put forth in the PSR, in
conjunction with Ms. Ross’ attorney, Matthew M. Robinson. NLPA’s research focused on
potential mitigating factors to convince the court to reduce her sentence.
In Ms. Ross’ case, NLPA felt it was important to highlight her many positive qualities.
Accordingly, research was prepared arguing for a reduced sentence based upon the facts that Ms.
Ross was a first-time offender, that she possessed strong family ties, Ms. Ross had a college
education, she possessed a consistent employment history, and most importantly, Ms. Ross had a
strong desire to achieve rehabilitation. It was also pointed out that Ms. Ross suffered from
difficult circumstances, including depression, alcoholism, and Bi-Polar Disorder.
The government, not surprisingly, argued that Ms. Ross had no desire to achieve rehabilitation,
and even went so far as to void the original guilty plea because Ms. Ross failed to testify against
her co-defendant as called for in the plea agreement. However, Ms. Ross feared for her safety,
and for her family’s safety, should she testify against a known drug kingpin.
At sentencing, the district court recognized the above mitigating factors, as well as Ms. Ross’
reasonable fear should she testify against a co-defendant, and decided to issue a sentence of 84
months incarceration, which was 73 months below the Guideline maximum sentence saving
her six years in prison.
The bottom line is that just because an individual faces an overwhelming Guideline sentence
does not mean that all attempts at securing a lesser sentence must be abandoned in deference to
the Probation Office or the federal prosecutor. Instead, by being aware of all possible options,
attorneys can challenge the imposition of sentencing enhancements and improper Guideline
calculations that lack a sound basis in fact and law. From challenging the procedural
mechanisms of imposing a Guideline sentence to arguing the lack of factual support for
sentencing enhancements to presenting mitigating arguments, NLPA has been at the forefront of
attacking insidious and unfair sentences. Should your clients find themselves in similar
situations to Ms. Ross, NLPA stands ready to assist you in the research and preparation of any
motions and/or research necessary to assist you in the vigorous defense of your clients.
NLPA, WE CARE, WE LISTEN, WE GET RESULTS!
DISCLAIMER: This informational memorandum is designed to introduce you to NLPA. As NLPA is not a law firm,
professional services are only provided to licensed counsel in all areas that involve the practice of law.
Nothing presented herein is intended to be legal advice. Such advice can only be provided by a local licensed attorney based on
a full discussion of a client’s individual facts and circumstances. The contents of this document are provided solely for general
informational purposes. Always seek the advice of a licensed attorney for specific legal problems.