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.
The below linked document collects the proposed amendments to the sentencing guidelines, policy statements, and commentary, in the “reader-friendly” form in which they were made available at the public meeting on August 7, 2015. As with all proposed amendments on which a vote to publish for comment has been made but not yet officially submitted to the Federal Register for formal publication, authority to make technical and conforming changes may be exercised and motions to reconsider may be made. Once submitted to the Federal Register, official text of the proposed amendments as submitted will be posted on the Commission’s website at www.ussc.gov and will be available in a forthcoming edition of the Federal Register, and an updated “reader-friendly” version of the proposed amendments as submitted will be posted on the Commission’s website at www.ussc.gov.
The proposed amendment and issues for comment will be subject to a public comment period
running through November 12, 2015. Further information on the submission of public comment will be provided in the forthcoming edition of the Federal Register referred to above. Such information will also be available at www.ussc.gov.
Part of the idea of prison as a consequence for doing any kind of a crime is that these inmates are given a chance at recovery from whatever problem has landed them in jail. Different prisons have different programs for these individuals to help them become better people. Of course, not all prisoners are in a prison where a program that they might need is offered.
When these programs could be really helpful to a person, it might be better for them to be in a different prison than the one that they are put in initially. Filing a request for a prison transfer can help these people to get into a prison where a valuable program is offered. Since prisoners are encouraged to find recovery during prison these transfers are often approved.
While there is medical care in prison that all prisoners can receive, this care is not always adequate for people with certain kind of ailments. When someone is sick, time is really of the essence and it is important that they receive the treatment that they really deserve to receive as a human being. This can be challenging in a prison system since resources are not as readily available.
It is a good idea for those with special medical problems to find help getting the right medical care that they need. Prison medical care for these patients may not be enough so they may need to have a brief furlough where they can be treated properly by specialists. Knowing what motions to put forward when a friend or family member is facing sickness while in prison can help them to get the care they need quickly.
Lawyers are expensive and generally have many cases on their plate at the same time. This can make it far more challenging for a case to get the specific attention that it deserves at every single part of the process. Since each and every case is important to the person who is fighting for their freedom, hiring someone to give that attention is important.
Luckily, many lawyers are willing to work together with other services that can help them to build the strongest case possible. Lawyer assistance services can really make it so that your case is a lot stronger and better researched than it might have been without this help. This can really make a lot of difference in some cases since details that might not otherwise come out can be presented.
When someone is found guilty of a crime, there is a completely separate hearing in which they are actually sentenced to a specific punishment. Different facts of the case and the individual involved in the case are taken into account at this point to see how a person should be punished for any specific crime. A judge will determine a sentence on the basis of these facts.
Of course, judges are not meant to pick just any sentence for the crime that has been committed. There are federal sentencing guidelines that give them a model for what kinds of crimes are punishable by what kind of a sentence. Judges have to consult these guidelines before choosing a sentence and can determine where in the range of sentences this case falls.
During a case, evidence is presented and judges or juries base their rulings on the information that is given to them. This doesn’t mean that the information given is always completely accurate. Mistakes can be made which might lead to problems in the eventual sentence that is given. Since courts make mistakes, there is an appeal system to right these wrongs.
When people feel that something has gone wrong with their initial case to make their sentence unfair they turn to federal appeals court to be given a chance at resentencing. In a case worked on by the NLPA, erroneous drug amounts were brought to light. This resulted in a sentence being set aside and eventually reduced by five years because of this change.
Once you have already been convicted of a crime, it might be a challenge to reduce this sentence and make it so that you will not have to serve the complete sentence. Luckily, an appeal can be very helpful to you especially if you were somehow wronged by the court or if you have had an ineffective counsel when you were previously sentenced. This can help cut years off of your sentence.
In one of the cases that the NLPA recently worked on, the NLPA recommended that the counsel ask for the sentence to be vacated due to a violation of due process. In this case, the sentence was eventually reduced by 20 years. Similar cases to this one can result in significant changes in a sentence and early release from federal prison for some individuals.
When you are trying to appeal a sentence that you have been given, it is very important that this appeal means something. With the right professionals helping your council certain parts of the prosecution’s evidence can be removed reducing your sentence significantly. There are many cases NLPA has helped with already that have resulted in resentencing which significantly reduced sentences.
Before an appeal can be successful, a professional must review the case and do some significant case study research to determine what the best avenue for perusing a lesser sentence would be. The NLPA can look at your case for you and recommend to your council what approach should be taken. This has already helped many clients have their previous sentence vacated.