United States of America v. Martini (Cassesse), No. 10-2210 (2d Cir. 2012)

Annotate this Case

This opinion or order relates to an opinion or order originally issued on July 11, 2012.

Download PDF
10-2210-cr United States of America v. Martini (Cassesse) 1 UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS 2 FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT 3 August Term 2011 4 Argued: April 3, 2012 Decided: July 11, 2012 5 Amended: July 25, 2012 6 Docket No. 10-2210-cr 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee, 16 Before: NEWMAN, KATZMANN, and PARKER, Circuit Judges. v. MICHAEL CASSESSE, Defendant-Appellant.1 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 17 Appeal from the June 19, 2009, judgment of the United States 18 District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Sandra L. Townes, 19 District 20 conviction and for a violation of supervised release. 21 contends that twelve months of imprisonment imposed for the supervised 22 release violation should have been subtracted from the lifetime term 23 of supervised release also imposed for tht violation. Judge), sentencing the Defendant for a racketeering The Defendant Affirmed. 24 Bradley W. Moore, New Haven, Conn. (James I. Glasser, Wiggin and Dana LLP, New Haven, Conn., on the brief), for DefendantAppellant. 25 26 27 28 29 1 The Clerk is directed to change the official caption. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Amy Busa, Asst. U.S. Atty., Brooklyn, N.Y. (Loretta E. Lynch, U.S. Atty. for the Eastern District of New York, Peter A. Norling, Asst. U.S. Atty., Brooklyn, N.Y., on the brief), for Appellee. JON O. NEWMAN, Circuit Judge. 10 This appeal presents primarily the almost metaphysical issue of 11 how, if at all, a lifetime term of supervised release, imposed for a 12 supervised release violation, should be reduced by the number of 13 months of a prison term imposed for that same violation, a subtraction 14 we are willing to assume is required by the literal terms of the 15 provisions governing supervised release. 16 Cassesse appeals from the June 19, 2009, judgment of the District 17 Court for the Eastern District of New York (Sandra L. Townes, District 18 Judge) revoking his previous term of lifetime term of supervised 19 release and sentencing him to a term of twelve months in prison 20 followed by a renewed lifetime term of supervised release. 21 Defendant-Appellant Michael We affirm. Background 22 In 1987, Cassesse was convicted of conspiracy to distribute 23 heroin and sentenced to five years probation. In 1991, he was 24 convicted of possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams 25 of heroin and sentenced to 87 months of imprisonment, a consecutive 26 term of 87 months for violating his probation, and a lifetime term of 27 supervised release, the maximum possible term of supervised release 28 under the statute. See 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B) (1991). 29 conditions of lifetime supervised release for the narcotics offense 30 was that Cassesse refrain from new criminal conduct. 2 One of the 1 In 2007, while Cassesse was out of prison but continuing to serve 2 his term of supervised release, he was indicted on several new 3 charges, including racketeering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962. 4 Cassesse was subsequently charged with violating a condition of 5 supervised release by committing a new crime. 6 plea to the racketeering charge, the District Court sentenced Cassesse 7 for 8 violation. Following his guilty both the racketeering conviction and the supervised-release 9 Speaking with respect to the racketeering offense, Judge Townes 10 noted that she had considered all of the submitted documents, all of 11 the statements made by the defense, the United States Sentencing 12 Guidelines ( the Guidelines ), and the factors enumerated by 18 U.S.C. 13 § 3553(a), including the Defendant s history and characteristics, the 14 nature of the crime committed, and the need for specific and general 15 deterrence. 16 was a violation of his term of supervised release: 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 Judge Townes noted that Cassesse s racketeering offense He committed the crime to which he pled guilty [ i.e., racketeering] while serving . . . a term of supervised release. Mr. Cassesse s difficulties in life do not relieve him of his responsibilities for [the consequences of] continuing to commit crimes. [Yet] he does not seem inclined to stop. . . . I truly don t think Mr. Cassesse has fully accepted responsibility for his criminal conduct. I believe he s just been caught. The District 27 imprisonment and 28 Court three imposed years of a sentence supervised of 90 months of release for the racketeering crime. 29 Judge Townes next turned to the violation of supervised release. 30 At this point the parties presented to the Court a plea agreement, in 3 1 which Cassesse apparently agreed to plead guilty to the supervised 2 release violation in exchange for the Government s recommendation that 3 any additional prison term for that violation be served concurrently 4 with the 90-month racketeering sentence. 5 relevant advisory range for the supervised release violation was six 6 to twelve months of imprisonment. The parties agreed that the 7 The District Court accepted Cassesse s guilty plea but rejected 8 the parties recommendation of a concurrent term, imposing instead a 9 sentence of twelve months of imprisonment for the supervised release 10 violation to run consecutively to the 90 month term for the 11 racketeering conviction. 12 of lifetime supervised release for the narcotics violation, the 13 District Court then imposed a new lifetime term of supervised release. 14 Although Judge Townes provided no detailed explanation for the Having revoked the previously imposed term 15 sentence for the supervised release violation, she stated, I have 16 reviewed everything. 17 counsel objected to the lifetime term of supervised release but did 18 not object either to the Court s failure to subtract the twelve month 19 term of imprisonment from it or to the brevity of the Court s 20 explanation of that term. At the conclusion of the hearing, defense Discussion 21 22 A. Standard of Review 23 On appeal, sentences may be challenged for substantive and 24 procedural reasonableness. See United States v. Verkhoglyad, 516 F.3d 25 122, 127 (2d Cir. 2008). Cassesse argues on appeal that the lifetime 4 1 term of supervised release should somehow have been reduced by twelve 2 months, which is a procedural objection. 3 specifically object in the District Court to the lack of a twelve 4 month reduction, we will assume that his general objection to the 5 length of the new lifetime term comprehended this point. 6 claim presents a question of statutory interpretation, we review the 7 District Court s decision de novo. 8 676 F.3d 71, 76 (2d Cir. 2012). Although Cassesse did not Because this See United States v. Aleynikov, 9 Cassesse also complains that the District Court inadequately 10 explained its reasons for the lifetime term, which is a procedural 11 objection, and in the absence of any objection in the District Court, 12 plain error review applies. See United States v. Villafuerte, 502 F.3d 13 204, 208, 211 (2d Cir. 2007) (holding that rigorous plain error 14 analysis applies to unpreserved claims of procedural sentencing error 15 under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) and (c)).2 16 B. Whether and How to Reduce the Lifetime Term of Supervised Release 17 Cassesse contends that the District Court erred when, after 18 revoking his previously imposed term of lifetime supervised release 19 for 20 imprisonment and a new lifetime term of supervised release for the 21 supervised release violation. his narcotics offense, it imposed both twelve months of More specifically, he contends that the 2 Although we have questioned the appropriateness of plain error review where a sentencing error allegedly increased a sentence, see United States v. Sofsky, 287 F.3d 122, 125-26 (2d Cir. 2002), we see no reason to weaken the plain error standard where a court has allegedly inadequately fulfilled a long-standing and uncomplicated procedural requirement of sentencing. See Villafuerte, 502 F.3d at 208, 211. 5 1 District Court was required by statute to deduct the former from the 2 latter, limiting the supervised release term to something at least 3 twelve months less than the lifetime maximum authorized for the 4 narcotics violation for which his original term of supervised release 5 was imposed. 6 Sentencing for a violation of supervised release is governed by 7 18 U.S.C. § 3583. The parties agree that the relevant form of section 8 3583 is the one that was in force in 1991, at the time that Cassesse 9 was sentenced to his original lifetime term of supervised release. See 10 United States v. Smith, 354 F.3d 171, 172 (2d Cir. 2003). The version 11 of section 3583 in effect in 1991 provides in relevant part: The court may . . . revoke a term of supervised release, and require the person to serve in prison all or part of the term of supervised release without credit for time previously served on postrelease supervision, if it finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the person violated a condition of supervised release . . . . 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e)(3) (1991). 20 question of whether a renewed term of supervised release may be 21 imposed in addition to a prison term as punishment for a supervised 22 release violation. 23 Supreme Court in Johnson v. United States, 529 U.S. 694 (2000), 24 concluded that a court may revoke the release term and require 25 service of a prison term equal to the maximum authorized length of a 26 term of supervised release. id. at 705. 27 because a term of supervised release continues . . . after revocation 28 even when part of it is served in prison, . . . the balance of it [] 29 remain[s] effective The 1991 version is silent on the Interpreting this version of the statute, the as a term of 6 Moreover, the Court added, supervised release when the 1 incarceration is over[.] Id. at 706. 2 841(b)(1)(B) provided for the original term of supervised release and 3 authorized a maximum term of lifetime supervised release. 4 before Johnson was decided, but after Cassesse was sentenced, Congress 5 amended the supervised release provisions to provide explicitly that 6 a renewed term of supervised release may be imposed for a supervised 7 release violation. 8 of 1994, Pub. L. No. 103-322, § 110505, 108 Stat. 1796, 2017, codified 9 at 18 U.S.C. As we have noted, section In 1994, See Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act § 3583(h). The amending language not only authorized a 10 renewed term of supervised release not to exceed the maximum allowable 11 for 12 relevant to this appeal, of a reduction of the maximum allowable term 13 of supervised release by the length of time spent in prison for the 14 supervised release violation. 15 which provides: 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 the underlying violation, but also introduced the concept, The amendment added section 3583(h), When a term of supervised release is revoked and the defendant is required to serve a term of imprisonment, the court may include a requirement that the defendant be placed on a term of supervised release after imprisonment. The length of such a term shall not exceed the term of supervised release authorized by statute for the offense that resulted in the original term of supervised release, less any term of imprisonment that was imposed upon revocation of supervised release. 18 U.S.C. § 3583(h) (2012) (emphasis added). 27 Both parties agree, in effect, that once the Supreme Court ruled 28 in Johnson that a renewed term of supervised release may be imposed 29 for violations that occurred under the 1991 version of section 30 3583(e)(3), the imprisonment reduction concept of the later enacted 7 1 section 3583(h) should apply to such a renewed term. 2 reasons as follows: 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 The Appellant Under current law, [t]he length of such a term of supervised release shall not exceed the term of supervised release authorized by statute for the offense that resulted in the original term of supervised release, less any term of imprisonment that was imposed upon revocation of supervised release. 18 U.S.C. § 3583(h); see also USSG § 7B1.3(g)(2). The law in effect when Mr. Cassesse committed his narcotics offense is to the same effect, even though the underlying statutory basis is different. As the Supreme Court stated, under Section 3583(e): [I]t is not a term of imprisonment that is to be served, but all or part of the term of supervised release. But if the term of supervised release is being served, in whole or part, in prison, then something about the term of supervised release survives the preceding order of revocation. Johnson, 529 U.S. at 705. Thus, if some part of the term of supervised release is served in prison after a violation, then the part of the term that remains after that prison sentence is served is less than the whole, original release term. . . . Thus, the pre-1994 Section 3583(e) and the current Section 3583(h) are in accord on this point. That is, any reimposed supervised-release term must be reduced by the length of the prison term the defendant serves for the violation. Brief for Appellant at 14-16 (footnote omitted). The Government essentially reaches the same result by contending 38 that although the pre-1994 version of § 3583(e) did not require 39 subtraction of the incarceratory sentence, it did require that the 40 combined term of supervised release and incarceration did not exceed 41 the original term of supervised release. Brief for Appellee at 26. 42 Thus, for example, if the prior term of supervised release was ten 43 years and the period of incarceration for the violation was one year, 8 1 the only way the combined term could not exceed the original term is 2 if the one year term of imprisonment is subtracted from the prior ten 3 years of supervised release, yielding a maximum allowable renewed term 4 of nine years. 5 The intriguing question is whether and how the prison term 6 reduction concept applies to a renewed lifetime term of supervised 7 release. 8 subtraction concept into an addition concept. 9 although Cassesse s one year term in prison plus the renewed lifetime 10 term of supervised release may equal the original lifetime term of 11 supervised release, they do not exceed it. Id. The Government elides this question by converting the It observes that 12 Cassesse advances the subtraction concept and insists that his 13 one year of imprisonment must somehow be subtracted from his lifetime 14 term of supervised release. 15 contends that the lifetime term should be abandoned in favor of a 16 fixed term of years from which the one year term of imprisonment would 17 be subtracted. See Brief for Appellant at 21. 18 that the lifetime term of supervised release should be converted to 19 the corresponding offense level 43 in the Sentencing Table of the 20 Sentencing Guidelines from which some appropriate reduction should be 21 made, after which the reduced offense level would presumably be 22 converted back into a term of years. Cf. United States v. Nelson, 491 23 F.3d 344, 349 (7th Cir. 2007) (affirming conversion of mandatory life 24 sentence to offense level 43 and then reducing that level by 40 25 percent to reflect substantial assistance). He suggests three techniques. 9 First, he Second, he suggests Third, he suggests that 1 one year could be subtracted from his life expectancy at the time of 2 sentencing.3 3 Intriguing as are the question and some possible answers to it, 4 we conclude that the more appropriate course is simply to recognize 5 that this is one of those rare situations where Congress did not 6 expect the literal terms of its handiwork to be applied to a lifetime 7 term of supervised release, even if we assume that the subtraction 8 concept of section 3583(h) should be applied to a fixed term of 9 supervised release imposed under the pre-1994 version of section 10 3583(e)(3). Cf. Holy Trinity Church v. United States, 143 U.S. 457, 11 472 (1892) (statute prohibiting prepayment of transportation of alien 12 into United States to perform service of any kind held inapplicable to 13 church s contract to bring resident of England to render service as 14 rector and pastor, even though contract was within the letter of 15 statute). 16 First, it is highly unlikely that Congress expected the 17 subtraction concept to be applied to a lifetime term of supervised 18 release. 19 make a subtraction in some fashion, the judge could easily circumvent 20 such a requirement by selecting a supervised release term of many 21 years, 99 for example, and then imposing a term of only 98 years. Second, even if a sentencing judge were to feel obliged to 3 A variant of Cassesse s third suggestion was offered by the Seventh Circuit, in the context of a reduction for substantial assistance from a mandatory life sentence. That Court suggested making the substantial assistance reduction from 470 months, the average life expectancy of federal defendants at the time of sentencing, as determined by the United States Census Bureau. See Nelson, 491 F.3d at 349-50. 10 1 Third, use of the defendant s life expectancy would introduce a 2 variable bearing little, if any, relation to penological purposes for 3 defendants who outlive their life expectancy and would introduce 4 reverse age discrimination. 5 term of supervised release was not unlawful. See United States v. 6 Rausch, 7 impossible to predict the precise length of any individual s life, a 8 [supervised release] sentence of life less two years[ imprisonment] 9 has only conceptual--not practical--meaning. ). But see United States 10 v. Shorty, 159 F.3d 312, 316 (7th Cir. 1998) ( [T]he maximum amount of 11 supervised release possible would have been life minus the amount of 12 imprisonment imposed during the sentencing for revocation ; no method 13 of subtraction suggested).4 14 C. Explanation of Sentence 638 F.3d 1296, We conclude that the unadjusted lifetime 1303 (10th Cir. 2011) ( Because it is 15 Cassesse contends that the District Court committed procedural 16 error during the sentencing for his supervised release violation by 17 failing to consider the statutory factors required by 18 U.S.C. 18 § 3583(e) and by failing to explain the reasons for the sentence as 19 required by 18 U.S.C. § 3553(c). The statutory requirements are set 4 We note that in a recent summary order, United States v. McNaught, 396 F. App x 772 (2d Cir. 2010), our Court appeared to endorse Cassesse s argument. See id. at 774 (stating that section 3583(h) required the district court to subtract Appellant s term of 30 months imprisonment from the maximum lifetime term of supervised release ). That statement, made without considering whether or how such a subtraction should be made, was dictum; the holding was that a five-year term of supervised release was lawful. In any event, the summary order in McNaught was non-precedential. See 2d Cir. I.O.P. 32.1.1. 11 1 2 out in the margin.5 The District Court s failure to explicitly consider the section 3 3553(a) factors does not rise to the level of plain error. As long 4 as the judge is aware of both the statutory requirements and the 5 sentencing range or ranges that are arguably applicable, and nothing 5 Section 3583(e) requires courts to consider[] a subset of the section 3553(a) factors, namely: (1) (2) (4) (5) (6) (7) the nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the defendant; the need for the sentence imposed-. . . (B) to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct; (C) to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant; and (D) to provide the defendant with needed educational or vocational training, medical care, or other correctional treatment in the most effective manner; . . . the kinds of sentence and the sentencing range established for-. . . (B) in the case of a violation of . . . supervised release, the applicable guidelines or policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission pursuant to section 994(a)(3) of title 28 . . . ; any pertinent policy statement . . . issued by the Sentencing Commission . . . that . . . is in effect on the date the defendant is sentenced[;] the need to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct; and the need to provide restitution to any victims of the offense. 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). Section 3553(c) provides: The court, at the time of sentencing, shall state in open court the reasons for its imposition of the particular sentence. 18 U.S.C. § 3553(c). 12 1 in the record indicates misunderstanding about such materials or 2 misperception about their relevance, we will accept that the requisite 3 consideration [required by 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e)] has occurred. United 4 States v. Fleming, 397 F.3d 95, 100 (2d Cir. 2005). 5 every reason to believe that Judge Townes knew she had to consider, 6 and did consider, the relevant statutory factors. 7 considered nearly identical factors during her discussion of the 8 racketeering conviction that resulted from the same criminal acts. 9 During that discussion, moreover, she commented Here, there is She thoroughly on Cassesse s 10 supervised release violation and how that violation affected her 11 overall 12 offender. 13 violation itself, in lieu of a detailed explanation she stated 14 generally, I have reviewed everything. 15 that Judge Townes was aware of the appropriate policy statements and 16 the relevant advisory terms of imprisonment. 17 The assessment of the Defendant as an unremorseful repeat Then, after turning specifically to the supervised release Finally, the record shows explanation requirement of section 3553(c) is also 18 sufficiently satisfied to preclude a finding of plain error. 19 3553(c) requires no specific formulas or incantations; rather, the 20 length and detail required of a district court s explanation varies 21 according to the circumstances. See Villafuerte, 502 F.3d at 210. 22 Where, as here, the sentence concerns a violation of supervised 23 release and the ultimate sentence is within the recommended range 24 compliance with the statutory requirements can be minimal. 25 Verkhoglyad, 516 F.3d at 132-33 ( [A] court s statement of its reasons 26 for going beyond non-binding policy statements in imposing a sentence 13 Section , See 1 . . . need not be as specific as has been required when courts 2 departed from [G]uidelines . . . . (emphases original)); Villafuerte, 3 502 F.3d at 210 ( When the district court imposes a Guidelines 4 sentence, it may not need to offer a lengthy explanation . . . . ). 5 Furthermore, section 3553(c) has likely been satisfied when a court s 6 statements meet the goals of (1) informing the defendant of the 7 reasons for his sentence, (2) permitting meaningful appellate review, 8 (3) 9 particular sentence, and (4) guiding probation officers and prison 10 officials in developing a program to meet the defendant s needs. Id. 11 The District Court adequately fulfilled its duties under the enabling the public to learn why the defendant received a 12 statute, and the error, if any, was not plain. 13 briefly described some reasons for her supervised release violation 14 sentence, 15 Cassesse s cooperation because she had already given him credit for 16 that in her racketeering sentence and noting that Cassesse differed 17 from his co-defendants because he was the only one with a violation of 18 supervised release. 19 intertwined analysis of the supervised release violation and the 20 racketeering crime clearly provided a sufficient explanation of the 21 sentence she ultimately imposed for the violation. stating that she would not First, Judge Townes reduce the sentence for Second, and more importantly, Judge Townes s 22 United States v. Lewis, 424 F.3d 239 (2d Cir. 2005), upon which 23 Cassesse principally relies, involved quite different circumstances. 24 First, in Lewis the District Court imposed a sentence above that 25 recommended by the relevant Sentencing Commission policy statements, 26 triggering a higher descriptive obligation on the part of the District 14 1 Court. Id. at 245; see 18 U.S.C. § 3553(c)(2) (requiring district 2 court to provide the specific reason for the imposition of a sentence 3 different from that described in the relevant policy statements or 4 Guidelines). Second, unlike inLewis, Judge Townes provided a lengthy 5 explanation, albeit 6 discussion of a different (but closely related) crime. 9 that technically occurred during the Conclusion 7 8 one For the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the District Court is affirmed. 10 11 15