United States v. Winebarger, No. 11-1905 (3d Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
Charged as a felon in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g), defendant agreed to plead guilty and to cooperate with the government. A pre-sentence report indicated that he qualified as a career offender under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. 924(e). His total offense level was calculated as 30 and his criminal history category as IV, yielding a guidelines range of 135 to 168 months. Defendant's status as a career offender subjected him to a mandatory minimum sentence of 180 months. The district court accepted inclusion of a 1980 Pennsylvania simple assault conviction as a predicate violent felony, but determined that it was not bound by the 15-year mandatory minimum sentence because the government had filed a motion requesting a downward departure for "substantial assistance." Noting the defendant's many illnesses, the court imposed a prison sentence of time-served (one month and three days) and five years of supervised release. The Third Circuit vacated the sentence, holding that a district court cannot use factors unrelated to a defendant's substantial assistance to the government in order to reduce a sentence below the minimum.