United States v. Sims, No. 19-1172 (3d Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Sims, as a member of the “Black P-Stones,” an interstate gang that trafficked drugs and women, prostituted women online, provided them security while they worked, then collected their money and supplied the women with drugs. Sims and his fellow gang members used force and coercion to trap women in a vicious cycle of drug addiction and prostitution. Sims pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion, 18 U.S.C. 1594(c). The PSR assigned Sims a base offense level of 34 for the conspiracy offense. Sims requested a base offense level of 14, which the Ninth Circuit had applied to the same crime in 2016.
The district court applied a base level of 34, opining that the Ninth Circuit’s decision “defies the written words of the Guidelines. It defies logic.” The court imposed a sentence at the bottom of the resulting advisory Guidelines range of 151–188 months’ imprisonment. The Third Circuit affirmed. When a conspiracy offense (like Sims’s conviction under section 1594(c)) is not covered by a specific Guidelines section, then Guidelines section 2X1.1 applies and requires courts to apply the base offense level for the substantive offense underlying the conspiracy. The substantive offenses underlying Sims’s conspiracy conviction were 18 U.S.C. 1591(a) and (b)(1), so Guidelines 2G1.1(a)(1) mandated a base offense level of 34.