United States v. Fields, No. 18-10928 (5th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence after he pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm as a felon. At sentencing, the district court imposed an upward variance, relying in part on the presentence report's (PSR) description of two instances where defendant was arrested and charged with offenses involving injury to a child. The PSR noted that the charges were ultimately no-billed by Texas grand juries, and defendant argued that the PSR's description of the conduct underpinning his prior arrests was insufficiently reliable for the district court
to take the arrests into account at sentencing.
The Fifth Circuit held that by itself, the no-bill cannot transform a factual recitation with sufficient indicia of reliability into one that lacks such indicia. In this case, the court held that the district court relied on sufficiently reliable evidence to find that defendant had committed the underlying activities and based the upward variance in part upon those activities. The court need not address whether a grand jury no-bill precludes a sentencing court's ability to find by a preponderance that the defendant committed the particular no-billed offense.