United States v. Williams, No. 18-3318 (7th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Two men entered a Sprint store with a gun, threatened and zip‐tied all witnesses, grabbed merchandise, and fled the store in two vehicles. Williams, a getaway driver, was indicted for obstruction of commerce by robbery, 18 U.S.C. 1951. Judge Bruce presided over his jury trial. Williams was convicted. Months later, it became public that Judge Bruce had engaged in ex parte communications with members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. All criminal cases assigned to Judge Bruce were reassigned. Judge Darrow presided over Williams's sentencing hearing and sentenced him to 180 months’ imprisonment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Judge Bruce did not violate Williams’s due process rights on these facts. Although Judge Bruce’s conduct created an appearance of impropriety violating the federal recusal statute, there is no evidence of actual bias in this case to justify a new trial. Williams does not qualify as a career offender, but the district court’s finding otherwise was not plain error. Judge Darrow thoroughly considered the section 3553(a) factors, made clear that she would impose the same sentence even if the career offender provision did not apply, and explained her reasons for that position. There was sufficient evidence regarding the use of a firearm;Al the district court did not err in applying a firearm enhancement.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on February 13, 2020.