United States v. Ballard, No. 19-2103 (7th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
From 1985-2017, Ballard accrued over 30 convictions for crimes including attempted residential burglary, kidnapping, battery, aggravated assault (amended from rape), possession of a firearm as a felon, and multiple convictions for driving with a suspended or revoked driver’s license. Ballard also accrued many parole violations and committed infractions while in prison. Ballard pleaded guilty in 2018 to possessing a firearm as a felon, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). The court initially imposed an armed career criminal enhancement, resulting in a Guidelines range of 180-210 months. The court considered old offenses for which the Guidelines did not assess criminal history points. Citing the 18 U.S.C. 3553 factors, the court imposed a 232-month sentence. On remand, a revised presentence report calculated a Guidelines range of 33-41 months, with a statutory maximum of 120 months. The court again pointed to Ballard’s extensive criminal history and cited the section 3553 factors to impose a sentence of 108 months’ imprisonment.
The Seventh Circuit vacated. The district court committed procedural error by not providing an adequate explanation for the major upward departure. The court referred to the defendant's history and characteristics and the goals of promoting respect for the law, deterrence, and protecting the public. These were the same factors discussed at the original sentencing, resulting in a sentence only 22 months above the original Guidelines range. The court provided no explanation for why consideration of the same factors warranted a much greater departure on resentencing.