By Patrick Southern

Today, in an unpublished per curiam opinion, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the revocation sentence imposed by the District of South Carolina in the case of United States v. Mayberry. The court held that the appropriate criminal sentencing guidelines were followed, and that the district court’s sentence was both procedurally and substantively reasonable.

Mayberry’s Counsel Argued the District Court Committed Procedural or Substantive Error in Sentencing

This case arose from the revocation of Kevin Mayberry’s supervised release for a prior crime. Upon that revocation, the District of South Carolina sentenced him to nine months in jail, followed by 27 additional months of supervised release.

While Mayberry did not take advantage of his opportunity to file a pro se supplemental brief, his counsel argued on appeal that the sentence violated standards for procedural and substantive reasonableness.

District Courts Have Broad Discretion When Imposing Sentences Upon Revocation of Supervised Release

The Fourth Circuit noted that revocation sentences are to be affirmed if they fall within the prescribed statutory range and are not “plainly unreasonable.” Broad discretion is afforded to the district court in tailoring such sentences.

On appeal, the court must first determine if the sentence imposed is procedurally or substantively unreasonable. It does so by applying the same considerations used in review of original sentences. Still, this is a deferential review compared to the reasonableness review for original sentences. The appellate court must first find the sentence unreasonable, then go further to determine if it is “plainly” so.

The Sentence Was Not Procedurally or Substantively Unreasonable

Supervised release revocation sentences are procedurally reasonable if the district court considered the Sentencing Guidelines policy statements found in Chapter Seven of the Guidelines, as well as the factors in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) which are relevant to revocation sentences.

The district court must provide a statement of reasons for the sentence imposed, but it need not be as detailed or specific for revocation sentences as for post-conviction sentences. The Fourth Circuit also noted that the district court doesn’t have to strictly follow the exact language of § 3553(a), but the reasons given for the sentence must merely be able to matched to a factor appropriate for consideration under that statute (and tied to the defendant’s situation).

Revocation sentences are considered substantively reasonable if the district court stated a proper basis for concluding the defendant should receive whatever sentence is imposed, up to the statutory maximum. Sentences within the properly-calculated policy statement range are presumed to be substantively reasonable.

Here, the District of South Carolina considered the proper advisory policy statement range and arguments from counsel and Mayberry before sentencing him at the top of the policy statement range. The Fourth Circuit indicated that even though the explanation given was not detailed or lengthy, it expressed the court’s opinion that Mayberry had abused the court’s prior leniency by neglecting his restitution obligation, and that a tough sentence was necessary to sanction his breach of trust.

Mayberry’s Sentence Is Affirmed

Because the Fourth Circuit could not find any unreasonableness, plain or otherwise, in Mayberry’s sentence, it was affirmed.