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In re Sealed Case

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

January 8, 2016

IN RE: SEALED CASE

Submitted: November 6, 2015.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. (No. 1:07-cr-00053-1).

Before: SRINIVASAN, Circuit Judge, and WILLIAMS and GINSBURG, Senior Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Ginsburg, Senior Circuit Judge.

The appellant in this case pleaded guilty to a federal crime. Following his guilty plea, he was sentenced and then resentenced on three subsequent occasions. In this appeal, he challenges on both procedural and substantive grounds the last-imposed sentence, pursuant to which the appellant is subject to a term of supervised release ending in January 2016. After rejecting the Government's argument that the case is moot, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

I. Background

In 2007 the appellant pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to participate in a racketeer influenced corrupt organization, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § § 1962(d), 1963, and was subsequently sentenced to 108 months of incarceration, to be followed by 60 months of supervised release.

After filing an appeal in which he challenged his initial plea agreement on various grounds including ineffective assistance of counsel, the appellant entered into a new sentencing agreement with the Government, pursuant to which the district court sentenced him to a period of incarceration comprising time served plus 30 days, to be followed by 60 months of supervised release, six of which, at the appellant's request, were to be spent in a halfway house. While in residence at the halfway house, the appellant repeatedly violated the terms of his supervised release by, among other things, indulging in alcohol and failing to participate in anger-management counseling.

In consequence of his violations, the district court vacated its earlier sentencing decision and imposed a third sentence, this time comprising 20 months of imprisonment to be followed by one year of supervised release. On appeal, this court vacated that sentence, explaining that " it was plain error for the district court to impose a sentence [for violation of the terms of supervised release] in excess of the Guideline range without providing a written statement of reasons." The district court then re-imposed the sentence of 20 months incarceration to be followed by one year of supervised release, this time supported by a memorandum opinion in which it set forth its reasons for the sentence imposed. Specifically, the district court rehearsed the appellant's various violations of the terms of his supervised release and noted that " the sentence ... was intended to resolve multiple violations in one fell swoop and to reduce the term of supervision thereafter significantly ... for the purpose of ensuring that [the appellant] obtains anger management counseling upon his re-introduction to the community and to release him from oversight relatively quickly."

II. Analysis

We address first the Government's assertion that the appellant's case is moot. We then turn to the substance of the appellant's challenge to his current sentence.

A. Mootness

The appellant has completed his term of incarceration. His term of supervised release is scheduled to end in January 2016, but a district court " may modify, reduce, or enlarge the conditions of supervised release[] at any time prior to the expiration or termination of the term of supervised release." 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e)(2). Although the appellant is still serving his term of supervised release, the Government argues this case is already moot: " Because appellant's sole substantive challenge is to the length of his incarceration, and because appellant is no longer in prison, this Court can offer appellant no effectual relief."

We reject the Government's argument and instead follow the approach set out in our decision in United States v. Epps, 707 F.3d 337, 404 U.S.App.D.C. 39 (D.C. Cir. 2013). There we held this court had jurisdiction to adjudicate a sentencing challenge brought by an appellant who had completed his prison sentence but not his period of supervised release. Id. at 342. The essence of Epps's argument, which we accepted, was that " reduction of [his] term of imprisonment ...


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