US v. Terrance J. William
UNPUBLISHED PER CURIAM OPINION filed. Originating case number: 5:09-cr-00301-BO-1 Copies to all parties and the district court/agency. .. [15-4817]
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UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Plaintiff - Appellee,
TERRANCE J. WILLIAMS,
Defendant - Appellant.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, at
Raleigh. Terrence W. Boyle, District Judge. (5:09-cr-00301-BO-1)
Submitted: January 17, 2017
Decided: March 31, 2017
Before SHEDD, AGEE, and WYNN, Circuit Judges.
Affirmed by unpublished per curiam opinion.
Thomas P. McNamara, Federal Public Defender, Jennifer C. Leisten, Research & Writing
Attorney, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Raleigh, North Carolina,
for Appellant. John Stuart Bruce, Acting United States Attorney, Jennifer P. May-Parker,
Assistant United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY,
Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee.
Unpublished opinions are not binding precedent in this circuit.
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Terrance Williams appeals a 36-month sentence imposed following the revocation
of his supervised release. We affirm.
In July 2010, Terrance Williams pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm in
furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A), and
being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 924. The
district court sentenced him to 262 months’ imprisonment and two concurrent, five-year
terms of supervised release.
Williams successfully appealed his § 922(g) conviction, arguing that this Court’s
decision in United States v. Simmons, 649 F.3d 237 (4th Cir. 2011) (en banc), rendered
him actually innocent of being a felon in possession. On remand, the district court
amended the judgment to vacate Williams’ felon-in-possession conviction and sentenced
Williams to 60 months’ imprisonment and five years of supervised release on the
remaining § 924(c)(1)(A) count.
Williams’ supervised release carried a number of
standard conditions, including that Williams not commit any crime and not unlawfully
possess, use, or administer a controlled substance. He was also required to submit to
periodic drug testing.
Williams began his term of supervised release in March 2015. Within days,
Williams reported to his probation officer that he had used marijuana, but the district
court did not revoke his probation. However, the court did alter Williams’ supervised
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release conditions to include drug aftercare and mental health treatment.
continued to violate the conditions of his probation. In July 2015, the court received a
violation report that Williams was charged in state court with various traffic offenses and
possession of a controlled substance. And in August 2015, Williams tested positive for
Williams’ probation officer filed a motion to revoke his supervised release in
December 2015. That motion alleged that during the previous month, Williams’ urine
tested positive for marijuana, which he admitted by signing an Admission of Drug Use
form after being confronted with the test results. Williams was arrested in December
2015 for violating the terms of his supervised release.
At Williams’ revocation hearing that same month, he admitted to violating the
conditions of supervised release. The district court determined that an upward departure
from the recommended imprisonment range of eight to fourteen months under the United
States Sentencing Guidelines (the “Guidelines”) was warranted.
Williams’ sentence, the district court stated, “I want to make a record that I deliberated
on this and found that the guideline range woefully under-represented the level of
punishment that he should receive because of his violation.” J.A. 38. Although Williams
said his return to drugs culminated from losing his job and being evicted, the district
court disagreed, finding Williams’ explanations not credible. Williams, the court said,
had been “a thief and a law breaker and a drug addict and user and trafficker all his life,”
and the presentence report “document[ed] a life of crime that is unremitting.” J.A. 39.
The district court described Williams’ criminal history, observing, “[H]e has somewhere
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in the neighborhood of 20 break-ins in residential houses and drug possession and other
theft-related crimes . . . .”
Revoking Williams’ supervised release, the court
sentenced him to “the minimum [it] would be willing to consider,” thirty-six months’
Williams timely appealed his revocation sentence, and this Court has jurisdiction
pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3742 and 28 U.S.C. § 1291.
We accord the district court “broad discretion when imposing a sentence upon
revocation of supervised release.” United States v. Webb, 738 F.3d 638, 640 (4th Cir.
2013). A revocation sentence will be affirmed so long as “it is within the statutory
maximum and is not ‘plainly unreasonable.’” Id. (quoting United States v. Crudup, 461
F.3d 433, 438 (4th Cir. 2006)). We initially consider whether the sentence imposed is
procedurally or substantively unreasonable.
“Only if we find the sentence
unreasonable [will we proceed to determine] whether [the sentence] is ‘plainly’ so.” Id.
A sentence is plainly unreasonable when it “run[s] afoul of clearly settled law.” United
States v. Thompson, 595 F.3d 544, 548 (4th Cir. 2010).
Williams challenges his revocation sentence as procedurally and substantively
unreasonable. Specifically, he contends that his sentence is procedurally unreasonable
because “the district court gave no indication that it had considered the Chapter Seven
policy statements or the pertinent 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) sentencing factors before
sentencing . . . Williams.” Opening Br. 13–14. He argues his sentence is substantively
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unreasonable because the sentence was meant to punish him for his original offense,
rather than the supervised release violation. We address these two contentions seriatim.
While a district court must consider the Chapter Seven policy statements and other
statutory provisions applicable to revocation sentences, the court maintains broad
discretion to impose a specific sentence. Crudup, 461 F.3d at 439; see also United States
v. Moulden, 478 F.3d 652, 656 (4th Cir. 2007). A district court is required only “to
adequately explain the chosen sentence.” Gall v. United States, 552 U.S. 38, 51 (2007).
That requirement applies “[r]egardless of whether the district court imposes an above,
below, or within-Guidelines sentence.” Thompson, 595 F.3d at 547 (internal quotation
The “court need not be as detailed or specific when imposing a
revocation sentence as it must be when imposing a post-conviction sentence, but it still
must provide a statement of reasons for the sentence imposed.” Id. (internal quotation
In examining the particular merits of Williams’ appeal, it is useful to review the
holding in Crudup, where we summarized that defendant’s supervised release violations
Crudup was released from state custody in April 2004. Six months later, on
October 5, 2004, Crudup tested positive for using marijuana. Rather than
revoke Crudup’s supervised release based on this violation of the
conditions of his release, the district court gave Crudup “one last chance”
and placed him in a more comprehensive drug-detection urinalysis
program. Crudup failed to submit to required drug tests on seven occasions
in October and November. When Crudup finally submitted to a drug test
on November 22, he tested positive for marijuana and cocaine.
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461 F.3d at 435. In that case, Crudup was sentenced to 36 months’ imprisonment upon
revocation of his supervised release, a range higher than the five to eleven months called
for by the relevant policy statement. Id. Even so, this Court held the sentence was
procedurally and substantively reasonable. Id. at 440. The district court had accounted
for the advisory policy statement range, and Crudup was unable to point to any factor
under § 3553(a) that was omitted from the court’s consideration. Id. Therefore, we
concluded the sentence was procedurally reasonable. Id. Substantively, the district court
observed that Crudup had engaged in a pattern of supervised release violations despite
receiving leniency from the court. Id.
Williams’ noncompliance with the terms of his supervised release was at least as
egregious as Crudup’s. Williams admitted to using marijuana within days of his release
from prison, incurred charges for various state traffic and drug offenses, tested positive
for oxycodone use, and then tested positive for marijuana use. The district court noted
each of these violations. Further, the district court recounted Williams’ lengthy criminal
history, which included numerous break-ins of residential houses, drug possession, and
other theft-related crimes. The court’s statement of reasons is brimming with indicia that
it viewed Williams’ violations as just the sort of evidence of recurring breaches of trust
that warrants imposition of a revocation sentence. U.S.S.G. ch. 7, pt. A, Introduction
3(b) (2010) (“[T]he Commission adopted an approach that is consistent with the theory
[that] at revocation the court should sanction primarily the defendant's breach of trust,
while taking into account, to a limited degree, the seriousness of the underlying violation
and the criminal history of the violator.”).
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Williams nonetheless contends that the district court gave short shrift to the
§ 3553(a) factors. Not so. We do not require a court to “robotically tick through
§ 3553(a)’s every subsection.” Moulden, 478 F.3d at 657 (internal quotation marks
omitted). Rather, a sufficient explanation to provide the “perception of fair sentencing”
and “meaningful appellate review” is the minimal standard by which we review the
revocation sentence. Gall, 552 U.S. at 50. And a district court’s reasons for imposing a
within-range sentence may be clear from context. Rita v. United States, 551 U.S. 338,
357 (2007). Taking the district court’s comments in full context, the district court
adequately considered the pertinent factors and provided an explanation that is sufficient
to permit meaningful appellate review. Cf. Thompson, 595 F.3d at 547 (remanding where
district court imposed revocation sentence “without giving any indication of its reasons
for doing so”).
In this case, the district court explained without equivocation its reasons for
departing from the Chapter 7 policy statement range. Those considerations included
Williams’ “unremitting” criminal history, his repeated violations of the conditions of his
supervised release, and the failure of his prior sentence to have a deterrent effect given
the pending charges and arrests listed in his presentence report.
See 18 U.S.C.
§ 3553(a)(1), (a)(2)(B). “Even if not couched in the precise language of § 3553(a), each
of these reasons can be matched to a factor appropriate for consideration under that
statute,” and therefore bore a clear nexus to Williams’ specific circumstances. Moulden,
478 F.3d at 658. In other words, the court articulated with sufficient clarity the pertinent
reasons for imposing Williams’ revocation sentence under § 3553(a).
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Williams also challenges his revocation sentence as substantively unreasonable. A
sentence may be deemed substantively unreasonable when the court fails to state a basis
for the sentence. See Crudup, 461 F.3d at 440. “[A] court’s statement of its reasons for
going beyond non-binding policy statements in imposing a sentence after revoking a
defendant’s supervised release term need not be as specific as has been required when
courts departed from guidelines that were, before Booker, considered to be mandatory.”
Id. at 439 (internal quotation marks omitted). Williams’ violations began just days after
being released and pervaded his time on supervision. The district court was undoubtedly
permitted to consider Williams’ criminal history in fashioning a revocation sentence. Id.
And Williams does not dispute that the 36-month sentence imposed was within the
Substantively, then, the district court stated a proper basis for its
conclusion that Williams should be sentenced to a term greater than what was called for
under the advisory Guidelines. See Moulden, 478 F.3d at 657 (“[T]he sentencing court
retains broad discretion to revoke a defendant’s probation and impose a term of
imprisonment up to the statutory maximum.”).
According to Williams, however, the district court committed a substantive error
because the sentence imposed was meant to punish him for his original offense. In
devising a revocation sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e) does not authorize the district court
to consider whether the revocation sentence “reflect[s] the seriousness of the offense, . . .
promote[s] respect for the law, and . . . provide[s] just punishment for the offense.”
Compare 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(2)(A), with id. § 3583(e); Crudup, 461 F.3d at 439; Webb,
738 F.3d at 642 (observing “a district court may not impose a revocation sentence based
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predominately on the seriousness of the releasee’s violation or the need for the sentence
to promote respect for the law and provide just punishment” (emphasis added)). But
“mere reference to such considerations does not render a revocation sentence
procedurally unreasonable when those factors are relevant to, and considered in
conjunction with, the enumerated § 3553(a) factors.” Webb, 738 F.3d at 642. Here, the
district court discussed Williams’ substantially lower post-Simmons sentence for his
original offense in the context of considering the factors under § 3553(a) and the
Guidelines’ Chapter 7 policy statements. Those permissible bases for imposing the 36month sentence included Williams’ instant violation, his pattern of non-compliance with
the terms of his supervised release, and his lengthy criminal history. The permissible
considerations predominate the district court’s discussion of the relevant factors and its
passing reference to Simmons was in relation to the appropriate factors. Thus, Williams’
argument is without merit.
Finally, Williams posits that the district court erred by refusing to enroll him in a
drug treatment program in lieu of incarceration.
At the time of his
revocation sentencing hearing, Williams had failed multiple drug tests and had admitted
to using marijuana just days after being released on supervision. In fact, the district court
had already enrolled Williams in drug aftercare and a mental health program for one of
his previous violations. We need not entertain this contention further.
In sum, we have thoroughly reviewed the record and the relevant legal authorities
and conclude that the district court did not err in imposing Williams’ 36-month
revocation sentence. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the district court. We
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dispense with oral argument because the facts and legal conclusions are adequately
presented in the materials before this Court and argument would not aid the decisional
Even if the Court were to determine that a procedural or substantive error
occurred, the record shows no error that runs afoul of well-settled law such that it would
meet the second prong of the analysis, i.e. it was not plainly unreasonable. See Gall, 552
U.S. at 51 (instructing that in determining the reasonableness of a sentence, we “must
give due deference to the district court’s decision”).
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