US v. Darion Johnson
UNPUBLISHED PER CURIAM OPINION filed. Originating case number: 5:15-cr-00163-BO-1. Copies to all parties and the district court. . [16-4302]
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UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Plaintiff - Appellee,
DARION DEVON JOHNSON,
Defendant - Appellant.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, at
Raleigh. Terrence W. Boyle, District Judge. (5:15-cr-00163-BO-1)
Submitted: July 17, 2017
Decided: August 3, 2017
Before TRAXLER, DUNCAN, and THACKER, Circuit Judges.
Vacated and remanded by unpublished per curiam opinion.
Jennifer Haynes Rose, LAW OFFICES OF JENNIFER HAYNES ROSE, Cary, North
Carolina, for Appellant. John Stuart Bruce, United States Attorney, Jennifer P. MayParker, First Assistant United States Attorney, Kristine L. Fritz, Assistant United States
Attorney, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee.
Unpublished opinions are not binding precedent in this circuit.
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Darion Devon Johnson pleaded guilty to distribution of cocaine base in violation
of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C) (2012), and possession of a firearm by a felon in
violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2) (2012). Johnson’s Sentencing Guidelines
range of imprisonment was determined, in part, by Johnson’s career offender status and
because he possessed the firearm in connection with another felony offense and engaged
in firearms trafficking. Johnson was sentence to 240 months’ imprisonment, near the low
end of the Sentencing Guidelines range of imprisonment. On appeal, Johnson contends
that: (1) he is not a career offender; (2) he did not possess a firearm in connection with
another felony offense; (3) he did not engage in firearm trafficking; and (4) the sentence
was procedurally unreasonable. While we conclude that there was no error with the
calculation of Johnson’s Guidelines sentence, we vacate the judgment and remand for
resentencing because the district court did not adequately explain the sentence.
First, because Johnson has two qualifying controlled substance convictions, we
conclude that there was no error in the district court’s finding that Johnson was a career
offender under U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 4B1.1(a) (2015). We also discern
no error in the court’s finding that Johnson was eligible for two four-level enhancements
to his Guidelines offense level after the Government showed by a preponderance of the
evidence that he possessed firearms in connection with another felony offense and
engaged in firearms trafficking.
When reviewing a criminal sentence, we must first ensure that the district court
did not commit a significant procedural error. Gall v. United States, 552 U.S. 38, 51
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(2007). We review the district court’s factual findings for clear error and its legal
conclusions de novo. United States v. Layton, 564 F.3d 330, 334 (4th Cir. 2009). A
district court commits procedural error at sentencing if it fails to properly calculate the
Guidelines sentence, treats the Guidelines as mandatory, fails to consider the 18 U.S.C.
§ 3553(a) (2012) sentencing factors, selects a sentence based on erroneous facts, or fails
to adequately explain the chosen sentence. Gall, 552 U.S. at 51. While the district court
is not required to “robotically tick through the § 3553(a) factors,” United States v. Helton,
782 F.3d 148, 153 (4th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted), it “‘must make an
individualized assessment based on the facts presented’ when imposing a sentence,
‘applying the relevant § 3553(a) factors to the specific circumstances of the case’ and the
defendant, and must ‘state in open court the particular reasons supporting its chosen
sentence,’” United States v. Lymas, 781 F.3d 106, 113 (4th Cir. 2015) (quoting United
States v. Carter, 564 F.3d 325, 328 (4th Cir. 2009) (alteration omitted)). An explanation
is necessary even if the district court imposes a within-Guidelines sentence. Carter, 564
F.3d at 330.
The district court’s statement to Johnson concerning the sentence was as follows:
Well, I’ll impose a sentence of 240 months on Count 5 and
120 months concurrent on Count 6, supervised release of 3
years on Count 5 and 3 years on Count 6, special assessment
of $200, not to violate any federal, state, or local law during
this period of supervised release. He’s getting credit for time
served. I’ll recommend him to Butner.
(Joint Appendix (J.A.) at 45-46). The court did not cite an individualized reason for
imposing a within-Guidelines sentence, mention any of the § 3553(a) sentencing factors,
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or address Johnson’s request for a sentence as lenient as possible. (J.A. 44-45). Because
the court failed to provide reasons for the selected sentence, we cannot effectively review
the reasonableness of the sentence. United States v. Montes-Pineda, 445 F.3d 375, 380
(4th Cir. 2006).
Accordingly, while Johnson’s claims challenging the calculation of his Guidelines
sentence are without merit, we vacate the sentence and remand for resentencing because
the district court did not adequately explain the basis for the sentence imposed. We
dispense with oral argument because the facts and legal contentions are adequately
presented in the materials before the court and argument would not aid the decisional
VACATED AND REMANDED
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