USA v. Judy Dinsmore
OPINION filed : We GRANT the government s motion to dismiss and DISMISS Dinsmore s appeal. Decision not for publication. Karen Nelson Moore, Circuit Judge; Deborah L. Cook, Circuit Judge and George C. Steeh, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan, sitting by designation.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION
File Name: 14a0771n.06
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
JUDY L. DINSMORE,
Oct 09, 2014
DEBORAH S. HUNT, Clerk
ON APPEAL FROM THE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT
COURT FOR THE EASTERN
DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
BEFORE: MOORE and COOK, Circuit Judges; and STEEH, District Judge.*
STEEH, District Judge. Despite a waiver in her plea agreement, Defendant Judy Dinsmore
appeals the 30-month sentence imposed following her plea of guilty to embezzling, stealing, and
converting money of the Social Security Administration. Dinsmore’s plea agreement waived her
right to appeal her conviction or sentence, unless the district court imposed “a sentence . . . above
the sentencing guideline range or any applicable mandatory minimum sentence (whichever is
greater) determined by the district court.” The government moves to dismiss the appeal arguing that
the district court sentenced Dinsmore within the Guideline range. Dinsmore argues that the appeal
waiver does not bar her appeal because the district court departed upward pursuant to U.S.S.G.
The Honorable George Caram Steeh, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of
Michigan, sitting by designation.
§ 4A1.3 resulting in a sentence above the Guideline range. Because Dinsmore’s appeal is precluded
by her appeal waiver, we dismiss.
Dinsmore was related by marriage to Debbie Roberts. Roberts was born on October 8, 1908
and died on October 5, 1982. During her lifetime, Roberts lived with Dinsmore and Dinsmore’s
husband at 711 Longbend Road, Rogersville, Tennessee. Roberts received Supplemental Security
Income (SSI) from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
After Roberts died, the SSA continued mailing her SSI checks to Dinsmore’s home. The
SSA was never notified that Roberts died. From November 1, 1982 until November 1, 2011, the
SSA sent 347 SSI checks to Dinsmore’s home in Roberts’s name, intended for Roberts’s use.
Dinsmore cashed all 347 checks at the Greene Farmers Co-Op in Greeneville, Tennessee. Each time
the SSA mailed a check to Roberts, Dinsmore affixed Roberts’s signature to the back of the check,
drove to Greene Farmers Co-Op, identified herself as Roberts and cashed the check.
In June of 2011, the Greeneville Social Security Office began an investigation as part of its
Centenarian Project, realizing that Roberts would be 103-years-old if she were still alive. The
investigation uncovered that Roberts was in fact deceased and that Dinsmore was cashing her SSI
checks. Dinsmore admitted to investigating agents that she lived with her daughter in Midway,
Tennessee, but maintained the residence in Rogersville in order to continue to receive Roberts’s SSI
On January 10, 2012, the grand jury returned a one-count indictment charging Dinsmore with
knowingly embezzling, stealing and converting to her own use SSI benefits to which she knew she
was not entitled, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 641. Dinsmore entered into a plea agreement with the
government. Dinsmore admitted to violating 18 U.S.C. § 641 and stipulated that the amount of loss
was $167,486.00. As part of her plea agreement, Dinsmore agreed to waive any direct appeal of her
conviction or sentence. The appeal waiver states:
In consideration of the concessions made by the United States in this agreement and
as a further demonstration of the defendant’s acceptance of responsibility for the
offense committed, the defendant agrees not to file a direct appeal of the defendant’s
conviction or sentence except the defendant retains the right to appeal a sentence
imposed above the sentencing guideline range or any applicable mandatory
minimum sentence (whichever is greater) determined by the district court.
A presentence investigation report was prepared by the probation office. The presentence
report provided for a base offense level of 6 and a criminal history category of III.1 Based on the
amount of loss, the offense level was increased by 10 levels. In addition, 3 levels were subtracted
for Dinsmore’s acceptance of responsibility and assistance to authorities, for a total offense level
of 13. The presentence report concluded that Dinsmore’s maximum term of imprisonment under
18 U.S.C. § 641 was 10 years and the advisory Guideline range was 18 to 24 months. Dinsmore and
the government both filed notices stating that there were no objections to the presentence report.
Prior to sentencing, the government filed a sentencing memorandum asking the district court
to consider a three-level upward departure under U.S.S.G. § 4A1.3 or a variance under 18 U.S.C.
§ 3553(b). In support of the request, the government cited Dinsmore’s conviction for fraud in
October of 2003, during which time she was continuing to cash Roberts’s SSI checks, arising out
of similar conduct as the conduct charged in the indictment. In the previous case, Dinsmore was
While Dinsmore was awaiting sentencing, in July of 2012, she was convicted in state court for
driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident. In addition, in October of
2003, Dinsmore pleaded guilty in federal court to making false statements and representations to
the SSA in connection with SSI benefits.
cashing SSI checks sent to Stella Roberts, another deceased relative. The government argued that
Dinsmore’s criminal history did not adequately represent her past crimes.
Dinsmore filed a sentencing memorandum seeking a sentence of 18 months. Dinsmore’s
sentencing memorandum did not address the government’s request for a three-level upward
departure or variance.
At sentencing, the district court determined that the applicable Guideline range for
Dinsmore’s offense was 18 to 24 months, and that the statutory maximum was 10 years. The district
court, however, found that this range did not appropriately represent Dinsmore’s criminal history
and her likelihood of recidivism. The district court explained that Dinsmore committed both a theft
and forgery offense each time she unlawfully cashed a SSI check amounting to over 700 criminal
offenses that were never prosecuted. Moreover, the district court reasoned that Dinsmore’s conduct
during pretrial supervision shows that she is likely to commit another offense. Therefore, the district
court increased the base offense level by two levels, to 15, reaching a new Guideline range of 24 to
After considering the 18 U.S.C. § 3553 factors, the district court sentenced Dinsmore to
30 months’ imprisonment. The district court assessed $167,486.00 in restitution and a three-year
term of supervised release. Dinsmore, through her attorney, objected to the upward departure.
Dinsmore appealed to this court challenging her sentence. Dinsmore’s attorney filed a brief
under Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967), concluding that her appeal did not present any
meritorious issues because the plea agreement waived any right to directly appeal the district court’s
sentence. Dinsmore’s attorney contemporaneously filed a motion to withdraw as counsel. Finding
the Anders brief inadequate, the court denied the motion to withdraw and directed Dinsmore’s
attorney to submit a merits brief or an adequate Anders brief.
Subsequently, the government filed a motion to dismiss arguing that the waiver in
Dinsmore’s plea agreement precluded her from filing a direct appeal. A motions panel denied the
motion without prejudice to reconsideration by the merits panel. Dinsmore filed a reply to the
government’s motion arguing that her direct appeal is permitted because the district court sentenced
her above the applicable Guideline range effectively negating the appeal waiver.
An appeal waiver in a plea agreement is enforceable if the defendant’s waiver of appellate
rights was done knowingly and voluntarily. United States v. Toth, 668 F.3d 374, 377–78 (6th Cir.
2012). Dinsmore does not challenge that she knowingly and voluntarily waived her appellate rights.
And the motions panel recognized that “[t]he record demonstrates that the district court complied
with the requirements of Rule 11 in accepting the guilty plea.” Where a defendant knowingly and
voluntarily waives her appellate rights, we can entertain challenges only to the validity of the waiver
itself. United States v. Beals, 698 F.3d 248, 255 (6th Cir. 2012). Dinsmore argues that the appeal
waiver in her plea agreement with the government does not bar her direct appeal because the district
court sentenced her above the advisory Guideline range. To determine whether a claim raised on
appeal falls within the scope of an appeal waiver, we apply a de novo review. Toth, 668 F.3d at 378.
As explained, Dinsmore waived any direct appeal of her conviction or sentence unless the
district court imposed a sentence above the Guideline range or any applicable mandatory minimum
sentence as “determined by the district court.” Dinsmore argues that she is not bound by the appeal
waiver because the district court’s upward departure pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 4A1.3 creates a sentence
that is greater than the advisory Guideline range. Appellant Reply Br. at 3–4. We reject Dinsmore’s
Assuming an upward departure pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 4A1.3 results in an above-Guidelines
sentence rather than an adjustment to the appropriate Guidelines range,2 an issue we do not address
in resolving this appeal, Dinsmore’s broad appeal waiver precludes her from challenging the district
court’s determination that the appropriate Guideline range was 24 to 30 months. This result is
dictated by Beals, a case in which multiple defendants pleaded guilty and/or were convicted of
manufacturing and distributing methamphetamine. 698 F.3d at 254. One of the defendants, Pamela
Miller, pleaded guilty but later challenged her sentence despite an appeal waiver in her plea
agreement. Id. at 255. Miller’s plea agreement precluded her from filing a direct appeal of her
conviction or sentence except that she retained “the right to appeal a sentence imposed above the
sentencing guideline range as determined by the district court.” Id. On appeal, Miller argued that
the district court misapplied the Guidelines. We held that Miller was precluded from challenging
the district court’s application of the Guidelines because of the broad appeal waiver in her plea
agreement. Id. We reasoned that the language in Miller’s appeal waiver, when reasonably read,
deferred to the district court’s discretion in calculating the appropriate Guideline range and
permitted a challenge only if Miller’s sentence exceeded the top end of the range as calculated by
the district court in its discretion. Id. Because Miller’s sentence did not exceed the top end of the
range the district court calculated, we held that Miller’s appeal waiver precluded our review. Id.
Compare United States v. Grams, 566 F.3d 683, 686–87 (6th Cir. 2009) (per curiam)
(explaining that a Guidelines “departure” results in the imposition of a sentence outside the
advisory range), with United States v. Smith, 474 F.3d 888, 896 (6th Cir. 2007) (Gibbons, J,
concurring) (reasoning that an upward departure pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 4A1.3 adjusts the
Guidelines range resulting in a new advisory Guideline range), abrogated on other grounds, Gall
v. United States, 552 U.S. 38 (2007).
In Beals, we cited United States v. Giganti, 405 F. App’x 31 (6th Cir. 2010), a case in which
we held that a broad appeal waiver that waived the right to appeal any sentence “ ‘within or below
the guideline range as determined by the Court at sentencing’ ” precluded “any challenge to the
district court’s Guidelines calculation.” Id. at 256 (emphasis in original). In Giganti, we compared
the waiver provision above to the waiver provision in United States v. McCoy, 508 F.3d 74, 78 (1st
Cir. 2007), which waived the right to appeal any sentence that fell “within the guideline range.”
Although McCoy held that the appeal waiver preserved an appeal challenging an alleged
miscalculation of the Guidelines range, we distinguished the appeal waiver in McCoy from the one
The waiver provision at issue in McCoy is very different from the waiver provision
at issue in Giganti’s case. Giganti has not merely waived the right to appeal a
sentence within the guidelines, he has waived the right to appeal a sentence “within
or below the guideline range as determined by the Court at sentencing. . . .” Even the
McCoy court noted that such a waiver provision could foreclose an appeal on the
ground that the district court miscalculated the guideline range. McCoy, 508 F.3d
at 78 n.4. [footnote omitted].
Giganti, 405 F. App’x at 37.
Here, after applying U.S.S.G. § 4A1.3, the district court determined that the appropriate
Guideline range was 24 to 30 months. Dinsmore was sentenced to 30 months, a sentence that is
within the Guideline range calculated by the district court. Even if the district court incorrectly
reached the Guidelines calculation, Dinsmore’s appeal waiver precludes her from challenging it on
appeal. Beals, 698 F.3d at 256; Giganti, 405 F. App’x at 37. She agreed not to appeal her sentence
if it was within the Guideline range as determined by the district court. The appeal waiver,
therefore, bars her appeal.
Although this result may be harsh (if in fact the district court erred in its determination that
24 to 30 months was the correct Guidelines range), we “must give effect to the intent of the parties
as expressed by the plain language in the plea agreement.” Beals, 698 F.3d at 256 (citation omitted).
Had Dinsmore wished to preserve her right to appeal the district court’s determination of the
appropriate Guidelines range, she could have bargained for it at the time she entered into a plea
agreement with the government. Id. at 255–56. For example, in United States v. Deanda, 450 F.
App’x 498 (6th Cir. 2011), the defendant’s plea agreement waived the right to appeal a sentence
within or below the advisory Guideline range “except that the Defendant may appeal on grounds,
preserved at sentencing, that the Court incorrectly determined the guideline range.” Id. at 499
(emphasis added). In another case, United States v. Coker, 514 F.3d 562, 573 (6th Cir. 2008), the
defendant agreed to waive the right to appeal unless the court “departed upwards” from the
Guidelines. Dinsmore’s appeal waiver does not contain similar language as that in Deanda or
Coker. The plain language of Dinsmore’s plea agreement precludes her appeal.
For the reasons explained above, we GRANT the government’s motion to dismiss and
DISMISS Dinsmore’s appeal.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?