USA v. Kalilu Blackman
OPINION filed : Blackman's sentence is AFFIRMED, decision not for publication. Eric L. Clay, Circuit Judge; Julia Smith Gibbons, Circuit Judge and Jane Branstetter Stranch, Circuit Judge (Authoring) .
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR PUBLICATION
File Name: 17a0144n.06
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
KALILU MASTASA BLACKMAN,
Mar 06, 2017
DEBORAH S. HUNT, Clerk
ON APPEAL FROM THE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT
COURT FOR THE WESTERN
DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
CLAY, GIBBONS, and STRANCH, Circuit Judges.
JANE B. STRANCH, Circuit Judge. Defendant Kalilu Blackman appeals his sentence,
arguing that his designation as a career offender was substantively unreasonable in light of a
recent Report from the United States Sentencing Commission.
Because the district court
imposed a reasonable sentence, we AFFIRM.
Blackman pled guilty to one count of possessing with intent to distribute heroin and
cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C) and stipulated to the possession of a
firearm as a convicted felon. The Pre-Sentence Report determined that Blackman was a career
offender under USSG §4B1.1 based on his previous controlled substance convictions, resulting
in a guideline range of 188 to 235 months. Blackman requested a downward variance, arguing
that the guideline range resulted in a sentence that was “excessive and . . . ‘greater than
No. 16-1823,United States v. Blackman
necessary’ to serve the purposes of sentencing.” The district court rejected the request for a
downward variance and imposed a sentence of 188 months. Blackman filed a timely appeal.
We review a sentence for substantive reasonableness under the abuse of discretion
standard. See Gall v. United States, 552 U.S. 38, 46 (2007). Sentences within the applicable
Guidelines range are afforded a presumption of reasonableness.
United States v. Vowell,
516 F.3d 503, 509 (6th Cir. 2008). A sentence may be substantively unreasonable if the court
“selects a sentence arbitrarily, bases the sentence on impermissible factors, fails to consider
relevant sentencing factors, or gives an unreasonable amount of weight to any pertinent factor.”
United States v. Conatser, 514 F.3d 508, 520 (6th Cir. 2008).
Blackman argues that his sentence is substantively unreasonable because it is greater
than necessary to further statutory sentencing purposes. He bases this argument on a Report
from the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the independent agency in the judicial branch created
by Congress to
The Commission recommends that Congress no longer include as career offenders those who
qualify “based solely on drug trafficking offenses.” U.S. Sentencing Comm’n, Report to the
Career Offender Sentencing Enhancements (2016) at 3, available at
http://www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/news/congressional-testimony-and-reports/criminalhistory/201607_RtC-Career-Offenders.pdf#page=47. The Report is the result of a multi-year
study, conducted in the context of policy concerns regarding “overly severe penalties for certain
offenders” and “growing criticisms regarding the scope and impact of certain recidivist statutes
and guidelines provisions.” Id. at 7. It concludes that the “career offender directive is best
focused on those offenders who have committed at least one ‘crime of violence,’” and that
No. 16-1823,United States v. Blackman
reforms “would help ensure that federal sentences better account for the severity of the offenders’
prior records, protect the public, and avoid undue severity for certain less culpable offenders.” Id. at
The mission of the Sentencing Commission is to collect, analyze, and distribute
information on federal crime and sentencing to all branches of the federal government,
practitioners, academics, and the public. It is charged with establishing guidelines concerning
the appropriate form and severity of punishment for federal offenders. Though the Commission,
operating within its congressional mandate and its expertise, has issued its findings and
recommendations, Congress has not yet considered the Report. And while sentencing judges
may certainly consider arguments based on research compiled by the Commission pursuant to its
mission, the recommendations are not law at this point. Because the record demonstrates that
Blackman’s sentence was based on appropriate considerations and was otherwise within the
applicable guideline range, the district court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing him.
Accordingly, we AFFIRM Blackman’s sentence.
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