USA v. Eugene Rantanen
OPINION filed: For the foregoing reasons, we AFFIRM the district court s sentence. Decision not for publication. Danny J. Boggs (authoring), John M. Rogers, and Deborah L. Cook, Circuit Judges.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR PUBLICATION
File Name: 17a0192n.06
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
EUGENE WALTER GEORGE RANTANEN,
Mar 29, 2017
DEBORAH S. HUNT, Clerk
ON APPEAL FROM THE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT
COURT FOR THE WESTERN
DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
BOGGS, ROGERS, and COOK, Circuit Judges.
BOGGS, Circuit Judge. Exile is not a pleasant experience.1 Yet its purpose in the case
before us was less punitive than preventive. Eugene Rantanen repeatedly broke the conditions of
his supervised release, leading to a number of modifications to those conditions and returns to
Many of these violations involved drugs, alcohol, or persons in Baraga County,
Michigan. At his latest sentencing for violating his supervised-release conditions, Rantanen
acknowledged that living in Baraga County was proving ruinous for his ability to return to the
straight and narrow path. Rantanen informed the sentencing judge that he needed to remove
himself from Baraga County to make the right decisions, become a better person, and avoid the
See, e.g., Psalm 137:1–6 (“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered
Zion. . . . If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.” Id. 1, 5.); Ovid, Tristia III.53–54 (c.
A.D. 10) (“When I lost my homeland, think of that as when I perished: it was an earlier and harder death to me.”);
Dante Alighieri, Paradiso XVII.55–57 (1321) (“You will leave every beloved thing you hold most dear; and this is
that arrow the bow of exile shoots first.”); William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet act 3, sc. 3 (“ROMEO: . . . [B]e
merciful, say ‘death;’ For exile hath more terror in his look, Much more than death: do not say ‘banishment.’”).
United States v. Rantanen
temptations that had diverted him in the past. The district court obliged, finding that keeping
Rantanen out of Baraga County was essential and was no greater a restriction than necessary.
The court imposed a sentencing condition barring him from the county for all purposes. Having
entreated the court to remove him from Baraga County, Rantanen appears to have had second
thoughts. He now requests that we vacate the condition keeping him from Baraga County.
Nevertheless, we affirm the district court’s sentence.
Eugene Walter George Rantanen was having trouble keeping the terms of his supervised
release. He was initially charged and convicted of sexual abuse of a minor in Indian country
after a trial in December 2009.2 See 18 U.S.C. § 2243(a). Pending sentencing, he was released
on bond with a number of conditions, including not to use or possess any alcohol, not to contact
certain witnesses and victims or their family members, and to follow certain electronicmonitoring restrictions. Two months later, Rantanen violated the terms of his bond by leaving
his residence without authorization. When contacted by probation officers who were monitoring
him remotely, Rantanen became belligerent and told them to “send the marshals”; he was later
found with a blood-alcohol content of .33 percent (over four times the legal limit for driving in
Michigan). A warrant was issued for Rantanen’s arrest for violating the terms of his bond by
drinking alcohol and noncompliance with his electronic-monitoring schedule. He was arrested in
Baraga, Michigan, and held until his sentencing hearing. At sentencing, the court noted his
history of frequent violations of court orders and sentenced him to fifty-seven months’
imprisonment, to be followed by a ten-year period of supervised release. He appealed his
The behavior for which Rantanen was convicted was consensual sexual acts with his minor girlfriend when
she was fourteen years old and he was eighteen. An applicable federal law prohibits any such acts on Indian
territory where the parties have an age difference of four years or more; here, the age difference was about four
years and three months. 18 U.S.C. § 2243(a)(2); United States v. Rantanen, 467 F. App’x 414, 416 n.1 (6th Cir.
United States v. Rantanen
conviction and sentence, and we affirmed both. United States v. Rantanen, 467 F. App’x 414
(6th Cir. 2012). Rantanen completed his prison sentence in November 2013 and thereafter began
his ten years of supervised release.
On June 19, 2014, Rantanen was arrested in L’Anse, Baraga County, Michigan, on
allegations of having assaulted his then-girlfriend, interfering with her attempt to communicate
with police, failing to attend substance-abuse and sex-offender treatment, using controlled
substances, and associating with a felon: all of which were violations of his supervised release.
He admitted guilt as to the failure to attend treatment, association with a convicted felon, and two
use-of-controlled-substances violations, and was found in violation of two additional use-ofcontrolled-substance violations. The court found that Rantanen had not interfered with his
girlfriend’s attempt to communicate with police, and the prosecution dismissed the other
violation allegations. As a result of the violations, Rantanen was sentenced to 11 months in
custody and 120 months of supervised release to follow.
In January of 2015, he pleaded guilty to three counts of contempt of court for violating a
no-contact order issued by the court by sending letters to his girlfriend while he was incarcerated.
He was given an additional four months of incarceration to be served consecutive to his elevenmonth sentence, and an additional consecutive four-month period of probation. Seven months
later, Rantanen failed to pay for his probation program and was sentenced to six more months of
incarceration. In December of 2015, Rantanen’s sentence was further modified to restrict him to
a single prescribing doctor because of concerns regarding his circumventing orders intended to
monitor his medication use.
The latest chapter of this saga began in August 2016, when the government once again
sought to revoke Rantanen’s supervised release. The government alleged that Rantanen had
United States v. Rantanen
attempted to steal a boat in July 2014 while intoxicated, resisted a police officer, used alcohol on
six occasions in a two-and-a-half-month span, possessed and used fentanyl (a potent opioid), and
assaulted a man in Baraga, Michigan. Rantanen admitted all violations except the assault
allegation, which was dismissed. At sentencing, he indicated his desire to be placed somewhere
outside of Baraga County, which he believed was contributing to his continued violation of his
supervised release conditions: “I’ve got to remove myself from that area.” Specifically, he noted
that the lack of employment and the long travel distances required to receive treatment meant
that he was disposed to return to his bad habits. Rantanen’s counsel also noted an assessment
where a doctor at Rantanen’s previous treatment facility observed that:
“Mr. Rantanen seems to do good for a while and then make some type of poor
choice that gets him re-involved with the legal system. Although he talks a good
game, it seems he still is impulsive.” . . .
After he is done with whatever additional prison time, he would do well
not to return to the Baraga County area, and there are a lot of bad influences
awaiting him there.
Rantanen’s supervised release was revoked and he received a fourteen-month sentence
for the violations and a new supervised release period of eight years and ten months. The district
court agreed with Rantanen that “Baraga County is not the place for him.” Accordingly, the
court added as a condition of supervised release that Rantanen would be “bar[red] . . . from that
county, for all purposes.”
The district court found that the supervised-release conditions
“involve[d] no greater deprivation of liberty than is reasonably necessary for the purposes of
sentencing.” Rantanen did not object to any of the conditions, but timely appealed his sentence.
Although sentencing conditions are usually reviewed for an abuse of discretion, where
(as here) a defendant declined to object to the condition after being asked whether he wanted to
do so, our review is for plain error. United States v. Zobel, 696 F.3d 558, 572 (6th Cir. 2012). In
United States v. Rantanen
order for an appellate court to reverse for plain error, there must have been “(1) an error, (2) that
was obvious or clear, (3) that affected [the defendant’s] substantial rights, and (4) that affected
the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of his judicial proceedings.” United States v. Inman,
666 F.3d 1001, 1003–04 (6th Cir. 2012) (per curiam). When reviewing a sentencing condition of
supervised release, we initially “determine whether the district court adequately stated in open
court at the time of sentencing ‘its rationale for mandating [the] special conditions.’” United
States v. Brogdon, 503 F.3d 555, 563 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting United States v. Carter, 463 F.3d
526, 529 (6th Cir. 2006)). Next, we determine “whether the ‘condition of supervised release is
reasonably related to the dual goals of probation, the rehabilitation of the defendant and the
protection of the public.’” Ibid. (quoting United States v. Ritter, 118 F.3d 502, 504 (6th Cir.
1997)). We also ensure that the condition:
(1) is reasonably related to the factors set forth in [18 U.S.C.] section 3553(a)(1),
(a)(2)(B), (a)(2)(C), and (a)(2)(D); (2) involves no greater deprivation of liberty
than is reasonably necessary for the purposes indicated in section 3553(a)(2)(B),
(a)(2)(C), and (a)(2)(D); and (3) is consistent with any pertinent policy statements
issued by the Sentencing Commission pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 994(a).
18 U.S.C. § 3583(d).
The district court made clear that the rationale for its special condition (the ban from
Baraga County) was to remove Rantanen from an environment that he admitted was detrimental
to his ability to meet his legal obligations. Geographical limitations are expressly permitted as
special conditions, as are “any other condition[s] [a district court] considers to be appropriate.”
18 U.S.C. § 3583(d); see also id. § 3563(b)(13) (permitting conditions that require defendants to
“refrain from residing in a specified place or area”). With regard to whether the condition is
reasonably related to the relevant § 3553 factors,3 it is quite plain that the condition has a
Those factors are: (1) the nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the
defendant, 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(1); (2) the need to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct, id.
United States v. Rantanen
reasonable connection to the factors. Rantanen had a history of violating court orders and
conditions and attributed this history to his time in Baraga County. The condition was aimed to
take account of this history and to promote effective treatment as well as to protect the public
(and the defendant himself) from future crimes that seemed likely to occur if Rantanen remained
in Baraga County. If doing the same thing repeatedly failed to bring about different results, then
the district court was certainly reasonable in considering Rantanen’s recurring violations and in
desiring to change one constant factor in his actions, hoping to achieve a better outcome for both
Rantanen and the public.
Recognizing this, Rantanen directs his argument at the deprivation of his liberty,
contending that the absolute nature of his exclusion from Baraga County is greater than is
reasonably necessary. He cites a number of cases that permitted special conditions excluding
defendants from an area or requiring them to remain in a specific area in order to distinguish
them from this case. See United States v. Watson, 582 F.3d 974 (9th Cir. 2009); United States v.
Alexander, 509 F.3d 253 (6th Cir. 2007); United States v. Sicher, 239 F.3d 289 (3d Cir. 2000).
Those cases, he argues, had allowed some method of accessing the forbidden zone with
permission of a probation officer, whereas the ban in this case prevents him from returning to
Baraga County for any purpose: to visit family and his tribe4; to participate in festivals or
religious ceremonies; or to attend funerals. Such a total bar, he asserts, is greater than is
reasonably necessary, and he offers as alternatives an exclusion from Baraga County with an
exception for permission by a probation officer or further order of the court or even an expansion
of the geographic prohibition to the Upper Peninsula with the same two exceptions.
§ 3553(a)(2)(B); (3) the need to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant, id. § 3553(a)(2)(C); and (4)
the need to provide the defendant with needed educational or vocational training, medical care or other correctional
treatment in the most effective manner, id. § 3553(a)(2)(D).
Rantanen is a member of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, whose lands are mainly located in Baraga
County, with some land in Marquette County.
United States v. Rantanen
We are acutely aware that “a district court should not lightly impose a geographical
restriction as a condition of supervised release, and least of all one that takes a person several
hundred miles from his family and community.” Alexander, 509 F.3d at 256. But, as with the
defendant in Alexander, earlier attempts to fashion supervised-release conditions that would
rehabilitate Rantanen and protect the public had unquestionably failed.
numerous violations on multiple occasions and continued to fall into the same patterns that led
him to disregard or defy his special-release conditions. Although Rantanen’s latest violations
occurred in nearby Delta County rather than in Baraga County, the district court can hardly be
criticized as imposing too great a restriction by barring Rantanen from only Baraga County
rather than from the entire Upper Peninsula. Rantanen, his lawyer, and his doctor all agreed that
Baraga County was harmful to him and that living there was contributing to his problems.
Rantanen argues that the duration of the condition is greater than necessary. A similar
case from the First Circuit is instructive. In United States v. Garrasteguy, 559 F.3d 34 (1st Cir.
2009), the First Circuit, also reviewing for plain error, upheld a ban of two defendants from
Suffolk County, Massachusetts (which includes the city of Boston), for the rest of their terms of
supervised release—eight and twelve years, respectively. Id. at 43. That case, unlike the Fourth
and Ninth Circuit cases cited by Rantanen, did not have an exception for permission by a
probation officer. Instead, like this case, the only possibility for relief was 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e),
which permits a court to modify conditions of supervised release. Like the First Circuit, we are
uneasy at the length of the condition (here, nearly nine years) without any exceptions; the Sixth
Circuit’s Alexander case involved a one-year restriction. But Rantanen’s violations were worse
than the no-trespass-order violations that were the basis of the condition in Garrasteguy and
more numerous than those in Alexander: Rantanen was using drugs and alcohol and then
United States v. Rantanen
committing crimes while under their influence. He had a history of repeatedly violating court
orders and making poor decisions in Baraga County. According to Rantanen himself, he was
“thriv[ing] in other areas other than Baraga,” but fell off the wagon sometime after he returned
home due to a family member becoming ill. It may well be that a clean break from Baraga
County is necessary. Should the situation change, whether through demonstrated rehabilitation
or family emergency, a district court may be inclined to modify the condition, so long as the
modification still meets the requirement that it is reasonably related to Rantanen’s rehabilitation
and the protection of the public. See United States v. Lowenstein, 108 F.3d 80, 85 (6th Cir.
1997). But on plain-error review, we cannot find any obvious error in the sentence, nor does it
affect the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of Rantanen’s judicial proceedings.
For the foregoing reasons, we affirm the district court’s sentence.
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