501 F.3d 851 (7th Cir. 2007), 07-1215, United States v. Ross

Docket Nº:07-1215.
Citation:501 F.3d 851
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. William ROSS III, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:September 11, 2007
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Page 851

501 F.3d 851 (7th Cir. 2007)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


William ROSS III, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 07-1215.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

September 11, 2007

Argued Aug. 7, 2007.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 03 CR 689-20-Joan B. Gottschall, Judge.

Page 852

Matthew Getter (argued), Office of the United States Attorney, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Sheldon Halpern (argued), Royal Oak, MI, for Defendant-Appellant.

Before BAUER, KANNE, and ROVNER, Circuit Judges.


William Ross challenges his 78-month sentence for his role in a conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine and marijuana. See 21 U.S.C.§§ 846, 841(a)(1). Because it appears from the record that the district court improperly applied a presumption of reasonableness for a within-guidelines sentence, we vacate the sentence and remand for resentencing.

Ross, along with 16 codefendants, was indicted for a drug conspiracy that began in 1995 and lasted until 2003. Two days before trial he pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge (a second count was dropped, although the parties insist that there was no bargain). At the change-of-plea hearing, the district court explained to Ross that it would apply the guidelines to his case and calculate "a range of months within which I am supposed to sentence you." The court added: "I do have the power to give you a different sentence, but I need some kind of good reason to do it. Otherwise I have to give you the guideline sentence."

Before sentencing Ross sought to take advantage of the "safety valve," see 18 U.S.C. § 3553(f); U.S.S.G. § 5C1.2(a), and met with government agents to explain his role in the conspiracy. During that interview Ross admitted that seven times between 1995 and 1997 he received drugs from his confederates; one transaction involved about 20 pounds of marijuana and others a kilogram or more of cocaine. But after that, he said, he had no more contact with other members of the conspiracy until 2002, when he called one of his confederates to inquire about the price of cocaine but did not obtain any.

At sentencing the parties agreed that Ross's truthfulness during this safety-valve interview made him eligible for a sentence below the statutory minimum. They also agreed that the appropriate guidelines imprisonment range was 78 to 97 months. Ross argued that the district court should sentence him below this range based...

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