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Remorse Means Never Having to Say Sorry for Drug Dealing Again

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By William Peacock, Esq. on May 08, 2013 12:57 PM

You’re all familiar with the “acceptance of responsibility” sentence reduction. Someone cops to the crime and shows remorse, then they get a few levels knocked off their guidelines. Simple enough, right?

Robert Chu pleaded guilty to a drug conspiracy charge in a timely fashion. Ordinarily, we’d call that “acceptance of responsibility.” Except, throughout his detention, including the period after his plea, but before sentencing, he made “persistent” attempts to sneak drugs into prison. Oddly enough, each attempt involved hiding drugs in potato chip bags.

Despite his enduring drug crimes, he maintains that the judge was mistaken in holding that the acceptance of responsibility reduction was inapplicable. He also argued that it was a mistake to hold him responsible for distributing 2.5 kilograms of heroin and to impose a substantively unreasonable sentence of 87 months.

Acceptance of Responsibility Reduction

The "defendant bears the burden of demonstrating that he qualifies for such a reduction." He tried to meet this burden by arguing (1) that he only attempted to sneak drugs in and (2) was addicted to drugs and forced to go cold turkey.

Somehow, the Second Circuit has never held that remorse means never having to say you're sorry again. They have now. "[T]oday, we hold that a defendant's attempt to smuggle drugs into a detention center after pleading guilty to a drug-related offense can serve as a sufficient basis for a District Court to deny a sentence reduction for acceptance of responsibility."

And that whole "I'm addicted" argument is foreclosed by prior case law.

60 Grams Ain't 2.5 Kilograms

The Presentence Report only referred to 60 grams of heroin, including the amount sold to the snitch, the amount seized from another customer, and the amount seized from Chu during the arrest. How does 60 grams become 2500 grams?

In the presentence report, there was a recorded conversation where Chu stated that he had sold approximately 100 grams of heroin every two weeks for a year. Add it all up, and that's about 2.5 kilograms. As long as the sentence imposed doesn't break the statutory maximum, a district court may consider drug quantity in determining a sentence, even if the quantity was not charged in the indictment. The judge must make such findings by a preponderance of the evidence.

87 Months for a Couple Kilos? That's Unreasonable

Um, not really. His sentence was near the bottom of the guidelines. In light of the whole drug-smuggling-in-snack food mess, the sentence wasn't "shockingly high" or "otherwise unsupportable by law."

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