New Crack Laws Save Defendant 10 Years – United States v. Tarsha Brooks

success(small)NLPA Helps Counsel Use New Crack Law to Reduce Defendant’s Sentence By Ten Years!

Often, NLPA is contacted by attorneys who represent federal criminal defendants who are in need of sentencing assistance, given the wide array of arguments that can be made in favor of sentences below what is called for by the United States Sentencing Guidelines.  The case of United States v. Tarsha Brooks, case number 2:06-cr-00126-JES-DNF-1 (M.D. Fla) demonstrates how NLPA can assist counsel in the preparation of multi-faceted sentencing research that challenges the Guideline recommended sentence at sentencing, and also after a sentence has been issued.

Mr. Brooks had pleaded guilty to conspiracy with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of crack cocaine.  Mr. Brooks’ family hired National Legal Professional Associates to assist his counsel, Charles Murray, with research and argument drafting in an effort to persuade the court to sentence him to the lowest possible term of confinement. The probation office had calculated Mr. Brooks’ Guideline range at 188 to 235 months imprisonment, based on an offense level 31 and a Criminal History Category VI.

NLPA provided draft arguments and objections to those calculations.  First, NLPA provided research to combat a two level weapon enhancement.  Second, it was argued that a downward departure under §4A1.3 was appropriate because the Criminal History Category VI over-represented the seriousness of Mr. Brooks’ prior record and the likelihood he will commit future crimes. Further, it was argued that mitigating factors should be taken into consideration under §3553(a), including: (1) the disparity created by the onerous “crack” cocaine penalties and the fact the Guidelines were to be amended November 1, 2007 in an effort to alleviate that disparity; and (2) the remorse and post-offense desire for rehabilitation and age demonstrated it was unlikely Mr. Brooks would be a recidivist.

Defense counsel presented these arguments to the court at sentencing, and the judge agreed with many of the arguments.  As a result, Mr. Brooks received a sentence of 140 months – a reduction of 4 to 8 years below the range recommended by the probation officer in the pre-sentence investigation report.

However, NLPA was not done with assisting Mr. Brooks obtain a fair sentence.  Even after NLPA has assisted an individual obtain a measure of justice, NLPA continues to monitor newly issued law and developing arguments in efforts to re-visit seemingly closed cases of our clients.  In staying abreast of relevant sentencing law, NLPA was at the forefront of conducting research once the Fair Sentencing Act was enacted.

On November 1, 2010,  the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA) became effective.  The Fair Sentencing Act replaced the 100‑to‑1 crack to powder cocaine sentencing ratio with an 18‑to‑1 ratio (28 grams will trigger a 5‑year mandatory minimum and 280 grams will trigger a ten‑year mandatory minimum) under 21 U.S.C. §841.  Although the law was not specifically stated to be retroactively applicable, NLPA assisted in the preparation of a motion for reduced sentence in Mr. Brooks’ case based upon the new law.  The district court agreed with NLPA’s position, and reduced Mr. Brooks‘ sentence from 140 months incarceration to 120 months incarceration saving Mr. Brooks‘ 20 months in prison.

Mr. Brooks also assisted in obtaining justice.  Mr. Brooks provided substantial assistance to law enforcement officials in the investigation of criminal activity.  As a result, the government filed a motion for reduced sentence pursuant to U.S.S.G. §5K1.1 and Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35(b) on Mr. Brooks’ behalf.  Mr. Brooks’ total offense level was reduced to 21 and his Criminal History Category was reduced to V, resulting in a Guideline range of incarceration of between 84 and 105 months.  On September 12, 2013, Mr. Brooks’ sentence was reduced to 84 months incarceration, which represented a sentence over 100 months less than the original Guidelines recommended sentence in Mr. Brooks‘ case.

As you can see from the attached letter from Mr. Murray, NLPA’s efforts were greatly appreciated.  If you or your client is facing sentencing in federal court and would like NLPA’s experienced team of attorneys on your side, please contact NLPA.

The bottom line is that just because an individual faces an overwhelming Guideline sentence does not mean that all attempts at securing a lesser sentence must be abandoned in deference to the Probation Office or the federal prosecutor.  Instead, by being aware of all possible options, attorneys can challenge the imposition of sentencing enhancements and improper Guideline calculations that lack a sound basis in fact and law.  This fight can and should continue even after an individual is sentenced.  NLPA has been at the forefront of attacking insidious and unfair sentences.  Should your clients find themselves in similar situations to Mr. Brooks, NLPA stands ready to assist you in the research and preparation of any motions and/or research necessary to assist you in the vigorous defense of your clients.

NLPA, WE CARE, WE LISTEN, WE GET RESULTS!

DISCLAIMER:  This informational memorandum is designed to introduce you to NLPA.  As NLPA is not a law firm, professional services are only provided to licensed counsel in all areas that involve the practice of law.

Nothing presented herein is intended to be legal advice. Such advice can only be provided by a local licensed attorney based on a full discussion of a client’s individual facts and circumstances. The contents of this document are  provided solely for general informational purposes. Always seek the advice of a licensed attorney for specific legal problems. 

Advertisements

How to Use DNA Testing to Obtain a New Trial – State of Florida vs. Britt

teamworkNLPA is often contacted by defendants and their attorneys in cases where the defendant has been convicted despite a presentation of all available evidence.  The case of State of Florida v. Cheydrick Britt, case number 02-CF-15542 (13th Cir. 2002) demonstrates how NLPA can assist counsel in the preparation of research that can hold the prosecution to its burden to provide all available discovery and to have relevant scientific testing performed on such evidence.

Mr. Britt was charged with three sexual offenses by the grand jury for Hillsborough County, Florida in 2002.  Mr. Britt proceeded to a jury trial in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court in May 2004.  During trial, testimony was presented that a rape kit was prepared by law enforcement officials, with the kit containing two smears, pubic hair combings, vaginal swabs, possible hairs collected from vaginal swabs, additional swabs, saliva sample, the victim’s panties, and possible hair collected from the panties.  However, this evidence was not tested for DNA.  

NLPA was hired to assist Mr. Britt’s attorney, Charles A. Murray, Esq., to force the state of Florida to test the rape kit for DNA evidence.  Accordingly, NLPA aided in the preparation of a post-conviction motion for DNA testing pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.853.  The motion was granted, and the rape kit evidence was tested for DNA.  The results of the testing called into question the propriety of Mr. Britt’s convictions, forcing the trial court to vacate his convictions and sentences in 2013 and order that a new trial be had, should the government wish to continue prosecution.

Critical to the success of the request for DNA testing was to demonstrate that testing would likely uncover evidence that Mr. Britt did not commit the crimes at issue.  By reviewing every page of the trial transcript, NLPA discovered that a witness for the prosecution stated that the victim’s mother could not be excluded as a DNA donor to a sock and the victim’s bed sheet, which were tested in this matter.

As you can see from the attached letter from Mr. Murray, NLPA’s efforts were greatly appreciated and resulted in the court ordering a new trial for Mr. Britt.  If your client is innocent and wants a new trial, please contact NLPA.

The bottom line is that just because an individual is convicted does not mean that the individual was properly convicted and that all attempts to obtain justice must cease.   Instead, by carefully reviewing all evidence and every action that has occurred in a case, possible means of challenging an unjust conviction will often come to light.  NLPA has been at the forefront of attacking unjust convictions.  Should your clients find themselves in similar situations to Mr. Britt, NLPA stands ready to assist you in the research and preparation of any motions and/or research necessary to assist you in the vigorous defense of your clients.

NLPA, WE CARE, WE LISTEN, WE GET RESULTS!

DISCLAIMER:  This informational memorandum is designed to introduce you to NLPA.  As NLPA is not a law firm, professional services are only provided to licensed counsel in all areas that involve the practice of law.

Nothing presented herein is intended to be legal advice. Such advice can only be provided by a local licensed attorney based on a full discussion of a client’s individual facts and circumstances. The contents of this document are  provided solely for general informational purposes. Always seek the advice of a licensed attorney for specific legal problems.