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.


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. 


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