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Military service not a reason to go below guidelines

Maybe the 4th Circuit panel thought the appellate court already had given enough guidance on how district judges should sentence criminal defendants in light of U.S. v. Booker.
Or maybe it decided that it’s not a good time to be disparaging military veterans.
In any event, the panel took the “Unpublished” route last week to order a new sentencing hearing for Jose Medina Jr.
U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr. in Baltimore decided that the now-advisory federal sentencing guidelines gave him enough leeway for a nine-level downward departure for Medina’s sentence for possession of child pornography. The guidelines called for a minimum term of 41 months, but Quarles reduced it by 70 percent to 12 months and a day.
The reason: “I start with the understanding that vets should get a break,” Quarles told Medina from the bench. “Your service to your country, your being a fine father … indicates that you are a person who certainly has more good than bad.”
The 4th Circuit panel—Judges J. Harvie Wilkinson III, Paul V. Niemeyer and Karen J. Williams—concluded in their per curiam opinion that Quarles had ignored the court’s earlier decisions that substantial departures from the guidelines must be justified under the factors in U.S.C. § 3553(a).
Quarles failed to follow earlier decisions interpreting Booker that said he should not give “excessive weight” to a single factor, especially one that the guidelines explicitly discourage, the panel said.
Moreover, his conclusion that lowering the sentence would “promote respect for the law” by recognizing good words stands the guidelines on their head. “Instead of sufficiently punishing criminal behavior, and thereby promoting respect for the law, Medina’s sentence demotes the law criminalizing the possession of child pornography in favor of rewarding and encouraging military service,” the panel said.

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