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United States v. Travis Donald Fender

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

August 1, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
TRAVIS DONALD FENDER, Defendant.

          SENTENCING MEMORANDUM

          DAVID C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On January 15, 2015, Travis Donald Fender (“defendant”) pleaded guilty, pursuant to a written plea agreement, to one count of using a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) and one count of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a prohibited felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). At a hearing held on June 9, 2017, the court sentenced defendant to a 171 month term of imprisonment, 3 years of supervised release, and a special assessment of $200. In this memorandum, the court explains how it applied the factors found at 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) to reach the sentence imposed.

         I. STANDARD

         “A district court should begin all sentencing proceedings by correctly calculating the applicable Guidelines range.” Gall v. United States, 128 S.Ct. 586, 596 (2007). After calculating that range, the district court should then give the parties an opportunity to argue “for whatever sentence they deem appropriate.” Id. The district court must then consider all of the § 3553(a) factors, as applied to the particularized facts of the case before it, to determine which sentence best serves the factors. Id. In making its decision, the district court should “not presume that the Guidelines range is reasonable, ” id., although the court of appeals can-and the Fourth Circuit does-apply a presumption of reasonableness to within-Guidelines sentences, Rita v. United States, 551 U.S. 338, 347 (2007).

         In United States v. Battle, 499 F.3d 315 (4th Cir. 2007), the Fourth Circuit explained how the § 3553(a) factors interact with the advisory Guidelines range:

After calculating the sentence under the Guidelines, the district court must consider that sentence in light of the § 3553(a) factors. If the § 3553(a) factors support a sentence within the Guidelines range, the district court should impose a sentence within the range that best serves the factors. If the § 3553(a) factors do not support a sentence within the Guidelines range, the district court can impose a sentence outside the range that best serves the factors as long as it articulates why the factors support the sentence imposed. A district court must therefore consider the § 3553(a) factors in every case, regardless of whether the sentence imposed is within the Guidelines range.

Id. at 323 (internal citations omitted).

         The district court also has an obligation to adequately explain how the factors affected the sentencing determination in each particular case. If the sentence is within the Guidelines range, the district court need not offer a thorough explanation-a simple statement that it applied the factors will usually suffice so long as it is clear from the record that the court considered the relevant evidence and arguments. See id. at 324.Outside-Guidelines sentences will require much more thorough explanations of why the factors support the sentences. See id.; United States v. Green, 436 F.3d 449, 456 (4th Cir. 2006).

         II. DISCUSSION

         The court has already made the necessary factual and legal findings to conclude that defendant's Guidelines range is 171 to 183 months. At the sentencing hearing, the government argued for a sentence at the high end of that range. Applying the § 3553(a) factors to the facts of this case, the court finds that a sentence within the Guidelines range is appropriate. However, the court also finds that the factors support a sentence at the bottom of the Guidelines range because it is “sufficient[] but not greater than necessary” to accomplish the purposes of sentencing.

         A. Section 3553(a)(1): The nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the defendant support a within-Guidelines sentence.

         Defendant committed very serious offenses. Defendant met his victims under the guise of a drug deal and then used a firearm to rob them. This conduct not only showed a willingness to subject others to the threat of serious danger, it caused actual injury when the firearm was discharged during the course of the robbery, striking both victims. Such disregard for the safety of others warrants stern punishment.

         Defendant's personal history and characteristics also support a strong sentence. Defendant has been involved in criminal conduct before-he was convicted in state court for receiving stolen goods in 2009, and was convicted in federal court for mail theft in 2010. While on bond in connection with the federal mail theft charges, defendant was given an opportunity to participate in the federal BRIDGE program-a program which offers opportunities for rehabilitation and potential sentence reductions to federal defendants struggling with substance abuse problems. However, defendant was terminated after failing to follow the rules of the program, his bond was revoked, and he was detained. On October 24, 2011, he was sentenced to time served and 2 years supervised release. He failed to comply with the conditions of his supervised release and was required to serve 4 months in the halfway house. He was terminated from the halfway house for numerous violations of the rules, was arrested, and detained. On June 20, 2012, he was sentenced to 3 months in prison for his supervised release violations.

         The incident on which his latest conviction was based occurred on June 10, 2013, less than a year after he was released from federal prison. It is clear that defendant has had multiple opportunities to turn away from criminal activity and has been unwilling to do so. Instead, defendant has transitioned ...


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