United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KEITH WATKINS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
a case where the time does not fit the crime; or, more
specifically, the offender. LaQuanda Gilmore Garrott was
charged in a November 1, 2017 indictment with ten counts of
aiding and assisting in the filing of false federal income
tax returns in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7206(2). Each
count carries a statutory maximum sentence of 3 years'
imprisonment and a $100, 000 fine. See 26 U.S.C.
§ 7206. Per a plea agreement under Federal Rule of
Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(A), Garrott pleaded guilty to
only one of those counts. (Doc. # 28.) The
government promised to move to dismiss the other nine counts
came time for sentencing, it became clear that this plea
agreement would result in an unreasonable sentence. The
presentence report revealed Garrott's extensive criminal
history, including no less than eighty-seven previous
convictions, detailed below. With a total offense level of 22
and a criminal history category of III, Garrott's
guidelines range would have been 51 to 63 months, without an
acceptance-of-responsibility reduction. But because she
pleaded guilty to just one count, the plea agreement limits
Garrott's sentence to no more than the statutory maximum
of 36 months' imprisonment.
court has a duty to “impose a sentence sufficient, but
not greater than necessary, to comply” with the
statutory purposes of sentencing. 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a).
These purposes include the need for the sentence imposed
“to reflect the seriousness of the offense, to promote
respect for the law, and to provide just punishment for the
offense, ” see Id. § 3553(a)(2)(A),
“to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct,
” see Id. § 3553(a)(2)(B), and “to
protect the public from further crimes” of Garrott,
see Id. § 3553(a)(2)(C). In evaluating whether
the sentence furthers these purposes, the court must consider
“the nature and circumstances of the offense and the
history and characteristics” of Garrott. See
Id. § 3553(a)(1).
Congress's sentencing mandate and the history and
characteristics of Garrott, the court is convinced that a
sentence of 36 months would not merely be unreasonable but
would be outright irrational. The presentence report
showed that Garrott has seventy-nine convictions for
writing bad checks, four for theft, one for reckless
endangerment, one for domestic violence and harassment, one
for giving a false name to law enforcement, and one for
driving with a revoked license and using a license plate to
conceal one's identity. So far, however, Garrott has
managed to serve, by the court's estimation, only 13
days' custody on those prior convictions, not counting 30
days served on a probation revocation. Fourteen of
Garrott's custodial sentences were suspended. Garrott was
ordered to pay restitution at least twelve times, and still
owes at least $6, 680.71 in unpaid restitution. Additionally,
the court calculates that Garrott has been in the criminal
justice system - by serving probation, by being subject to an
unpaid restitution order, or, for most of the time,
both - uninterrupted, from September 23, 2003, to
the present. The sheer volume of criminal conduct, as
well as its nature - rife with falsity and fraud -
demonstrates the impropriety of a 36-month sentence.
than criminal history is relevant here. Garrott's
relevant conduct, according to the presentence report, is
much more serious than the ten pending charges suggest.
Garrott submitted returns under three different electronic
filing identification numbers (EFIN), filed approximately 100
false tax returns - totaling $674, 372 in fraudulent refunds
- which were all paid out by the IRS.
simply, 36 months' imprisonment would thwart the purposes
of § 3553(a). With the guidelines in play, Garrott's
guidelines range would be as high as 51 to 63 months,
depending on whether she receives an
acceptance-of-responsibility reduction. Such a properly
calculated guidelines sentence may be presumed reasonable on
appeal. See Rita v. United States, 551 U.S. 338, 347
(2007). And were all ten counts in play, Garrott would
potentially be facing a 30-year maximum sentence.
Garrott wishes to withdraw her plea, the court will set a
date for the next Montgomery trial term. The court expresses
no view on either the weight or the nature of the evidence
against Garrott, see United States v. Diaz, 138 F.3d
1359, 1363 (11th Cir. 1998), abrogated on other grounds
by United States v. Davila, 569 U.S. 597 (2013), or what
sentence Garrott would receive if she were found guilty on
some or all of the ten counts, see United States v.
Bruce, 976 F.2d 552, 555-58 (9th Cir. 1992),
abrogated on other grounds by United States v.
Davila, 569 U.S. 597 (2013). But it is not inappropriate
for the court to express its view that a particular sentence
is too lenient: “A decision that a plea bargain will
result in the defendant's receiving too light a sentence
under the circumstances of the case is a sound reason for a
judge's refusing to accept the agreement.”
United States v. Bean, 564 F.2d 700, 704 (5th Cir.
Garrott's belated motion for a status conference warrants
brief mention. Garrott, through counsel, sought a status
conference so the “parties can discuss with the Court
its concerns regarding the first plea agreement in order to
try to fashion a new plea agreement or decide to go to
trial.” (Doc. # 63.) Two things should be said in
response. First, the court made its view of a 36-month
sentence clear at the January 16, 2019 hearing when it
brought up Garrott's extensive criminal history,
including seventy-nine bad check convictions. Second, this
motion borders on an invitation for the court to engage in
plea negotiations, which of course it cannot do. See
Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(c)(1). The court declines to say what an
appropriate sentence is in this case. It will only say that
36 months' imprisonment is inappropriate, for
the reasons described.
Garrott did not follow the court's instructions in the
January 16, 2019 hearing. After rejecting the plea agreement,
the court asked Garrott and her counsel to talk to the
government and notify the court of her intentions within two
weeks. Garrott did not do so. Instead, she filed the motion
for status conference less than a week before the rescheduled
sentencing. The court needs to know Garrott's intentions
so it can determine how to proceed.
it is ORDERED that Garrott is directed to confer with the
government and file a written notice with the court
on or before March 6, 2019, stating whether
she still intends to plead guilty or wants to go to