Earlier this month, recently seated Judge Don Willett of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote his first opinion in case involving sentencing enhancements. Judge Willett when he was Justice Willett of the Texas Supreme Court was well-known for his humorous tweets on Twitter. Indeed the Texas House of Representatives named him “Tweeter Laureate”. Given this background, you might expect his opinions to have a bit of humor woven into them and you wouldn’t be wrong.
The case of US v. Maturino involved an appeal of the sentence received by Victor Maturino. Mr. Maturino thought he was buying 144 live grenades for a Mexican drug cartel. What he got was 143 duds and one live grenade. The other surprise for Mr. Maturino was that the ostensible seller was an undercover BATFE special agent who promptly arrested him when he handed over $35,000 in cash and took possession of the grenades (and other NFA items). The judge in the trial court gave Mr. Maturino an enhanced sentence because of the number of grenades involved in the illegal transaction. The appeal contended that he should have only been sentenced based on the number of live grenades he actually bought as opposed to the number he though he was getting.
The 5th Circuit rejected his appeal in an unanimous decision concluding that the trial court’s application of the Sentencing Guidelines including an enhanced sentence was correct.
Victor Maturino requested 144 high-explosive grenades; he received 143
non-explosive grenades. This is a sentencing appeal, though, and what matters
for sentencing is what Maturino actively sought, not what he actually bought.
Summing up, the sentencing court properly counted the number of firearms
involved in Maturino’s offense and did not miscalculate his sentence under the Guidelines. Maturino’s plan for live grenades fell short, but close counts in
horseshoes and hand-grenade cases.
All I’m going to add is that Judge Willett is an American treasure and I’d love to see him as a Justice on the Supreme Court.