United States v. Pulley, No. 08-3363 (7th Cir. 2010).

Ondray Pulley pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud related to a scheme to defraud the United Airlines Employees’ Credit Union (UAECU). He was sentenced to 87 months’ imprisonment and ordered to pay restitution. Pulley now appeals, arguing that the government’s lack of candor at his codefendant’s sentencing proceedings caused the district court to make significant procedural errors at Pulley’s sentencing.

Specifically, Pulley challenges the district court’s sentence as unreasonable.

We affirm because the district court did not commit procedural error in the course of Pulley’s sentencing proceedings, and it appropriately considered the relevant § 3553(a) factors. It also did not err in sentencing Pulley at the high end of the applicable Guidelines range.

III. Discussion

3. The district court’s sentencing procedure is sound and the sentence is substantively reasonable.

Pulley also argues that the sentencing court erred by failing to address his arguments related to consideration of the 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors and by imposing an unreasonably high sentence.

We note that the district court properly calculated the applicable Guidelines range. That level, combined with an undisputed category VI criminal history, produced a Guidelines imprisonment range of 70 to 87 months, with a statutory maximum of 30 years. See 18 U.S.C. § 1343. The district court sentenced Pulley to the high end of the Guidelines range.

Pulley argues that the district court procedurally erred by failing to consider several of his meritorious arguments.

Specifically, Pulley contends that the district court failed to consider his difficult upbringing, his extraordinary acceptance of responsibility and the unwarranted disparity between his sentence and Anderson’s. We disagree.

To comport with proper sentencing procedure, the district court must review the § 3553(a) factors and provide a record for us to review but it need not explicitly articulate conclusions with respect to each factor. See United States v. Panaigua-Verdugo, 537 F.3d 722, 728 (7th Cir. 2008). The court is not required to consider every “stock” argument, but it must address the defendant’s principal arguments. See United States v. Villegas-Miranda, 579 F.3d 798, 801 (7th Cir. 2009); United States v. Young, 590 F.3d 467, 474 (7th Cir. 2009) (explaining that a district court may pass over, without discussion, arguments that are made as a matter of routine); United States v. Cunningham, 429 F.3d 673, 679 (7th Cir. 2005). “A short explanation will suffice where the context and record make clear the reasoning underlying the district court’s conclusion.” United States v. Schroeder, 536 F.3d at 755 (citing Rita, 551 U.S. at 358). We conclude that the district court adequately considered Pulley’s principal arguments.

It addressed Pulley’s criminal history and reviewed the sentencing report that revealed his difficult upbringing. At sentencing, the district court applauded Pulley for his ability to avoid drug abuse despite having close relatives with dependency issues. Given that the district court was aware of Pulley’s difficult history, heard his arguments that he did not believe his past caused him to commit his crimes and then proceeded to address Pulley’s sentence in the context of the § 3553(a) factors, the district court did not err in failing to provide a lengthy explanation for its decision that Pulley’s history and characteristics did not merit him a lower sentence.

At sentencing, the district court declined to find that Pulley had extraordinarily accepted responsibility and noted that Pulley had a long criminal history involving fraud and, based on the evidence it received, concluded that Pulley had not “learned his lesson. “The district court provided a sufficient explanation of its decision to reject the defendant’s arguments regarding his extraordinary acceptance of responsibility and likewise did not abuse its discretion in deciding that his conduct did not rise to the level of extraordinary acceptance.

In addition, Pulley contends that the similarities between him and Co-defendant Anderson suggest that Pulley’s sentence should have been closer to Anderson’s 38 months. While Pulley properly contends that § 3553(a)(6) does not allow unwarranted sentencing disparities between co-defendants, see, e.g., United States v. Statham, 581 F.3d 548, 556 (7th Cir. 2009); United States v. Bartlett, 567 F.3d 901, 908, 909 (7th Cir. 2009), warranted disparities are allowed. Moreover, a district court that sentences within the Guidelines necessarily gives weight and consideration to avoiding unwarranted disparities. See Bartlett, 567 F.3d at 908 (citing Gall v. United States, 552 U.S. 38, 54 (2007)). The two defendants began cooperating at different times and, while the court determined that Anderson had changed his lifestyle after his illness, it concluded that Pulley had not similarly benefited from his previous incarcerations. The district court adequately considered Pulley’s arguments regarding unwarranted sentencing disparities and did not abuse its discretion in rejecting them as bases for a lower sentence. See Statham, 581 F.3d at 556 (holding that a co-defendant differed from the defendant for sentencing purposes because the co-defendant cooperated, pleaded and had a less extensive criminal history).

As noted above, if the district court provides an adequate statement of reasons, consistent with § 3553(a), for believing that the sentence is appropriate, and it is within the Guidelines range, we presume the sentence is substantively reasonable. See Rita, 551 U.S. at 347; United States v. Turner, 569 F.3d 637, 640 (7th Cir. 2009). Given the district court’s careful consideration of Pulley’s arguments and its articulation of a sentence based on the § 3553(a) factors, we have no reason to conclude that it abused its discretion by rejecting several of Pulley’s arguments and sentencing him to the high end of the applicable guideline range.

The district court is therefore AFFIRMED.

For the full opinions visit the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Web Site

For more about Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney Michael J. Petro, visit www.mjpetro.com.

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