By Joshua Bussen

Today, February 25, 2015, in an unpublished decision of the criminal case United States v. McCollum, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the decision of the District Court for the District of South Carolina—convicting Makum Lamont McCollum of distributing crack cocaine and sentencing him to 151 months in prison.

The Anders v. California Issue

McCollum appealed his conviction pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967).  Under that precedent, a defendant may state that despite having no meritorious grounds for appeal, the appellate court should review whether the district court complied with Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11, and whether the district court’s sentence was reasonable.

The Conviction Complied with Fed. R. Crim. Pro. 11 and the Sentence Was Reasonable

At trial, McCollum did not move to withdraw his guilty plea nor did he object in any way—therefore the Fourth Circuit reviewed the Rule 11 issue under the high standard of plain error; finding that the district court fully complied with the rule.

McCollum also requested the Fourth Circuit review the district court’s sentence for reasonableness; which the Fourth Circuit reviewed under the deferential abuse of discretion standard.  The reasonableness of a sentence has both substantive and procedural elements.  First, the Fourth Circuit found the district court committed no procedural error.  The district court properly calculated the sentence using the Sentencing Guidelines, considered all of the 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) (2012) factors, and explained the sentence correctly.  The district court also found no substantive error because: under the totality of the circumstances the Fourth Circuit found the sentence was within the Sentencing Guidelines; McCollum’s conduct was serious and thus warranted a longer sentence; and nothing in the record suggested the judge acted irrationally—therefore the sentence was not unreasonable.

151 Months Was Not an Unreasonable Sentence for McCollum

Finding no error in the trial court’s sentence, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the sentence of 151 months.

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