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United States v. Pankow

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

March 12, 2018

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Jaimie Pankow, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued December 12, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. No. 3:16-cr-00027-jdp-2 - James D. Peterson, Chief Judge.

          Before Bauer, Ripple, and Sykes, Circuit Judges.

          Ripple, Circuit Judge.

         Jaimie Pankow pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1). The district court imposed a be-low-guidelines sentence of 84 months' imprisonment and 5 years' supervised release. On appeal, Ms. Pankow principally contends that meaningful review of her sentence is impossible because the district court did not specify how much it "departed" from the guidelines range as a result of the Government's motion under U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1. We affirm because the court was not required to specify that detail: traditional departures need not be calculated separately before the court considers other factors under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a).

         I BACKGROUND

         A. Factual and Procedural Background

         Ms. Pankow was involved in a large-scale drug conspiracy. She started selling methamphetamine for a friend in May 2015. Initially, she and other co-conspirators received methamphetamine from a supplier who traveled to Minnesota to purchase the drugs. After the supplier was incarcerated in November 2015, Ms. Pankow's friend drove to Minnesota to buy the methamphetamine. Ms. Pankow then started helping her friend sell it out of their house by distributing it to customers and keeping a drug ledger.

         The scheme ended the next year. Ms. Pankow and the friend were returning from Minnesota in February 2016 with a purchase of methamphetamine when Wisconsin police stopped them for speeding. A K9 unit alerted officers that drugs were in the car, and officers arrested Ms. Pankow because she had six outstanding warrants for her arrest. Officers searched the car and seized methamphetamine, marijuana, a drug ledger, and a large amount of cash.

         Ms. Pankow pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute methamphetamine. The presentence report calculated a guidelines range of 108 to 135 months in prison. The parties agreed that the Government would move under U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1 for the imposition of a sentence reflecting the substantial assistance that Ms. Pankow had provided to law enforcement. Section 5K1.1 provides that when the Government states that a defendant has provided it with substantial assistance, "the court may depart from the guidelines, " but the "reduction shall be determined by the court" based on "the court's evaluation" of the assistance. U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1.

         The Government filed its § 5K1.1 motion but made no specific recommendation to the court about "where to sentence Pankow" in light of the motion.[1] It simply urged the court to use 156 months as the starting point for the sentence and not to go below 120 months after considering the § 5K1.1 motion. The Government emphasized the need for relative parity with the sentences it requested for other members of the same conspiracy. Ms. Pankow argued that certain mitigating factors, including her vulnerability to men, warranted a significantly lower sentence of 59 months in prison. She arrived at that figure by starting with 96 months, subtracting 13 months for the time she had spent in state custody, and deducting 24 more months for substantial assistance.

         After a brief recess, the court announced Ms. Pankow's sentence of 84 months:

So here is what I'm going to do in terms of the sentence, trying to understand that her culpability really here is mitigated by the sway that the men had in her life and that, for all of the reasons that are laid out in the presentence report, she was vulnerable to that because of her history of abuse, but I still have to recognize the substantial criminality that she had for that year. So I'm going to sentence her to 84 months. Now, there's more to it. I have got to structure it in a certain way, but sentence is 84 months.
I have considered Mr. Jones' argument about the time that she spent in incarceration already, and so that-I realize that the 84 months is actually going to start today, and so really what she ends up with is something close to the low end of her guideline sentence, you know, overall, and I do want to also recognize that she gets credit for her cooperation. I do think it was-as I look at her cooperation, I appreciate the fact that it was a substantial assistance here in this investigation, but her acceptance of responsibility did not happen immediately when she first had signs of trouble. You know, she got arrested a couple times in 2015, and she just kept at it. She had warnings of what was going on, so this isn't like a lightbulb immediately went on for her and she came in and made good and turned herself around. It was a process.
So in balancing all of those considerations, looking at what her guideline really was, I think the 84 months is the right sentence. It's sufficient but not greater than necessary to provide the punishment and opportunity for treatment. I hope that it's helpful to Ms. Pankow to have a very substantial impediment ...

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