Today the Sixth Circuit upheld a harsh sentence of 120 months imprisonment for Tracy Bailey, a Chattanooga man. In 2008, Bailey was on probation after being convicted for robbery. He went to the probation office where he was arrested pursuant to outstanding state warrants for Attempted First Degree Murder and Especially Aggravated Assault (both of which led to a guilty plea). A search incident to arrest revealed that Bailey was in possession of a .38 caliber revolver. He was subsequently indicted for violating 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) which prohibits individuals previously imprisoned for more than a year from possessing a firearm. Bailey eventually pleaded guilty to this crime as well.
The potential sentence range, as suggested by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, was 77 to 96 months. Also, because the weapons violation occurred while Bailey was on probation, the guidelines recommended that the sentence be served consecutively to the 14-year sentence he was already serving for the state convictions.
At the sentencing hearing in September of 2009, the Court decided to continue the hearing pending an evaluation of Bailey's mental health after the question of whether Bailey was a sociopath arose. The mental evaluator concluded that Bailey did not suffer from a severe mental disease or defect and did not need inpatient hospitalization.
In January 2010, the District Court held the second sentencing hearing. The Court sentenced Bailey to 120 months imprisonment to run consecutively to the 14-year sentence he was currently serving which Bailey appealed.
The Sixth Circuit stated that the question of whether the sentence should be overturned is whether the sentence is "substantively reasonable." Bailey argued that his sentence was substantively unreasonable because the district court 1) gave unreasonable weight to his mental-health diagnosis; and 2) failed to properly consider the 14-year state sentence.
The Sixth Circuit held this sentence was not substantively unreasonable. First, the Court emphasized the reasoning given by the lower court for imposing the maximum 120-month sentence: public safety. Given Bailey's unpredictable and dangerous behavior, to release him from prison would put the safety of the public at great risk. Also, the Court considered the fact that Bailey's criminal history had grown increasingly violent over time. Given these factors, the Court held that the District Court did not give unreasonable weight to his mental-health.
Second, the Court held that the District Court did not fail to properly consider the 14-year state sentence. The Court explained that the District Court was right when it considered the fact that Bailey would be eligible for parole after serving only 30% of his state sentence. It further stated that since most of his criminal acts, which escalated in violence as time passed, occurred shortly after he was released from jail, Bailey's risk of recidivism was overwhelmingly high. The Sixth Circuit considered this reasoning to be reasonable in light of all the facts in this case.
To conclude its opinion, the Court stated, "We are satisfied that the sentence imposed by the district court, although certainly harsh, is not unreasonable."