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United States v. Blue

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

December 12, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
BENJAMIN CORNELIUS BLUE, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued: October 24, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, at Greensboro. James A. Beaty, Jr., Senior District Judge. (1:15-cr-00223-JAB-1)

         ARGUED:

          Wayne Dillard Inge, LAW OFFICE OF WAYNE D. INGE, Roanoke, Virginia, for Appellant.

          Kyle David Pousson, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Greensboro, North Carolina, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Sandra J. Hairston, Acting United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Greensboro, North Carolina, for Appellee.

          Before GREGORY, Chief Judge, FLOYD, and HARRIS, Circuit Judges.

         Vacated and remanded by published opinion. Chief Judge Gregory wrote the opinion, in which Judge Floyd and Judge Harris joined.

          GREGORY, Chief Judge.

         Defendant-Appellant Benjamin Cornelius Blue appeals his 272-month sentence, which the district court imposed after Blue pled guilty to armed bank robbery and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence. Blue argues that his sentence is unreasonable because the district court failed to address his nonfrivolous arguments in favor of a downward departure from the sentencing range. We agree. For the reasons that follow, we vacate Blue's sentence and remand for resentencing.

         I.

         Blue pled guilty to armed bank robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2113(a), (d) ("Count 1"), and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii) ("Count 2"). The probation officer prepared a presentence report ("PSR"), stating that Blue pointed a firearm at a bank teller and customer during the course of a bank robbery. Blue's co-defendant provided Blue with the firearm that Blue brandished during the robbery and drove the getaway vehicle. The PSR also designated Blue a career offender because of two predicate North Carolina convictions for robbery with a dangerous weapon and federal armed bank robbery. Due to his status as a career offender, the advisory Sentencing Guidelines recommended a range of 188 to 235 months' imprisonment for Count 1. See U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual §§ 4B1.1, 4B1.2, ch. 5, pt. A (sentencing table) (U.S. Sentencing Comm'n 2015) ("U.S.S.G.").

         In addition, Blue faced a statutory mandatory minimum sentence of 84 months' imprisonment on Count 2. 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii). Thus, Blue's aggregate advisory Guidelines range was 272 to 319 months' ...


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