Saturday, April 19, 2008

Cracked Up

United States v. Lee, No. 06-4933-cr (2d Cir. April 17, 2008) (Cabranes, Wesley, CJJ, Castel, DJ)

Defendant Cathy Lee received a 120-month sentence, the mandatory minimum, in a crack trafficking case. She raised on appeal a host of constitutional and statutory challenges to her sentence, claiming that it violated ยง 3535(a), the Eighth Amendment, and equal protection, in light of the powder-vs-crack sentencing disparities.

The court held that these claims were waived by the appellate waiver in Lee's plea agreement. Although such waivers will not be enforced when an "arguably unconstitutional" consideration influenced the sentencing, there was no such consideration here. The equal protection argument with respect to crack sentences is a claim about the statute itself, not a claim that the court considered an improper factor at sentencing. Moreover, the court rejected the equal protection statutory argument nearly fifteen years ago, and no subsequent legal development - including Kimbrough - is a basis for changing this view.

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