Now that Mr. Graves has been convicted on five counts of human trafficking plus possession and distribution of meth, I have started to think about what sentence he has rightfully earned and will be justly delivered to him in full.
Previous post discussed why I am paying such close attention to Mr. Graves’ case. Short answer is this expands my understanding of the federal legal system, extends my detailed discussion of the documentary The Overnighters, and overlaps my interest in the shale boom in North Dakota.
This discussion looks at the offense level and my wild guess on possible sentence. Previous post discussed the concept of criminal history level.
Chapter 2 of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines establishes a Base Offense Level, which will enter into the Sentencing Table. Base offense level is the starting point for sentencing. Many other factors bump the level up or down. For the human trafficking charge, page 204 says the offense level is 34. That is a very serious level.
The Sentencing Table says for offense level 34 in category I the sentence would be 151-188 months (12.5-15.6 years).
The additional counts will increase the offense level. My cursory read of the discussion of Chapter 3 – Adjustments makes me think there will be an increase of four offense levels. That is based on ignoring the possession and distribution charges, because they are more than 6 offense levels below the trafficking count, so they don’t enter into the tally. Also seems to me that since the charges involve trafficking 5 different women, this would not lead to combining those counts into one.
Adding 4 offense levels to the base offense level of 34 gives an offense level of 38. For Category I, the sentencing guidelines there are 235-293 months (19.6-24.4 years). For Category II, where I think Mr. Graves would fit as discussed in the earlier post, the recommendation would be 262-327 months (21.8-27.2 years).
So here is my really wild, uneducated guess for the sentencing range (before multiple other possible increases and decreases): somewhere between 22 and 27 years.
Keep in mind at the federal level there is a 53 day credit for each year of good behavior. That means with good behavior Mr. Graves could get somewhere between 3.2 and 3.9 years knocked off the sentence.
In addition, based on my watching the case of Mr. London and his co-conspirator, the last several months can be spent in a halfway house. If you are a really good boy (as was Mr. London) several months can be in home confinement. Since I’m making wild guesses, I will further guess that after two decades in federal prison, Mr. Graves would need to be in a half-way house for perhaps the last two years of his sentence.
So stringing together my long list of wild guesses, my supposition is he would move to a half-way house for two years after somewhere between 17 and 21 years of confinement.
Impact of slight changes to ‘offense level’
Mr. Graves really, really needs advice from his attorney because the impact of additional counts is very complex and I think requires knowledge of not only the complex rules but also extensive case law.
To illustrate the impact of each level when you get to this severity of charges, an increase of the offense level by one would add an extra 30-38 months (say 2.5-3 years). Going from criminal history II to III would also add an extra 30-38 months. Adding both one extra offense level and an increase in criminal history category would add 62-78 months (5.2-6.5 years).
With this volume and level of convictions each persuasive argument could increase or reduce the sentence by two or three years. For example, I wonder if the “by force” wording in the counts could add a couple of offense levels.
If my read of offense level of 34+4=38 with history level of II is correct, then Mr. Graves is only three levels away from a recommended sentence of 30 years to life. He is five levels from a recommended life sentence.
My reading of the prosecution and defense arguments for sentencing in the Scott London case showed there were multiple issues for which there were arguments for increases or decreases, each of which would have changed the offense level by 2 or 4 or 6 levels. I’m guessing there are a lot of clever arguments to be made for additions or subtractions of that magnitude in Mr. Graves’ situation.
What do you think? Where have I made mistakes in my analysis? Which of my wild guesses are most likely to be wrong?
Update: Checked the PACER system shortly after posting this discussion. The sentencing date has been moved forward one day, to 2/17/16 instead of 2/18/16.