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United States v. Wright

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

January 27, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee,
v.
CHRISTOPHER B. WRIGHT, Defendant, Appellee.

APPEALS FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MAINE, Hon. George Z. Singal, U.S. District Judge.

Robert C. Andrews, for appellant.

Margaret D. McGaughey, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Thomas E. Delahanty II, United States Attorney, was on brief, for appellee.

Before Torruella, Lynch, and Thompson, Circuit Judges.

LYNCH, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

This case concerns the reading of a federal sentencing statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3559(a), in the context of revocation of a federally supervised release imposed after a criminal contempt conviction. We conclude that the criminal contempt here must as a matter of statutory construction be treated as a Class A felony under 18 U.S.C. § 3559(a). We therefore respectfully disagree with the Ninth and Eleventh Circuits.

Christopher Wright appeals from an order that revoked his supervised release on underlying convictions of being a felon in possession of a firearm and criminal contempt, and imposed a sentence of thirty months of imprisonment. The district court found, inter alia, that Wright violated the terms of his release by breaking state law. In sentencing, the court classified criminal contempt as a Class A felony, which carries a maximum five-year (sixty-month) term of imprisonment. See 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e)(3). Wright received a sentence of thirty months of imprisonment.

Wright raises two issues: first, he challenges the court's determination that he violated state law and, second, he argues that his maximum imprisonment exposure was two years, on the theory that criminal contempt is a Class C felony under 18 U.S.C. § 3559(a). We affirm the decision and sentence.

I.

On review of an appeal of revocation of supervised release, "we consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, " and "we recognize the district court's broad legal power to determine witness credibility." See United States v. Portalla, 985 F.2d 621, 622 (1st Cir. 1993).

In 2007, Christopher Wright pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2), and criminal contempt, 18 U.S.C. § 401(3), and was sentenced to concurrent terms of eighty months of imprisonment on each offense; three and five years of supervised release on the charges, respectively, to be served concurrently; and a $200 fine. One condition of his release was that he "not commit another federal, state, or local crime." Another was that he not use a controlled substance. In 2012, only a few months after his supervised release started, Wright was arrested for theft; he admitted to violating the terms of his release and was sentenced to twelve months and a day of imprisonment, with twenty-three months of supervised release for the firearms conviction and twenty-four months for the criminal contempt conviction.

Once out on release for a second time, Wright used drugs and engaged in conduct leading to his arrest.[1] On July 20, 2014, Wright contacted Jonathan Trayes to pay for hallucinogenic mushrooms. Later that day, Justin Corsaro drove Wright in Corsaro's pickup truck to Trayes's house where several people, including Trayes's acquaintance, Harry Fay, were present. Fay testified that he watched from his truck as Trayes approached the passenger side of Corsaro's vehicle and began speaking with Wright. After a brief conversation, Wright grabbed Trayes by the arm through the window and told the driver to "go, go, go." Fay and Trayes testified that as the vehicle accelerated forward, Wright dragged Trayes along for at least fifty feet, dangling outside the window, as Wright punched Trayes in the head. While the car was in motion, Wright released Trayes, whose leg was then run over by the vehicle. Trayes was later taken to the hospital for medical care, including for a wound to his ankle, road-rash, internal bleeding, and a sprained or broken wrist.

As a result of this incident, Wright was arrested on September 11, 2014, and charged with aggravated assault under Maine law. Maine defines ...


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