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United States v. Blewitt

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

April 5, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee,
v.
SETH J. BLEWITT, Defendant, Appellant.

          APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MAINE [Hon. John A. Woodcock, Jr., U.S. District Judge]

          Leslie W. O'Brien on brief for appellant.

          Halsey B. Frank, United States Attorney, and Benjamin M. Block, Assistant U.S. Attorney, on brief for appellee.

          Before Lynch, Selya, and Boudin, Circuit Judges.

          SELYA, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Defendant-appellant Seth J. Blewitt, who stands convicted of bank robbery, Hobbs Act robbery, and a related firearms offense, challenges his sentence. He argues that the sentencing court acted in contravention of the Supreme Court's opinion in Dean v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 1170, 1178 (2017), and in the bargain, engaged in impermissible gender stereotyping. Concluding, as we do, that the appellant's arguments contain more cry than wool, we affirm.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Since this appeal follows a guilty plea, we draw the relevant facts mainly from the change-of-plea colloquy, the presentence investigation report (PSI Report), and the sentencing transcript. See United States v. Rentas-Muñiz, 887 F.3d 1, 2 (1st Cir. 2018); United States v. Dietz, 950 F.2d 50, 51 (1st Cir. 1991). But because one of the appellant's claims of sentencing error is inextricably intertwined with the sentencing of his accomplice (his then-wife, Cara Blewitt), we add certain undisputed facts relating to her sentencing.

         On May 28, 2017, the appellant, with his physiognomy obscured by a winter hat and sunglasses, entered a bank in Bangor, Maine. After telling the teller that he was "actually robbing [her]," he proceeded to do just that. In carrying out the heist, he neither threatened the teller nor displayed a weapon. Absconding with $500, the appellant joined Cara Blewitt in their getaway vehicle.

         This scene was reprised the next day, when the appellant robbed a discount variety store. On that occasion, though, the appellant was armed with a sawed-off shotgun. Cara Blewitt again drove the getaway car.

         Shortly after the second robbery, the police identified the Blewitts as the robbers. Warrants were issued, and the couple was arrested during a traffic stop. Several shotgun shells were found on the appellant's person and in the Blewitts' car. A further search of the vehicle revealed $300 in cash, a Remington .22 long rifle, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Moreover, a forensic examination of the appellant's cell phone disclosed multiple internet searches related to robbery. These included: "Hard up for cash? Rob a Dollar Store," "How nine out of every ten muggers get away with it," and "Robbery: What is the best way to rob a store?"

         In due course, a federal grand jury sitting in the District of Maine returned an indictment against the appellant. The indictment charged him in three counts: bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) (count 1); interference with commerce by robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951 (count 2); and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) (count 3). The appellant initially maintained his innocence but, on November 30, 2017, reversed his field and pleaded guilty to all three counts of the indictment. There was no plea agreement.

         When prepared, the PSI Report recommended a guideline sentencing range (GSR) for counts 1 and 2, as a group, of 37 to 46 months. By statute, count 3 required a mandatory minimum sentence of 84 months to run consecutively to any sentence imposed on the grouped counts (counts 1 and 2). See 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii).

         Cara Blewitt was prosecuted separately and the case against her followed a somewhat different course. She admitted her involvement in the robberies shortly after her arrest, waived indictment, and was charged in an information. While the information charged her with the same two robbery offenses with which her then-husband was charged, it did ...


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