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United States v. Ligon

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

September 11, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Marshyia S. Ligon, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued: August 8, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Cleveland. No. 1:18-cr-00351-1-Benita Y. Pearson, District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Christian J. Grostic, FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellant.

          James A. Ewing, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Christian J. Grostic, FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellant.

          James A. Ewing, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellee.

          Before: COLE, Chief Judge; GRIFFIN and BUSH, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          COLE, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Marshyia Ligon used her friend's identification to purchase a gun and subsequently pleaded guilty to making a false statement in acquisition of a firearm. During plea negotiations, the government agreed to argue for a sentence in the Guidelines range as contemplated by the plea agreement, which was 21 to 27 months. At the sentencing hearing, however, the government argued for a sentence within the Guidelines range as contemplated by the probation office, which was 30 to 37 months because of an enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 2K2.1(b)(6)(B). The district court concluded the enhancement applied and sentenced Ligon to 35 months' imprisonment. Ligon appeals her sentence, arguing that the government breached the plea agreement and that the district court erred in applying the enhancement. Because the government argued for a higher sentence than contemplated by the plea agreement, it breached the agreement and Ligon is entitled to resentencing before a different district judge.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On October 4, 2017, Marshyia Ligon purchased a Smith & Wesson, Model M&P 15, 556-caliber rifle from a store in Eastlake, Ohio, using her friend's name and photo identification. Ligon went to the store with her then-boyfriend, Darnell Peterson, but she could not purchase the gun using her own name and identification because she was only nineteen, and Peterson could not purchase the gun because he was only eighteen and under indictment for a felony offense of violence. On October 11, 2017, the firearm purchased by Ligon was used in the attempted robbery of a credit union by Melvin Hill, Arvin Williams, and Dawane Nelson. After the attempted robbery, Peterson told Ligon that he was supposed to go with Hill, Williams, and Nelson to rob the credit union but decided not to at the last minute.

         Ligon was charged with making a false statement in acquisition of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6) and pleaded guilty to that offense. In the plea agreement, the parties agreed to "recommend that the [c]ourt impose a sentence within the range and of the kind specified pursuant to the advisory Sentencing Guidelines in accordance with the computations and stipulations" in the agreement, and that "[n]either party [would] recommend or suggest in any way that a departure or variance is appropriate, either regarding the sentencing range or regarding the kind of sentence." (Plea Agreement, R. 17, PageID 89.) The plea agreement computed Ligon's base offense ...


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