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Circuit Must Fall in Line for Gun Crime Sentencing

(CN) - The 2nd Circuit must impose a harsher sentence on a couple who were convicted of using guns to carry out a drug-dealing conspiracy, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday. A federal judge in Manhattan had sentenced Donahue Dewar and Sharon King to 20 years in prison, five years shy of the mandatory minimum, which requires courts to impose consecutive sentences.

On remand, the 2nd Circuit is to consider the Supreme Court's ruling in Abbot v. United States. That decision had been pending when the 2nd Circuit ruled in April 2010 to deny the government's appeal for a harsher sentence.

Prosecutors argued that the 2nd Circuit relied on incorrect sentencing guidelines, but a three-judge panel said it was bound by its precedent until the Supreme Court ruled otherwise.

Seven months later, the Supreme Court did. It ruled in Abbott that a defendant convicted of using or carrying a gun while committing a violent or drug-trafficking crime is subject to the highest mandatory minimum sentence, unless another provision of law imposes an even higher minimum sentence. That same month, the government filed its petition with the Supreme Court.

The minimum sentence for carrying or using a deadly weapon to commit "any crime of violence or drug trafficking crime" is five years.

That penalty will now be tacked onto Dewar and King's terms. They had been convicted by a jury in 2008 for selling marijuana and cocaine throughout Westchester and the Bronx.

After the pair sold cocaine to a confidential informant, police searched their home in the Bronx and uncovered additional evidence, including drugs, $70,000 in cash, a surveillance system and four loaded handguns. King was convicted of the same charges as Dewar, save for one extra count of distributing cocaine, and sentenced to 10 years.

The brief order, which summarily granted the government's petition for review and vacated the 2nd Circuit's decision, notes that Dewar and King are entitled to a waiver of costs. It further states that Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan had no role in the court's consideration or decision of the case.

In a seperate order, the court denied King's petition for review of her case.

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