CHICAGO (CN) – A federal judge properly lengthened the prison term of a felon who was caught in possession of a loaded handgun and then briefly lied that police had planted it, the 7th Circuit ruled.
James Selvie, a known gang member, was arrested in May 2010 after he ran from police and tossed a loaded handgun onto a nearby porch. The arrest constituted a parole violation, placing Selvie back in prison.
While in custody, Selvie instructed his girlfriend, Juvona Robinson, to file a complaint with the Chicago Police Department alleging that Selvie’s arresting officers had planted a gun him.
When an officer called to investigate the complaint, Robinson immediately recanted and confessed that she had no actual knowledge of what transpired at the arrest.
Selvie later pleaded guilty to federal charges of being a felon in possession of a handgun.
At sentencing, Selvie said he should not face an enhancement for obstruction of justice, pointing out that the plot did not affect the investigation.
The government, however, characterized the maneuver as an intimidation attempt and endorsed an enhancement.
U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman ordered a two-level increase of the guideline range from 37-46 months to 46-57 months. He ultimately put Selvie away for 51 months.
Guzman described Selvie’s actions as “a plan to, in essence … make up a witness to allege that things were done to this man by the police that weren’t done, things which would affect whether or not he was, in fact, guilty of the offense he was charged with. And that’s more than a mere denial. It carries the potential for significantly obstructing an investigation.”
The 7th Circuit affirmed last week. An obstruction enhancement is appropriate when a defendant provides “a materially false statement to a law enforcement officer that significantly obstructed or impeded the official investigation or prosecution of the instant offense,” the three-judge panel pointed out.
Though he recruited someone else to lie about planting the handgun, Selvie still intended to impede the investigation by providing false information. The enhancement should thus apply, the court ruled.
“Selvie’s false complaint forced CPD to launch an investigation and send its personnel to interview Robinson,” Judge Joel Flaum wrote for the panel. “That Robinson quickly recanted does not alter the fact that CPD spent time and manpower to vet Selvie’s allegations. Her candor simply saved CPD additional time and resources otherwise wasted on Selvie’s lies. Accordingly, he committed obstruction, and the district court justifiedly enhanced his base offense level.”