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United States v. Hendrickson

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division

June 11, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
KAILAB DAVID HENDRICKSON, Defendant

Page 1167

For U.S. Probation, Interested Party: uspNotify, LEAD ATTORNEY.

For Kailab David Hendrickson, Defendant: Bradley Ryan Hansen, LEAD ATTORNEY, Federal Public Defender's Office, Sioux City, IA.

For USA, Plaintiff: Jamie D Bowers, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Attorney's Office, Sioux City, IA.

OPINION

MARK W. BENNETT, U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

Page 1168

SENTENCING OPINION AND STATEMENT OF REASONING UNDER 18 U.S.C. § 3553(c)

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. INTRODUCTION

II. ANALYSIS

A. Sentencing Methodology

B. Addiction as a Mitigating Factor under § 3553(a)

1. Addiction and culpability

2. Addiction and district courts' post-Gall discretion

III. CONCLUSION

When science began to study addictive behavior in the 1930s, people addicted to drugs were thought to be morally flawed and lacking in willpower. Those views shaped society's responses to drug abuse, treating it as a moral failing rather than a health problem, which led to an emphasis on punitive rather than preventative and therapeutic actions. Today, thanks to science, our views and our responses to drug abuse have changed dramatically. [1]

As a federal judge with two decades of experience sentencing drug-addicted criminal defendants, the quote above, from the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, evokes both optimism and dismay. On one hand, it reflects society's progress in understanding addiction as a public-health problem. On the other hand, it is a sobering reminder that advances in science continue to outpace advances in law. While science may have changed our views on drug abuse, the law still responds to drug abusers with punitive force, rather than preventative or therapeutic treatment.[2] It is therefore unsurprising that, since 1980, the number of federal prisoners serving drug-related sentences has skyrocketed.[3]

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In short, the quote above speaks to how far we've come, and how far we've yet to go.

Just as science and the law treat addiction differently, so too do federal judges. In particular, judges disagree about whether a defendant's addiction mitigates his or her culpability, and whether a defendant's addiction may support a downward variance under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). I recently attended a seminar for federal district court judges where I was reminded that some judges believe that addiction cannot be mitigating because it is so common among defendants, especially those being sentenced for drug crimes. In defending this view, one judge commented: " Addiction in drug cases is not outside the heartland." The " heartland" refers to the " set of typical cases embodying the conduct that [a particular sentencing] guideline describes." U.S.S.G. Ch. 1, Pt. A, intro. comment. 4(b). I respectfully disagree with the view that addiction can be mitigating only if it is outside the heartland or extraordinary. I write to explain my view that drug addiction is generally mitigating, especially in cases, like this one, where the defendant is both young and has been addicted to drugs throughout adolescence and most of his early adulthood.

I. INTRODUCTION

Defendant Kailab Hendrickson (Hendrickson) is before me for sentencing. On February 4, 2014, Hendrickson pleaded guilty to one count of possessing stolen firearms, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(j). Specifically, Hendrickson stole 15 firearms--including rifles, shotguns, and a pistol--from a house that he burglarized in August of 2013. Hendrickson hid the firearms at his mother's and step-father's home, where federal agents later discovered them. Hendrickson told the agents that, before the burglary, he had been drinking at a bar, where he got into an altercation with another man. Hendrickson then left the bar and broke into a house looking for drugs. He found 15 guns and a bow instead. He stole the weapons, hid the guns at his relatives' home, and gave the bow to someone else to settle a $400 methamphetamine debt.

Hendrickson is a 23-year-old young man with an unfortunate history of abusing multiple drugs and making impulsive decisions. He began using alcohol, marijuana, and methamphetamine when he was just 14 years old. He admits that he is addicted to both marijuana and methamphetamine. Before his arrest in this case, Hendrickson used marijuana as often as he could, and used methamphetamine daily since 2012. Hendrickson also suffers from ADHD. These facts are uncontroverted.

Along with Hendrickson's drug addictions came criminal behavior. At age 14 and 15, Hendrickson was adjudicated for Burglary 3rd Degree and Possession of Marijuana. At ages 16 and 17, he participated in two outpatient substance abuse programs, but continued abusing drugs. Hendrickson was then placed in a residential substance abuse program where he attempted to deliver methamphetamine to the other participants. Hendrickson was adjudicated for Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Deliver, and was committed to a state training school for boys. The training school discharged him one month before his 18th birthday. Hendrickson's poor decision-making continued as a young adult. At ages 21 and 22, he was convicted once for Trespass, three

Page 1170

times for Theft in the 5th Degree, and once for Theft in the 3rd Degree--all in addition to his possession-of-stolen-firearms conviction currently before me.

In light of these facts, I must now determine what sentence is appropriate for Hendrickson.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Sentencing Methodology


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