United States v. Watts, 519 U.S. 148, 16 (1997) (per curiam)

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Cite as: 519 U. S. 148 (1997)

Stevens, J., dissenting

mined the range within which the judge could exercise discretion. Because she was a first offender with no criminal history, that range was based entirely on the offense or offenses for which she was to be punished. She was found guilty of aiding and abetting the intended distribution of one ounce of cocaine on May 8, 1992, but not guilty of participating in a similar transaction involving five ounces of cocaine on May 9, 1992. United States v. Putra, 78 F. 3d 1386, 1387 (CA9 1996). If the guilty verdict provided the only basis for imposing punishment on Ms. Putra, the Guidelines would have required the judge to impose a sentence of no less than 15 months in prison and would have prohibited him from imposing a sentence longer than 21 months.

If Putra had been found guilty of also participating in the 5-ounce transaction on May 9, 1992, the Guidelines would have required that both the minimum and the maximum sentences be increased; the range would have been between 27 and 33 months. As the District Court applied the Guidelines, precisely the same range resulted from the acquittal as would have been dictated by a conviction. Notwithstanding the absence of sufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the alleged offense on May 9 led to the imposition of a sentence six months longer than the maximum permitted for the only crime that provided any basis for punishment.2

2 The circumstances surrounding Vernon Watts' sentencing were somewhat different from those involved in Putra's sentencing. Watts was acquitted of the crime of using a firearm in relation to a drug offense, in violation of 18 U. S. C. 924(c), but was found guilty of certain drug crimes. United States v. Watts, 67 F. 3d 790, 793 (CA9 1995). The sentencing judge enhanced Watts' base offense level by two points, pursuant to USSG 2D1.1(b)(1), after concluding that the defendant's "possession" of the firearm in connection with the crime had been proved by a preponderance of the evidence. 67 F. 3d, at 797-798. Because the "use" of a firearm and its "possession" are not identical, the judge may not have relied on facts necessarily rejected by the jury in concluding that the sentencing enhancement was appropriate. I nevertheless believe that the enhancement


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