by | last updated on January 10, 2016

TAMPA (June 21) – Today, U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington granted the defendant’s motion for a downward variance from the sentence recommended by the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines. As I sat in court and listened, I could not help but be very impressed with Judge Covington’s keen insight into the application of the sentencing guidelines.
The defendant, Paul Vincent Rivers, was a pharmacist who twice sold oxycodone to a confidential informant. The advisory United States Sentencing guidelines called for a sentence of 46 – 57 months incarceration. In pronouncing sentence, Judge Covington recognized how the defendant never knew his father and was raised by his mother – which was certaintly no easy task, and that the defendant had served in the U.S. military.
Federal judges are required to take the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines into consideration when fashioning a sentence that is sufficient, but not greater than necessary. In ruling with respect to the sentence, Judge Covington said that the fact that the defendant had suffered the permanent loss of pharmacist’s license and was now a convicted felon merited a downward variance from the guidelines recommended sentence and slashed it almost by 50% down to 24 months imprisonment.
Judge Covington’s sentencing analysis and judicial independence are no doubt to be commended. Many judges reflexively impose the sentencing guide lines strictly without looking to other factors. Since the guidelines are advisory, one could hope to see more positive deviations from the guidelines. Here, one could argue that even a term of probation with a period of house arrest with an electronic monitor under these circumstances would have been sufficient and not greater than necessary.
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