One of the legal errors for which Judge Boyle has frequently been reversed is departing improperly or otherwise misapplying the sentencing guidelines applicable to criminal defendants.28 Among the many instances of such reversals, in addition to those discussed above, two cases in particular stand out: U.S. v. Genao, 2000 U.S. App. LEXIS 8764 (4th Cir. 2000), and U.S. v. Phalan, 2002 U.S. App. LEXIS 6805 (4th Cir. 2002). In these cases, Judge Boyle’s departures were so obviously erroneous that even the government admitted that Boyle was mistaken and asked the Fourth Circuit to reduce the convicted defendant’s sentence.
In Genao, Boyle failed to grant the defendant credit for time served in another jurisdiction on a charge that was taken into consideration in determining the defendant’s offense level in the current case. 2000 U.S. App. LEXIS 8764 (4th Cir. 2000). This contradicted the clear requirements of United States Sentencing Guideline § 5G1.3(b), and the government agreed that the sentence needed to be adjusted in accordance with the guidelines. 2000 U.S. App. LEXIS 8764 at 2. The Fourth Circuit vacated the sentence and remanded it to the District Court for re-sentencing. Id.
In Phalan, the defendant was convicted of indecent exposure, a violation of a North Carolina statute that was assimilated by the federal Assimilative Crimes Act,29 and for which the maximum sentence available was one year’s probation. Nonetheless, Judge Boyle sentenced the defendant to two years’ probation. 2002 U.S. App. LEXIS 6805 (4th Cir. 2002). Again, the sentence was so clearly erroneous that even the government agreed Boyle had erred. As the Fourth Circuit recounted in vacating the sentence, “[t]he government agree[d] that the two-year term of probation imposed by the district court exceeded the statutory maximum . . . and request[ed] the sentence be vacated and the case remanded for re-sentencing.” Id. at 3.
A third case of note is the recent decision in United States v. Ruffin, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 25223 (2004), in which the sentence handed down by Boyle was so convoluted that the Fourth Circuit remanded it back to his court for clarification. In that case, because the defendant had provided substantial assistance to the government, the prosecution had filed a motion for a substantial assistance departure below the guideline range and mandatory minimum sentence of 180-210 months. Boyle granted the departure, but then issued an oral sentence of 188 months and a written sentence of 180 months. The sentences were not only contradictory, but neither reflected the agreed upon departure below the guideline range. Due to the “irreconcilable inconsistencies both in the oral sentence and the written judgment,” id. at 1, the Fourth Circuit remanded the case to the district court with instructions to “issue a new judgment order which is internally consistent and also consistent with the orally pronounced sentence.” Id. at 7.