Federal Appeals Court Vacates Probationary Sentence for Officer's Excessive Force; Returns to District Court for Resentencing
BIRMINGHAM -- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit this week vacated the probationary sentence a federal judge imposed last year on a former Birmingham police officer convicted of using excessive force on a handcuffed arrestee. The appeals court returned the case to U.S. District Court for resentencing, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance.
The 11th Circuit Court ruled that the district court's five-year probationary sentence for COREY L. HOOPER, 35, was "substantively unreasonable." Federal Sentencing Guidelines recommended a prison sentence of 70 to 87 months, and federal prosecutors recommended more than seven years in prison for Hooper's 2012 trial conviction for deprivation of rights under color of law.
The conviction stemmed from a 2007 incident in which Hooper, then a Birmingham police officer, struck a handcuffed man multiple times in the face while the man was in the back seat of a patrol car.
The U.S. Attorney's Office appealed U.S. District Court Judge Inge P. Johnson's probationary sentence as unreasonable, arguing that it did not satisfy the need for general deterrence of the crime of excessive use of force by police officers.
The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that the district court abused its discretion when it issued Hooper a five-year probationary sentence. The district court "expressly declined to consider the need for Hooper's sentence to adequately deter other police officers from using excessive force," thereby ignoring a legal factor that is one of the key purposes of sentencing, the appeals court wrote. Judge Johnson did not adequately consider the seriousness of Hooper's conviction, "particularly in light of Hooper's abuse of police power and the vulnerability of a restrained arrestee," the court wrote. It also held that Judge Johnson failed to cite "a sufficiently significant justification for granting a 100 %, 70-month downward variance," from the recommended guidelines sentence.
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