In United States v. Witt, No. 21-10557 (Aug. 9, 2022) (Newsom, Marcus, Middlebrooks (S.D. Fla.)), the Court affirmed Ms. Witt’s convictions and sentence.
Ms. Witt was convicted for her part in a scheme to defraud the federal government out of relief funds intended for farmers affected by drought and fire (the Livestock Forage Disaster Program). She was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud; two counts of theft of government funds; and one count of aggravated identity theft.
On appeal, Ms. Witt first challenged the district court’s denial of her motion for a new trial, arguing that the weight of the evidence preponderated in favor of a not guilty verdict. The Court first noted that the government misunderstood Ms. Witt’s argument on appeal, and clarified that a challenge to the denial of a motion for a new trial involves a different inquiry from that of a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. The Court then rejected Ms. Witt’s challenge.
Next, Ms. Witt challenged the substantive reasonableness of her sentence, arguing that the district court should have sentenced her to house arrest rather than a traditional prison sentence. The Court disagreed, finding her sentence of 28 months’ imprisonment reasonable. The Court noted that under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(a), district courts only “impose a term of imprisonment,” but that the implementation of that sentence is left to the discretion of the BOP–that is, district courts do not have the authority to dictate whether a sentence is to be served in prison or in home confinement. Additionally, though U.S.S.G. § 5C1.1(d)(2) provides that if the applicable guideline range is in Zone C of the Sentencing Table, the minimum term may be satisfied by a sentence of imprisonment that includes a term of supervised release with a condition that substitutes home detention, provided that at least one-half of the minimum term is satisfied by imprisonment, Ms. Witt’s guideline range of 28 to 32 months placed her in Zone D, not Zone C.