United States v. Talk

Defendants-Appellants Patrick Talk and Kenneth Martinez, both enrolled members of the Navajo Tribe, challenged the procedural reasonableness of their sixty-month sentences of imprisonment. The district court imposed the sentences after Defendants pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter in Indian Country in the death of Shawn Begay, also an enrolled member of the Navajo Tribe. Mr. Talk argued that the district court procedurally erred in finding that he did not fully accept responsibility for Mr. Begay's death, and by failing to adequately explain his sentence, because it explained neither why he received the same sentence as Mr. Martinez nor why his sentence was longer than the Sentencing Guidelines' range for aggravated assault. Mr. Martinez argued that the district court procedurally erred by enhancing his sentence pursuant to U.S.S.G. 3A1.1 because Mr. Begay was not a "vulnerable victim" and, even if he was, Mr. Martinez neither knew nor should have known that he was. Finding that Mr. Talk's challenge was "misguided" and that the district court "did not commit procedural error in explaining its upward variance," the Tenth Circuit affirmed his sentence. Because Mr. Begay was heavily intoxicated at the time of his death, the Tenth Circuit found that he was unable to protect himself, and was therefore "unusually vulnerable." The Court found that the district court did not err in finding Mr. Begay was a vulnerable victim, and that Mr. Martinez's challenge to the district court's ruling that he knew or should have known of Mr. Begay's vulnerability "[could not] succeed under plain-error review, regardless of whether his argument [was] framed as a factual or legal one." The Court affirmed Mr. Martinez's sentence. View "United States v. Talk" on Justia Law