FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
PUERTO RICO [Hon. Gustavo A. Gelpí, Jr., U.S. District
Michael C. Bourbeau on brief for appellant.
Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney,
Mariana E. Bauzá-Almonte, Assistant United States
Attorney, Chief, Appellate Division, and Francisco A.
Besosa-Martínez, Assistant United States Attorney, on
brief for appellee.
Howard, Chief Judge, Boudin and Barron, Circuit Judges.
BOUDIN, Circuit Judge.
Michael Lawson appeals from a judgment whose sentence
includes a fifteen-year term of supervised release. Prior to
sentencing Lawson pled guilty to a violation of the Sex
Offender Registration and Notification Act
("SORNA"), 18 U.S.C. § 2250(a). The background
events are as follows.
October of 2009, Lawson pled guilty to third degree child
rape in Mason County Superior Court, Shelton, Washington.
Lawson was sentenced to thirty months of incarceration, with
credit for time served, followed by thirty-six months of
community custody. Lawson completed the prison sentence in
September 2011, and as required by his community custody
conditions, registered as a sex offender. He stopped
reporting to his registering officer in September 2013, and
local authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in March
sometime before early 2015, Lawson moved to Puerto Rico and
did not comply with SORNA's requirement that he register
when he "travels in interstate . . . commerce." 18
U.S.C. § 2250(a)(2)(B). He was arrested in June 2015 and
in November pled guilty to having violated SORNA. The
district court ultimately imposed a twenty-four-month
sentence and a fifteen-year term of supervised release. On
appeal, Lawson challenges his supervised release term.
federal statute requires for Lawson a supervised release
"term of years not less than 5, or life." 18 U.S.C.
§ 3583(k). The Sentencing Guidelines provide a
recommended term of supervised release of five years for the
SORNA violation. U.S.S.G. § 5D1.2(c). Lawson's main
attack on the fifteen-year term the judge imposed has two
branches: He argues that the court failed to explain its
reasons for the lengthy term and, further, that the term is
unreasonably long. Having failed to raise these objections at
the time of the sentence, Lawson has to show plain error,
meaning he must show: "(1) that an error occurred (2)
which was clear or obvious and which not only (3) affected
[his] substantial rights, but also (4) seriously impaired the
fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial
proceedings." United States v. Ruiz-Huertas,
792 F.3d 223, 226 (1st Cir. 2015) (alteration in original)
(quoting United States v. Duarte, 246 F.3d 56, 60
(1st Cir. 2001)).
an explanation for a sentence is lacking, 'a court's
reasoning can often be inferred by comparing what was argued
by the parties or contained in the [PSI] report with what the
judge did.'" Id. at 227 (alteration in
original) (quoting United States v.
Jiménez-Beltre, 440 F.3d 514, 519 (1st Cir. 2006)
(en banc)). In his sentencing memorandum, Lawson wrote that
he expected that "a supervised release term of at least
five years will be imposed, " and he also lauded
"conditions of supervised release that include mental
health evaluations and treatment under the penalty of
revocation and further incarceration" as "a
blessing in disguise since [he] may finally receive the help
he needs . . . ."
part, the government expressly requested a fifteen-year term,
citing Lawson's lengthy criminal history (noting that at
age thirty-two, Lawson had a Criminal History Category of VI)
and repeated violations of conditions of supervised release.
Lawson had been convicted of child rape of a fifteen-year-old
girl, which was procured in part by a deception as to his age
that could easily be repeated. In October 2006, Lawson, then
twenty-two, had sexual relations with and made pregnant the
fifteen-year-old girl. Lawson had assured her and her mother
that he was only seventeen. Lawson has also been convicted
several times of violent assault.
by absconding from community custody in Washington state and
failing to register under SORNA upon arriving in Puerto Rico,
Lawson has shown a regular and repeated indifference to legal
constraints. Absent continued close supervision over an
extended period there is a good chance that he will continue
to offend. The idea that Lawson did not know why he was given
a long term of supervised release is silly.
the "substantive reasonableness" of the term, the
phrase is used in no technical or esoteric sense but calls
only for a sentence that "rests on a 'plausible
sentencing rationale' and embodies a 'defensible
result.'" Ruiz-Huertas, 792 F.3d at 228
(quoting United States v. Martin, 520 F.3d 87, 96
(1st Cir. 2008)). Lawson's criminal history and inability
to learn from his mistakes made a long term almost a
necessity. The government sought fifteen years; Lawson did
not request a particular term of supervised release. The
rationale for adopting the government's suggestion was
obvious and the result easily defended.
final claim appears at the end of his brief so hesitantly
presented that it could easily have been overlooked. Lawson
says that the supervised release term may be infected by the
same error--indeed, plain error--that led this court to
overturn a supervised release term in United States v.
Medina, 779 F.3d 55 (1st Cir. 2015). There, the
Medina court remanded for further proceedings
because the district court had believed that section 2250(a)
constituted a "sex offense" for which the
guidelines recommended a supervised release term of five