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United States v. Young

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

June 26, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
CLIFFORD J. YOUNG, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming (D.C. No. 1:17-CR-00051-SWS-1)

          Josh Lee, Assistant Federal Public Defender (Virginia L. Grady, Federal Public Defender, with him on the briefs), Denver, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellant.

          Jason M. Conder, Assistant United States Attorney (Mark A. Klaassen, United States Attorney, with him on the brief), Lander, Wyoming, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

          Before BRISCOE, KELLY, and BACHARACH, Circuit Judges.

          BACHARACH, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         This appeal involves a sentencing enhancement imposed after a federal conviction. At sentencing, the district court enhanced Mr. Clifford Young's guideline range for recklessly endangering others while fleeing from a law-enforcement officer. See U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 3C1.2 (two-level increase in the offense level). The issue on appeal is whether the district court's factual findings sufficed to trigger the enhancement.

         The facts are largely undisputed. Mr. Young fled from the police. During the flight, he threatened to shoot if the police took action. They took action anyway, using "spike strips" to bring Mr. Young's vehicle to an eventual stop. But Mr. Young refused to surrender, engaging in an armed standoff on the side of the highway. This conduct provided an adequate basis for the enhancement; we therefore affirm.

         I. Background

         The events unfolded when Mr. Young said that he would commit suicide in front of his ex-girlfriend and began driving toward her house. A friend alerted police officers, who tried to stop Mr. Young. He fled with the police in pursuit. Mr. Young did not speed or otherwise drive recklessly during the chase. But while driving, Mr. Young threatened to shoot the police if they took action.

         Roughly 40 minutes into the pursuit, the police deployed spike strips to puncture the tires of Mr. Young's car. The spike strips worked, and Mr. Young's car eventually stopped. But Mr. Young remained in his car for roughly 4-½ hours before surrendering.

         Mr. Young was convicted of possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). At sentencing, the district court applied an enhancement for reckless endangerment, concluding that Mr. Young's actions had recklessly created a substantial risk of death or injury to others. See U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 3C1.2. Mr. Young appeals the application of this enhancement.

         II. Standard of Review

         The parties disagree over the standard of review. The government asks us to apply the clear-error standard. See United States v. Brown, 314 F.3d 1216, 1221 (10th Cir. 2003). Mr. Young urges us to engage in de novo review.

         In his briefing and at oral argument, Mr. Young stressed that he is not challenging any of the district court's factual findings; instead, he accepts the findings of fact and argues solely that the facts are insufficient as a matter of law to warrant the enhancement. Therefore, we apply de novo review to Mr. Young's challenge. See United States v. Hamilton, 587 F.3d 1199, 1222 (10th Cir. 2009) (stating that when a defendant argues that "the facts found by ...


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