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Eighth Circuit: Prior Convictions Not Relevant to Escape

by Christopher Zoukis

Leonard Lester Slaughter III was serving a 115-month sentence at a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility when he escaped. After pleading guilty to the escape, the District Court concluded that two prior convictions were not "relevant conduct" and thus counted them as felony convictions when calculating Slaughter's criminal history category.

Slaughter objected and made the interesting argument that his prior convictions should be considered relevant conduct, and as such, part of the instant offense. As part of the instant offense of escape, Slaughter argued, these 10-year-old convictions for possession of a controlled substance and a firearm would not be counted toward his criminal history.

The District Court rejected this argument, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court, perhaps unsurprisingly, found that while Slaughter was in prison because of a conspiracy that involved those state charges, there was "no indication that the escape was part of the conspiracy."

"The only connection between the drug conspiracy (and, by extension, the state court convictions) and the escape was that Slaughter was in custody on the drug conspiracy conviction when he escaped," reasoned the court. "While Slaughter would not have been in a position to commit the escape if not for the prior conspiracy offense, such a general 'but for' connection is insufficient to establish that the prior state court convictions were relevant conduct to the instant offense."

See: United States v. Slaughter, 812 F.3d 712 (8th Cir. 2016).


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Related legal case

United States v. Slaughter