Court upholds 30-year minimum mandatory sentence in sex-offender case

In 2008, Beverly Martin, then a U.S. District judge in Atlanta, found the mandatory sentence disproportionately severe compared to penalties for similar and more aggravated crimes. Instead of giving Kelly Brenton Farley of Texas the minimum 30 years, Martin sentenced him to 19 years and seven months. Martin was questioned about the ruling during her confirmation hearings for a seat on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where she now sits.

In a 112-page ruling Wednesday, the 11th Circuit said a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1991 that upheld a life without parole sentence for a man convicted of possessing 672 grams of cocaine "dooms" Farley's arguments. "The crime here is travel across state lines to sexually violate an underage girl," Judge Ed Carnes wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel.

Farley was caught in an undercover sting operation in which an agent posed as the mother of the 10-year-old girl in online chats. He was arrested at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport before his prearranged meeting with the fictitious mother and child. He must now be re-sentenced to no less than the 30-year minimum  mandatory term set by Congress in 2006, Carnes wrote.

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