Federal sentence trimmed for Roanoke County man uncommon success in federal appeals with firearm conviction
By Mike Gangloff
A Roanoke County manís court cut nine years from his sentence today ó but still left him with years more than sentencing guidelines called for.
"Probably the best outcome you could have had under these circumstances," Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Bassford commented after Michael Ray Thorntonís resentencing in federal court in Roanoke.
Thornton drew an eight-year prison term. It was his third federal sentencing since his 2005 conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm and body armor.
Thornton, who has a history of violence and sex offenses that date back to the 1970s, had first received a 17-year federal sentence largely based on his designation as an armed career criminal. He twice successfully battled aspects of that designation before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, first winning a ruling that two of his prior convictions resulted from the same incident and should not be counted separately. Thornton was resentenced, but U.S. District Judge James Turk again imposed 17 years, using other offenses to justify the career criminal designation.
Then last month, the 4th Circuit decided in Thorntonís favor again, ruling that one of his prior offenses, carnal knowledge of a minor, should not be considered a violent crime in terms of the career criminal designation.
Between Thorntonís original conviction and his appeals, interpretation of federal law about the career criminal designation was shifted by a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Bassford explained.
The new sentencing guidelines calculated for todayís hearing dropped the career designation and called for up to 30 months in prison. But Turk, who's said earlier in the hearing that Thornton was a danger to the community, imposed 96 months.
Throughout his appeals, Thornton has been serving a state prison sentence that he said would end in 2014. Once that term is done, he will begin his federal time.