FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE MOTION FOR REHEARING AND
DISPOSITION THEREOF IF FILED
from the Circuit Court for Osceola County, Jon B. Morgan,
Moody, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Kaylee D. Tatman,
Assistant Attorney General, Daytona Beach, for Appellant.
S. Purdy, Public Defender, and Andrew Mich, Assistant Public
Defender, Daytona Beach, for Appellee.
State appeals downward departure sentences imposed on
Shedrick Laron Washington on multiple counts of drug
offenses, arguing that the court's stated reason,
sentence manipulation, is not supported by competent,
substantial evidence. We agree and reverse.
2017, the Kissimmee Police Department, with the assistance of
the St. Cloud Police Department, the Osceola County
Sheriff's Office Narcotic Enforcement Team, and the Drug
Enforcement Agency, conducted an undercover sting operation
in a specific area of Kissimmee near a public park. Using a
confidential informant and undercover agents, the police made
several purchases of small amounts of crack cocaine. At
different times between October 5 and December 20, 2017,
undercover agents and a confidential informant each purchased
between $20 and $40 worth of crack cocaine from Washington.
At one point, three different agents made purchases from
Washington within the same hour.
separate cases, the State charged Washington with delivery of
cocaine within 1, 000 feet of a park. In two additional
cases, the State charged Washington and a co-defendant with
delivery of cocaine within 1, 000 feet of a park and
conspiracy to deliver cocaine.
court conducted a plea and sentencing hearing on May 7,
2018. Washington stated he had no objections to
his scoresheet, which showed 151.5 months as the lowest
permissible prison sentence. Before conducting an extensive
colloquy, the court stated:
As you're aware, I had a plea conference with your lawyer
and the prosecutor earlier this morning, and based on the
facts of this case, your prior record, and the -- given the
fact that multiple subsequent -- or multiple buys were made
in basically this -- in the same situation during the course
of the undercover operation, I did indicate to [defense
counsel] that if you entered these pleas, the Court would
impose a downward departure sentence of six years state
accepting the pleas, the trial court orally pronounced that
it would impose a downward departure sentence. The court
stated that it could not find that law enforcement's
intent in this case was to manipulate Washington's
sentence. However, it found that the effect on Washington was
the same as if law enforcement had intentionally delayed
arrest and continued to make drug purchases to obtain a
higher minimum sentence. The court characterized the
circumstances as "de facto" sentence manipulation.
court adjudicated Washington guilty of all charges and, over
the State's objection, entered downward departure
sentences of six years in prison on the delivery of cocaine
convictions in each case and five years in prison on each of
the conspiracy convictions. The court specifically wrote
"sentence manipulation" on the scoresheets as an
"other reason" for the sentences imposed.
the Criminal Punishment Code, the lowest permissible sentence
calculated pursuant to the offender's scoresheet is
"the minimum sentence that may be imposed by the trial
court, absent a valid reason for departure." §
921.0024(2), Fla. Stat. (2017). Section 921.0026, Florida
Statutes (2017), lists certain mitigating circumstances that
justify departure. However, the trial court may impose a
downward departure for reasons not delineated in section
921.0026, so long as the reason given is supported by
competent, substantial evidence and not otherwise prohibited.
State v. Laroe, 821 So.2d 1199, 1201-02 (Fla. 5th
DCA 2002); State v. Barnes, 753 So.2d 605, 607 (Fla.
2d DCA 2000) (citation omitted).
that the State does not challenge whether the trial
court's stated justification for the downward
departure-sentence manipulation-is a valid legal basis for
justifying a departure sentence. Thus, the only issue
presented in this appeal is a narrow one: whether the trial