Wilkinson Stekloff Wins Groundbreaking Sentencing Appeal

Washington, D.C. – Wilkinson Stekloff associate Xiao Wang secured a significant pro bono win in the Sixth Circuit, convincing the court to vacate Manndrell Evann Lee’s 60-month sentence as substantively unreasonable.  Xiao had been appointed to represent Mr. Lee as a member of the Sixth Circuit’s Criminal Justice Act panel.  

Xiao and partner James Rosenthal argued on appeal that the district court had failed to give sufficient reasons for Mr. Lee’s above-guidelines prison term. The Sixth Circuit agreed and reversed the district court’s decision in a published opinion which established that there must be a “meaningful relationship between the offense of conviction and the defendant’s alleged likelihood of reoffending.” The court further held that there was no such meaningful relationship as to Mr. Lee and vacated his 60-month sentence. The case is now set for resentencing in December 2020.    

“We are thrilled with the court’s opinion,” said Wilkinson Stekloff associate Xiao Wang. “The decision means that our client will have an opportunity for more years as a free man, and also sets an important precedent for future defendants who seek to challenge the length and reasonableness of their sentence.”

Wilkinson Stekloff has had a string of successful pro bono wins this year.  In addition to this groundbreaking victory, the firm also secured the early release from prison of two different pro bono clients, each of whom had been incarcerated for more than 25 years. In October, the firm joined forces with two nonprofit advocacy groups to win a landmark $50 million settlement in which the Missouri Department of Corrections and its prison health care provider agreed to give inmates suffering from hepatitis C much-needed treatment.  And Wilkinson Stekloff was selected as Highly Commended in the Pro Bono Program of the Year Category at the Chambers and Partners annual Diversity and Inclusion Awards: North America 2020.

Founded in February 2016, Wilkinson Stekloff has grown to nearly 40 lawyers and has quickly established itself as the leading trial boutique firm in the country. The firm has tried over a dozen cases to verdict across the country, winning the vast majority, and has won several other pre-trial victories in bet-the-company cases.