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June 16, 2006

The high price of going to trial

Experienced defenders know that the federal sentencing system will often punish defendants harshly for exercising the right to trial rather than pleading guilty.  As detailed in this article, this reality was borne out again in this week's sentencing of a defendant who was a minor figure in the HealthSouth fraud:

A federal judge Thursday gave a minor figure in the $2.6 billion HealthSouth Corp. fraud the most severe sentence handed down in the case, sending Hannibal "Sonny" Crumpler to prison for eight years.  U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins could have given Crumpler up to 15 years in prison after he became the only person convicted by a jury of participating in the HealthSouth fraud in a trial last November....

Fifteen former executives pleaded guilty for their roles in the fraud and received sentences ranging from probation to five years in prison.... 

U.S. Attorney Alice Martin ... said she was disappointed with the sentence, believing the judge should have given Crumpler the full 15 years to help deter other white-collar crime. Hopkins acknowledged she did not consider Crumpler a major player in the HealthSouth fraud, saying she would not label him a first-, second- or third-tier conspirator.

Given the much lighter sentences received by the true "first-, second- and third-tier conspirators" who cooperated, U.S. Attorney Alice Martin would have been more candid if she had said she was disappointed with the sentence because a longer sentence help deter others from exercising their constitutional right to trial.

June 16, 2006 at 10:37 PM | Permalink

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