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September 6, 2006

Can religion make you a "vulnerable victim"?

With a hat-tip to How Appealing, I see that the Second Circuit has today issued an interesting decision addressing the intersection of religion and the federal guidelines discussion on vulnerable victims.  Here are some highlights from this part of US v. Dupre, No. 05-2223 (2d Cir. Sept. 6, 2006) (available here):

The Guidelines application notes state that a “vulnerable victim” is one “who is unusually vulnerable due to age, physical or mental condition, or who is otherwise particularly susceptible to the criminal conduct.”  U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual (“Guidelines Manual”) § 3A1.1 cmt. 2 (2005)....

While we recognize that a fraud grounded in religious themes may pose an especially effective threat, membership in religious groups cannot, standing alone, make victims “vulnerable” for purposes of the enhancement, even where a fraud involves reliance on religious themes or imagery....

We have no reason to believe that evangelical Christians as a class are “unusually susceptible” to fraud. The application notes reiterate that the vulnerable victims enhancement is improper except in cases where defendants “should have known” of their victims’ unusual vulnerability, such as “in a fraud case in which the defendant marketed an ineffective cancer cure or in a robbery in which the defendant selected a handicapped victim.” Guidelines Manual § 3A1.1 cmt. 2. In contrast, “a bank teller is not an unusually vulnerable victim simply by virtue of a teller’s position at a bank.” Id.

Absent findings by the District Court that any specific victim was especially gullible because of his religion, we cannot conclude that evangelical Christian victims were susceptible to fraudulent schemes involving religious imagery in a manner analogous to how desperate cancer patients might be susceptible to con artists selling placebos.

September 6, 2006 at 12:08 PM | Permalink

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» Second Circuit: Evangelicals Are Not "Unusally Vulnerable" from ACSBlog: The Blog of the American Constitution Society
The Second Circuit has reversed a trial court decision imposing a stricter sentence on convicted con artists because their scam targeted Evanglical Christians. The defendants used religious rhetoric in fraudlent solicitations in order to attract Evange... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 6, 2006 2:06:40 PM

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