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March 5, 2007

A weighty Booker resentencing

Though the details presented by this New York Daily News article are sketchy, it appears that a federal judge in New York has relied in part on a defendant's weight loss to impose a lower term in a Booker resentencing.  Here's part of the report: 

A controversial jurist whose mouth keeps getting him into trouble granted an early release to a Mafia enforcer last week after noting the wiseguy lost weight in prison and didn't look so scary anymore, the Daily News has learned....

[Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Frederic] Block handed a get-out-of-jail-free card to Gambino crime associate Richard Bondi, aka The Lump, a once-massive mobster who weighed 300 pounds.  But when Bondi came before Block for resentencing after a long prison stint, he looked like a new man. "He's lost a lot of weight," Block observed.  "He's a lot less of a big guy than he was before," agreed defense lawyer Richard Medina.

Bondi, 47, credited the new look to playing handball in prison, where he had been serving a 57-month term for extortion -- a jail term dictated at the time by federal sentencing guidelines.  After a U.S. Supreme Court ruling restored sentencing discretion to federal judges, Bondi asked for a review. 

At the 2003 racketeering trial of former crime boss Peter Gotti, prosecutors argued that Bondi's bulk was deployed to frighten a union official, a restaurant owner and even tough-guy actor Steven Seagal.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Katya Jestin argued that Bondi should get the same sentence he did before.

But the judge had a different viewpoint. "I remember running into him in the elevator once . . . and he scared me," Block said. "Looking at him now, he may be out of a job in the future. I don't think he would scare anybody now. It's his bulk and size that was really the essence of his role."  Block ... decided to set Bondi free in two weeks, canceling the remaining 18 months.

If this account of the resentencing is accurate, I might expect the government to appeal this ruling.  Is Judge Block's reduction based on Bondi's reduction reasonable?

March 5, 2007 at 06:49 AM | Permalink

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Comments

And you wonder why Congress has problems with unlimited judicial discretion! This is
ludicrous. Losing weight in prison as a mitigating factor is something I don't think the SRA intended.

Posted by: Kelly Nance | Mar 5, 2007 6:57:28 AM

The problem seems to be that Judge Block's "phrasing" of his rationale will get him reversed (if the government appeals, which I assume it will). Had Judge Block viewed the weight loss as an indicator that the defendant had generally reformed and/or that the weight loss clearly reduced the risk of recidivism, then I think this case gets looked at in a different light.

Posted by: Aaron Katz | Mar 5, 2007 10:55:09 AM

Well, if the judge's comments mean that he gave Bondi a long sentence in the past just because Bondi looked big and scary, then maybe this is just a weird way of correcting a mistake.

I tend to agree with Kelly Nance, but maybe this is a case of present stupidity cancelling out past stupidity.

Posted by: | Mar 5, 2007 12:11:19 PM

Newspapers love to sensationalize, and only the transcript could convince me this is all there was.

Posted by: George | Mar 5, 2007 2:32:46 PM

A Clinton judge, why am I not surprised . . . .

Posted by: | Mar 6, 2007 12:30:35 PM

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