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August 29, 2007

Wal-Mart executive among those losing in Eighth Circuit

As detailed in this local story and this Bloomberg coverage, the Eighth Circuit's reversal yesterday of many below-guideline sentences (details here) included the sentence of a prominent white-collar offender:

Thomas M. Coughlin, the former Wal-Mart Stores executive convicted of stealing from the company, may have to go to prison after an appeals court ruling that his house-arrest sentence was too lenient.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit in St. Louis yesterday tossed out a trial judge's sentence of Coughlin, 58, to 27 months of house arrest.  Coughlin did not prove that he was too sick to go to prison, the court said. "The district court clearly erred in finding Coughlin suffers an extraordinary physical impairment and abused its discretion," the panel said in a 2 to 1 ruling.  The case was returned to the trial court for resentencing.

August 29, 2007 at 09:03 AM | Permalink

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Comments

This Circuit ruling is a disgrace and in total violatin of Rita. Yet another example of 8th Circuit judges who have never sentenced anybody substituting their own right wing judgment for the district court's well informed judgement. Another total disgrace by this henchman Circuit.

Posted by: Tim S | Aug 29, 2007 3:39:13 PM

Yet another example of 8th Circuit judges who have never sentenced anybody substituting their own right wing judgment for the district court's well informed judgement. Another total disgrace by this henchman Circuit.

Tim, dailykos.com is the site for people who want to vent their anger but have nothing to say.

If you read the opinion, you might notice that the main dispute between the majority and the dissent is whether the district court based its sentence on a Guidelines-based departure or a Booker variance. The procedures for Guidelines-based departures haven't changed much since Booker, and if the majority is correct, then the district court didn't follow them very well.

The other dispute concerns the reasonableness of the sentence. Justice Breyer's waffling opinion in that case said that a "presumption of reasonableness" for Guidelines-based sentences is ok as long as it has no teeth, but it's not strictly required. Here, the Eighth Circuit did what most courts that have such a presumption do, and asked whether the district court's reasoning was sufficient in light of the extent of the deviance from the Guidelines range. The majority thought it was not. The dissent thought it was.

If you have the district court's opinion in front of you and care to provide a rebuttal to the majority's reasoning, go right ahead. First, though, I'd suggest that you read the majority opinion.

Posted by: | Aug 29, 2007 9:14:49 PM

And you had something to say?

Posted by: Tim | Aug 30, 2007 7:56:18 AM

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