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February 19, 2009

The latest news is the saga of "Sex, Lies and Variances"

I reported in this post yesterday on the fascinating federal sentencing case that could provide the basis for screenplay titled "Sex, Lies and Variances."  The latest news in the case comes from this Boston Globe article:

Federal prosecutors today defended their controversial recommendation that a suspected prostitute receive only six months in jail for allegedly extorting $280,000 from a prominent businessman, saying a longer sentence might prompt her to go to trial, which the businessman wanted to avoid to keep his identity secret.

"Here, the victim's interest in avoiding a trial in which his identity would in all likelihood be revealed is a factor which the government has weighed heavily in calculating its recommended sentence," Assistant US Attorney James P. Dowden said in a 13-page filing.... Keeping the businessman's name a secret, he added, would encourage victims of similar blackmail threats to come forward "even in circumstances where the extortion victim himself has engaged in inappropriate (and even illegal) behavior."

Dowden filed the explanation today in response to an order by US Chief District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf, who wanted to know why prosecutors and the lawyer for Michelle Robinson were recommending a sentence that would likely result in her immediate release.... Federal sentencing guidelines ordinarily would recommend that Robinson, who intends to plead guilty Friday to wire fraud and threats in interstate communication, serve 33 to 41 months in prison, Wolf wrote.

UPDATE:  As detailed in this follow-up article,

US District Court Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf accepted [the] controversial plea agreement yesterday that will give Michelle Robinson, 29, much less time behind bars than the approximately two to three years that federal sentencing guidelines recommend and forbids her from revealing the identity of the man she extorted with threats of public disclosure....

Wolf, a former high-ranking federal prosecutor, sided with prosecutors who have taken pains to keep the man's identity a secret even though the businessman repeatedly committed a crime by paying Robinson for sex from about January 2007 to June 2008.  "While that businessperson created his own vulnerability, he is nevertheless a victim," said Wolf. He said the man deserves the protections of the Crime Victims' Rights Act of 2004, which says victims have the right "to be treated with fairness and respect for [their] dignity and privacy."

February 19, 2009 at 10:01 PM | Permalink

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Comments

"Keeping the businessman's name a secret, he added, would encourage victims of similar blackmail threats to come forward "even in circumstances where the extortion victim himself has engaged in inappropriate (and even illegal) behavior."

This is true but it has to be balanced with the public policy goal of reducing prostitution. The public humiliation that johns go through when their name is exposed does serve as a deterrent to future conduct. This is especially so with high profile clients who have much to lose from such exposure.

I am not saying that prostitution is as bad as blackmailing, that's a debatable point, but certainly the prosecution is not being honest in it's deliberations; the case for protecting the defendant is not as clear cut as they are trying to make it seem. I can understand why protecting the john's identity would be weighed. I have trouble grasping why it would be weighed "heavily"; that's the aspect of the prosecution's conduct that bothers me.

Posted by: Daniel | Feb 20, 2009 12:32:42 AM

It's about class, opportunity, and connections. Michelle Robinson is a Black single mother, product of the Foster Care system. He is a wealthy high-powered well-connected philanthropist. Name him and shame him. Certainly, extortion should not be rewarded; however, he is a guilty party, too. I find it interesting that he is not be charged with solicitation. She's been outed --- now, it's his turn to experience the consequences of his actions. I am sure his wife is unaware of her husband's extracurricular activities. I am not involved in the legal system --- just someone interested in the outcome of this case --- more specifically his identity.

Posted by: Ebony Inspired | May 1, 2010 8:36:09 PM

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