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October 9, 2009

Two notable (little?) Seventh Circuit sentencing opinions

The Seventh Circuit today handed down two published sentencing opinions today, both of which seem to deal with relatively little issues but seem notable nonetheless. Here are the basics from the start of each opinion's first paragraph:

US v. Poetz, No. 09-2359 (7th Cir. Oct. 9, 2009) (available here):

Suzanne Poetz pleaded guilty to theft of government property in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 641. Her advisory sentencing guidelines range was 24 to 30 months, and the district court sentenced her to imprisonment of a year and a day. Poetz argues on appeal that her sentence is unreasonable because the judge did not adequately consider her medical problems or the impact of incarceration on her family, which in her view warranted a sentence of home confinement.

US v. Anderson, No. 09-1958 (7th Cir. Oct. 9, 2009) (available here):

Only one thing links the three cases that we have consolidated for argument and disposition here: the question whether the district court correctly understood our decision in United States v. Head, 552 F.3d 640 (2009), as precluding its authority to impose, as a condition of supervised release, placement in a halfway house.  Ronald Maceri, Kevin Anderson, and Rick Harre each violated the conditions of his supervised release, and each asked that he be given a shorter term of re-imprisonment to be followed by placement in a halfway house as one condition of his new supervised release.  Understanding Head to preclude that disposition, the district court instead imposed a new term of imprisonment with a recommendation to the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) that it place each man in a halfway house during the last six months of his sentence.  All three now argue that this violated 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), because it resulted in a term of imprisonment longer than necessary.  We must decide whether Head requires this result.

For Friday fun, folks can try to guess the results.  Or just click through to the opinion if the only games of great interest to you today, as is the case for me, are the pair of ALDS games taking place in a few hours.

October 9, 2009 at 01:23 PM | Permalink


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I haven't looked yet but am going to say the first was upheld and the second reversed. A sentencing judge not understanding the bounds of their discretion seems like a fine issue for reconsideration.

Now to go download and see if I was right.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Oct 9, 2009 1:33:45 PM

I do find it amazing how fast the opinion turn around was for the second panel. Less than a week to come up with a ruling at odds with a previous panel. And then months to circulate it to see if anyone else objected.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Oct 9, 2009 9:52:03 PM

If Poetz is too disabled to be in prison, where one just hangs out, how can she be capable of caring for and supervising three sick relatives? There is a possibility the cost of her medical care in prison for the full sentence may exceed the $319,000 she stole from the government.

She should be caned monthly if she misses an agreed to monthly repayment of the amount she stole. Prison is wasteful.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 10, 2009 6:58:30 AM

That's what's wonderful about living in America in the 21st Century. There's virtually no problem or issue that can't be easily resolved with a long stretch in prison.

And of course money is no object.

Still, I can't help but wonder what sentence the judge might have imposed on Poetz if the geniuses who devised the sentencing guidelines had found more productive ways to amuse and enrich themselves in the Reagan era.

Interesting, too, that prosecutors managed to make Poetz' gambling debts a centerpiece of the case against her... but apparently had little to say about her support of a husband with a bad back and heart, a diabetic father and a "mentally disabled" brother.

Sometimes it's instructive to look beyond the hyperbolic tales, cast in incendiary language, prosecutors sometimes tell in order to put defendants in the worst possible light.

Some cases simply yearn for good old-time judicial discretion beyond the narrow confines of the guidelines. The Poetz case might well be one of them.

Posted by: John K | Oct 10, 2009 5:29:00 PM

John K,

And that use of the money might well count against her rather than help. Here she had access to a large chunk of money yet was not using it help those who depended on her.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Oct 10, 2009 7:23:02 PM

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