March 9, 2010
Exactly how many months qualifies as a "substantial" prison sentence?The question in the title of this post is prompted by this high-profile federal sentencing storycoming out Detroit, which carries the headline "Conyers should serve 'substantial' prison time, prosecutors say," in the Detroit News. Here are the basics:
Federal prosecutors say former Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers should receive a "substantial" prison sentence when she appears Wednesday before a federal judge in Detroit.
In a sentencing memorandum unsealed today, federal prosecutors don't specify how much prison time they think Conyers should get. But they say her sentencing guidelines would be in the range of 46-57 months if she was held accountable not just for the bribes she admitted taking in connection with a city sewage sludge contract, but for $69,500 in payments she and her former chief of staff, Sam Riddle, received from various business people with matters before the Detroit City Council or the city pension fund.
Sentencing guidelines are advisory only. U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn is to sentence Conyers.... Conyers pleaded guilty last June to taking at least $6,000 in bribes in connection with the $1.2 billion contract the Detroit City Council awarded to Synagro Technologies Inc. of Texas in 2007, with Conyers casting the deciding vote.
Conyers' attorney, Steve Fishman, has said he will argue Conyers should not go to prison.
By my subjective sentencing compass, I consider roughly 12 to 18 month as the over/under on what constitutes a "substantial" prison sentence in this context. By being forced to spend more than a year in prison, an offender is going to be behind bars for at least one of ALL the holidays and birthdays and seasons and sporting events and other personal and external markers that most of us use to frame and define our life experiences.
But I suspect that in this case and in many others involving white-collar offenders, prosecutors and perhaps others would view any sentence readily measure in months rather than in years to be insubstantial. And, in this case, it will be Judge Cohn's sentencing compass who ultimately determines just how many major life event Monica Conyers gets to experience while incarcerated.
March 9, 2010 at 11:01 AM | Permalink
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Did she pay tax on that income?
Posted by: federalist | Mar 9, 2010 12:50:54 PM
What constitutes "substantial"? Let's see, perhaps 18 months is a substantial sentence for a city councilmember and congressman's wife accepting bribes, but in Texas possessing 4.6 ounces of pot for sale can get you 35 years. As sentences for nonviolent offenses go, I'd say the public corruption poses the greater societal harm, but the sentence for the pot conviction is 23+ times higher.
I know you can't compare state sentences to federal, jury sentencing to guidelines, etc., but in the big picture there's really no rhyme or reason to sentencing outcomes because there's so much discretion at different points in the system. When you pay attention over time - on this blog or to the news in general - they seem to be all over the map.
Federalist, speaking of taxing bribe money and discretion, we had a recent corruption case in TX where the D pled ONLY to not paying taxes on the bribes, not the bribes themselves, on which they've got her dead to rights. Her sentencing is forthcoming.
Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Mar 9, 2010 1:53:21 PM
you just GOTTA love it! another nazi DA trying to use things she's not been found guilty of in a sentence hearing....from this statment i dont' think she was EVEN CHARGED of course it's pretty hard to charge her with SOMEONE else's crimes! but i'm sure if it's possible the US will figure out how!
"But they say her sentencing guidelines would be in the range of 46-57 months if she was held accountable not just for the bribes she admitted taking in connection with a city sewage sludge contract, but for $69,500 in payments she and her former chief of staff, Sam Riddle, received from various business people with matters before the Detroit City Council or the city pension fund."
Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 9, 2010 3:05:04 PM
The sentence was 37 months, which is about what I expected. The government asked for something in the 47-57 month range.
Posted by: Greg Jones | Mar 10, 2010 4:39:32 PM