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March 29, 2011

Third Circuit finds procedurally(?!?) unreasonable two below-guideline white-collar sentences

The Third Circuit has an interesting ruling today in US v. Negroni, No. 10-1050 (3d Cir. March 29, 2011) (available here), in which two white-collar defendants have their below-guideline sentences vacated.  Here are a few snippets from the Negroni opinion that provides an incomplete summary :

The United States appeals orders of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania sentencing Appellee James Hall to fifteen months' imprisonment and Appellee Paul Negroni to five years' probation, including nine months' in-home detention.  Because the District Court committed procedural error in reaching both of those sentences, we will vacate the orders and remand for resentencing....

These consolidated cases spring from a massive fraud scheme organized and conducted by a man named Kevin Waltzer. Between the years 2000 and 2008, Waltzer fraudulently obtained more than $40 million in payments from settlement funds in three class action lawsuits...In 2007, the scheme was uncovered by the IRS, and, in cooperation with the IRS investigation, Waltzer began to provide information regarding the other individuals involved, including Hall and Negroni....

Hall's calculated ... Guidelines range called for 46 to 57 months' imprisonment.... For Negroni, the District Court calculated ... a Guidelines range of 70 to 87 months'  imprisonment.  [Hall was sentenced to fifteen months' imprisonment; Negroni got five years' probation, including nine months' in-home detention.]...

[O]ur review is frustrated because, while the District Court individually identified each § 3553(a) factor, it did not discuss some of them and, as to those it did discuss, it did not explain how they justified the frankly dramatic downward variance it gave.  The insufficiency of the explanation prevents us from judging whether the Court “gave meaningful consideration” to the relevant factors and is itself procedural error.

I have placed "(?!?)" as a suffix to the the term procedurally is the title to this post because I sense that it is the substantive outcome much more than the procedures used below that really bothers the Third Circuit in these cases.  Nevertheless, as has been the case in lots and lots of post-Booker reasonableness appeals, it seems that the circuit judges ultimately felt me comfortable declaring the outcome only procedurally unreasonable and thereby giving the district court a second opportunity to consider both the sentencing process and result once more, this time with some added wisdom from this circuit ruling.

March 29, 2011 at 04:18 PM | Permalink

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Comments

personally i think it's an illegal crock that anyone can just out of the blue change a court ordered sentence after the fact. ABSENT some kind of fraud!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 30, 2011 2:01:03 PM

Never quite sure who these appellate judges are toadying to...Congress, out of "movement-judge," Uriah Heep-style concerns about the virtues of deference...or the fraternity of prosecutors past and present. (I'll bet April's Social Security check most of the Third Circuit judges are members in good standing).

More and more the system seems to embody the overarching value of Vegas: the house always wins.

Posted by: John K | Mar 30, 2011 7:20:04 PM

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Posted by: Pandora Australia | Jun 19, 2011 11:05:36 PM

Love those pictures.But then, what's the difference between "give up" and "let go of"?

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