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January 18, 2012

Should donating lots and lots of blood justify a below-guideline federal sentence?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this article discussing federal filings in the run-up to the sentencing of a local Pennsylvania politician convicted of multiple corruption charges.  Here are the details:

Federal prosecutors asked a federal judge Tuesday to reject pleas for leniency from former Lackawanna County Commissioner A.J. Munchak, who claims his years of donating blood and other charitable acts should spare him from what could be a life prison sentence.

Mr. Munchak and his fellow former majority county Commissioner Robert C. Cordaro are scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 30 for their conviction on bribery and extortion charges stemming from kickback schemes and illegal cash payments they pocketed while in office.

Mr. Munchak's lawyer, Chris Powell of Scranton, had argued Mr. Munchak deserved a break from a possible sentence of decades in prison based on his "extraordinary charitable, civil and community service" to various organizations, notably the Red Cross, and clubs over the years.

Federal prosecutors disagreed, saying Mr. Munchak "does not elaborate what, if anything, he did for those organizations." The prosecutors added, "his assertion that he has 'given a total of 236 years in services to his community, church and charitable organizations' is unsupported and incomprehensible."...

In an eight-page brief, the prosecutors also seized on Mr. Munchak's references to his "years long practice of donating blood at regular intervals."

"He notes that he has donated approximately 180 pints of blood to the American Red Cross," the prosecutors said. Years of regular blood donation is exceptional to the Red Cross, the prosecutors stated in court papers, summarizing testimony from a Red Cross representative at a court hearing.

The prosecutors described Mr. Munchak's "exceptional" Red Cross blood donations as the legal equivalent of mixing apples and oranges. "What is extraordinary to the Red Cross and what is extraordinary under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines are entirely different concepts," the prosecutors said. "... the act of donating blood is a relatively brief, non-interactive event and does not constitute a good work of such magnitude to warrant a downward departure," the prosecutors said, adding, "..the regular donation of blood is an impersonal and detached act ..."

January 18, 2012 at 09:48 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Giving blood is "impersonal and detached?" Maybe if you're giving someone else's blood, but not if it's your arm that has the needle in it.

Posted by: Jonathan Edelstein | Jan 18, 2012 2:30:27 PM

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