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June 17, 2012

"Valuable" cooperation gets con man's sentence recommendation reduced from LWOP to 5+ years

Federal sentencing practioners know that defendants involved in very serious federal crimes, even those with very long and very serious criminal histories, can escape very long prison terms by making nice with the government and helping the feds go after others.  The latest notable example of this reality is reported in this new Chicago Tribune article, which is headlined "Prosecutors: Levine among 'most valuable' witnesses in 3 decades." Here are the details:

Prosecutors called their key witness against former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and two top advisers "one of the most valuable cooperators" in three decades of public-corruption prosecutions in a late-Friday filing arguing for a light sentence.

Stuart Levine could have faced life in prison under federal sentencing guidelines but prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence of 5 years and 7 months in exchange for Levine's cooperation. Friday's filing comes after U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve, during a hearing in April, asked for a "lengthy recitation of Levine's cooperation."...

"The government not only used information provided initially by Levine in the case against Blagojevich, it was Levine's decision to cooperate that set in motion the series of events that led directly to the government obtaining the evidence and witnesses it needed to prosecute Blagojevich," prosecutors wrote.

Friday's filing, in advance of Levine's June 28 sentencing, recognizes both Levine's cooperation and his extensive criminal history.

More background on the man getting this (justified?) sentencing break from federal prosecutors comes from this local article from a few month ago headlined "How Stuart Levine — a thief and con man — became star witness."  Here is a snippet from that article:

On a recent day in federal court, a quiet settled over the courtroom as Stuart Levine answered questions about his past. It wasn’t just the drug-binge parties and snorting 10 lines of animal tranquilizer mixed with crystal meth at the Purple Hotel that stunned the courtroom. It was an interminable list of scams that one man was able to pull off for decades.

Did he steal $6 million from one charity, keep half and never pay it back? “Yes,” he said plainly.  Levine, wearing an ill-fitting suit and glasses, was asked if he rewarded a dying friend who entrusted him with his estate by stealing $2 million from the dead man’s children.  “Yes,” he said.

He’d answer “yes” to handing out bribes to politicians, to school board members, to a postal union worker and to using his position on state boards to work kickback deals amounting to millions of dollars.  Levine even admitted that once the FBI caught him and he swore to tell the truth, he initially lied about Vrdolyak.  Was that because, even while under FBI scrutiny, he still wanted to secretly take part in a $1.5 million kickback scheme with Vrdolyak?  Levine answered predictably: “Yes.”

June 17, 2012 at 12:01 PM | Permalink

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Comments

And this congenital liar is the Government's star witness? Sounds like he's pulled one more big con.

Posted by: C.E. | Jun 17, 2012 8:49:51 PM

How can this system be defended?

Posted by: Thinkaboutit | Jun 17, 2012 10:07:35 PM

defended! hell the govt counts on the good old fashioned JAILHOUSE SNITCH! this is just another variation of it.

We are all still laughing here about the alabama bingo gambling trials. after a trial and a retrial of a dozen defendants and 100 counts between them...the ONLY ONES who got convicted were the two SUCKERS who plead out and took a deal to COOPERATE with the state. REST GOT NOT GUILTY across the board in the 2nd trial. Seems the public was as pissed and fedout about it as well all though.

Posted by: rodsmith | Jun 18, 2012 1:33:41 AM

C.E. --

Would you agree that Levine's attorney should be congratulated for living up to the highest standards of the profession for having pulled off a deal like this for his client? If you were Levine's attorney, would you not have attempted to pull off the same deal? And if the government accepted, would you regard the prosecutors as unethical or incompetent for going along with your arguments about why they should do just that?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 18, 2012 9:22:03 AM

yes, the defense knew going into this that prosecutors are either unethical or incompetent when it comes to getting any type conviction anyway so they just used that to their advantage

Posted by: grady | Jun 18, 2012 2:12:15 PM

grady --

I take it then that you believe it's proper for an attorney to profit from an opposing attorney's unethical behavior. Is that correct?

P.S. Your proposition that "prosecutors are either unethical or incompetent when it comes to getting any type conviction" is so palpably absurd that it gives you away. The majority of defense lawyers posting on this board have said at one point or another that most prosecutors they have dealt with are competent and straightforward.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 18, 2012 3:08:54 PM

'The majority of defense lawyers posting on this board have said at one point or another that most prosecutors they have dealt with are competent and straightforward.'

really, show me your data and I might take you seriously...you can also add prosecutor arrogance to that previous list too

Posted by: grady | Jun 18, 2012 11:08:54 PM

grady --

"show me your data and I might take you seriously."

I am not interested in whether you or any other anonymous hothead takes me seriously, and you can look through the posts yourself. Your statement (emphasis added) that "prosecutors are either unethical or incompetent when it comes to getting ANY type conviction" is utter nonsense. I won't ask you for "data" to back it up because it's just too silly to bother with.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 19, 2012 8:49:39 AM

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