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August 29, 2012

Oh what a higher sentence she received, when found to have pleaded to deceive

With apologies to Sir Walter Scott, but I could not help but think of his famed quote about tangled webs upon reading the Seventh Circuit's work today in US v. Grigsby, No. No. 11-2473 (7th Cir. Aug. 29, 2012) (available here). Here is how the lengthy opinion, which covers lots of notable sentencing issues thoroughly, gets started:

Over the course of seven months, Jeanette Grigsby and several coconspirators planned and executed two bank heists, stealing more than a halfmillion dollars from the bank where Grigsby worked as a teller.  After federal agents uncovered the inside jobs, Grigsby was indicted on two counts of entering a federally insured bank for the purpose of committing a felony.  See 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a).  She pleaded guilty without a plea agreement to the first count and later stipulated through counsel that she committed the second crime as well. With that, the government moved to dismiss the second count.

In her sworn statement to the court, however, Grigsby minimized her role in the offense, trying to pin most of the blame on her coconspirators.  So at sentencing the district court applied a two-level sentencing guidelines enhancement for obstruction of justice, see U.S.S.G. § 3C1.1, and a three-level enhancement to account for her supervisory role in the offense, see id. § 3B1.1(b).  The resulting guidelines range was 46 to 57 months, and the court chose a sentence of 57 months, the top of the range.  Grigsby appeals, arguing that the court erroneously applied the two enhancements, and also that her sentence is procedurally defective and substantively unreasonable under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a).

We affirm.  Both enhancements were based on the court’s factual finding that Grigsby lied during her plea colloquy in an intentional effort to mislead the court by understating her role in the offense.  Although this finding was based largely on documentary evidence — the grand-jury testimony and plea agreements of two of Grigsby’s coconspirators — our review remains deferential; we will reverse only for clear error.  See 18 U.S.C. § 3742(e). The court’s factual finding that Grigsby lied about her role in the offense because she did in fact supervise the scheme is well-supported by the evidence and specific enough to withstand clear-error review.  The court also sufficiently considered the § 3553(a) sentencing factors and was not required to specifically address Grigsby’s routine arguments for a below-guidelines sentence.  Finally, Grigsby’s within-guidelines sentence — 57 months for an inside bank-robbery scheme that caused a significant loss — is not unreasonable.

Especially because two of the defendant's co-conspirators received sentences of 18 months or lower in this case, it would appear that the defendant's foolish decision to lie during her plea colloquy about her role in the offense might well have resulted in her serving at least two or three extra years in federal prison.  That is certainly what I would call a costly lie.

August 29, 2012 at 03:57 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Headline One: Court finds the defendant "lied during her plea colloquy in an intentional effort to mislead the court by understating her role in the offense."

Headline Two: Sun Rises In East.

Lying defendants are the stuff of which the system is made.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 29, 2012 4:38:55 PM

I find this as offensive as when prosecutors lie to a judge about a cooperating witness's role in an offense or the importance of cooperation in order to get a defendant a lower sentence. Wish that it were only defendants that lied in court.

Posted by: Thinkaboutit | Aug 29, 2012 7:16:13 PM

How about 'no-fault' crimes? Everyone gets punished the same? No pleas, no reductions, no benifits, no gift, awards, prizes.......just equa; justice.....hum?

Posted by: mary | Aug 29, 2012 8:52:49 PM

I find it amazing that for a half-million dollar theft that less than 5 years was the longest sentence handed down, regardless of the means used to carry out that theft.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Aug 29, 2012 11:32:44 PM

She is not the first defendant to kick the Tar Baby then regret the kick .

Posted by: Anon. 2.71828 | Aug 30, 2012 5:14:14 AM

Soronel --

"I find it amazing that for a half-million dollar theft that less than 5 years was the longest sentence handed down, regardless of the means used to carry out that theft."

Be thankful she got anything. There is a large contingent on this board which believes she's properly characterized as a "non-violent first offender" and therefore should not be added to "incarceration nation." Therapy, dontcha know, will do.

This is what happens when respect for property rights gets tossed overboard.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 30, 2012 8:49:21 AM

Soronel, does it trouble you that prosecutors gave two cooperating witnesses less than 18 months for the same crime?

Posted by: Thinkaboutit | Aug 30, 2012 10:19:48 AM

Thinkaboutit ,

Certainly.

This crime is more than sufficient in my book to have earned everyone mentioned so far a date with an executioner. Seeing as how the courts won't allow that I would have much preferred that the prosecutors spent a little time working up proof on some more of the charges.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Aug 30, 2012 11:44:56 AM

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