Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lots of notable sentencing talk in big Eleventh Circuit opinion affirming big mortage fraud convictions

As detailed in this Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, an Eleventh Circuit panel yesterday "upheld the convictions and 28-year prison sentence against Atlanta real estate developer Phillip Hill, who prosecutors said oversaw a massive mortgage fraud scheme."  The panel "also upheld all the convictions and sentences against eight of Hill's associates -- brokers, lawyers and recruiters."

The 163-page opinion in US v. Hill, No. 07-14602 (11th Cir. June 14, 2011) (available here), has lots of discussion of lots of sentencing issues.  Among many interesting passages, these passages referencing carrots and sticks caught my eye:

Van Mersbergen contends that he was, arguing that he was deprived of due process because the district court threatened to punish the defendants at sentencing if they refused to agree to reasonable stipulations in order to expedite the trial proceedings.... If one considers a criminal defendant’s failure to stipulate to be the exercise of a constitutional right, it would seem that increasing a defendant’s sentence because of his failure to stipulate crosses the line.  But some of the lines in this area are blurry....

In Roberts the Supreme Court held that a court could lengthen a defendant’s term of imprisonment by imposing consecutive instead of concurrent sentences because he had refused to cooperate in the investigation of another crime in which he was a confessed participant....  That those who fail to cooperate receive longer sentences than those who are equally culpable but do cooperate is an inevitable product of encouraging cooperation.

That principle is written throughout our criminal law.  For example, the Supreme Court has held that it is entirely permissible for prosecutors to threaten a defendant with a harsher charge carrying a much longer sentence in order to pressure him into pleading guilty, and then carry through with the threat when the defendant has the temerity to insist on his constitutional right to trial....

A distinction might be drawn between the carrot and the stick, between rewarding a defendant for giving up rights to which he is entitled on one hand, and punishing him for refusing to give up those rights on the other.  The argument against that distinction is that the result for the defendant is the same.  If a defendant receives a sentence of 100 months because he went to trial while his equally culpable co-defendant gets 50 months because he cooperated by pleading guilty, is a stick being administered to the defendant or a carrot being given to the co-defendant?

Whatever may be said about the use of sticks, the law seems to be clear that he who receives a break has gotten a carrot, and there is nothing wrong with doling them out.  And that is enough to decide this case.  At trial, the district court sometimes expressed its sentiment regarding stipulations by indicating that cooperation would result in a lower sentence, and at other times by indicating that failure to cooperate would result in a higher one.  At sentencing, however, there were only carrots — cooperation was rewarded all around.

June 15, 2011 in Offense Characteristics, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, White-collar sentencing, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, June 06, 2011

Notable skepticism about making a federal criminal case against John Edwards

A piece appearing here at Am Law Daily under the headlined "On Edwards Indictment, Am Law 200 Ranks Include Plenty of Skeptics" could well serve as exhibit A if and when John Edwards moves to dismiss the federal felony indictment under which he is now charged.  Here are highlights:

[U]nsolicited statements e-mailed to The Am Law Daily Friday by partners at several leading firms were uniformly skeptical of the six-count indictment against Edwards, who, before entering politics, made a small fortune as a plaintiffs lawyer.

Artur Davis, a former Democratic congressman and candidate for governor of Alabama, focused his statement on the Justice Department's decision to hand off the Edwards case to federal prosecutors in North Carolina.  "It's telling that the local U.S. attorney's office in Raleigh issued the indictment," says Davis, now a partner at SNR Denton's white-collar and government investigations practice in Washington, D.C. 

"While [Main] Justice has to sign off on the case, it is very unusual that any direct action [against] such a prominent individual like Edwards be left in the hands of a satellite office far from Washington."...  "The case at its core is a dispute over whether certain funds were a legitimate campaign contribution, a gift, or an independent expenditure," Davis said. "It is extremely rare that these disputes produce a criminal investigation, much less an indictment."

DLA Piper's Peter Zeidenberg believes that the government's case could chart new legal territory because campaign finance violations usually result in civil fines levied by the Federal Election Commission rather than criminal charges. Aggressively prosecuting Edwards over the alleged use of campaign donations to conceal an affair could set a dangerous precedent, he added. "It is a very slippery slope if gifts, which do not directly benefit a campaign, are deemed to violate the law simply because they have some indirect benefit," Zeidenberg said.  "In addition, while Edwards is hardly a popular politician right now, this case has very little jury appeal. It is hard to identify what the public harm is in this conduct. This may well be viewed by a potential jury as piling on, and simply kicking a guy when he is down."

Barry Pollack of Washington's Miller & Chevalier believes that just because prosecutors can target an individual as widely vilified publicly as Edwards has been for his personal conduct doesn't mean that they should do so.  "Federal criminal laws are expansive enough that a clever prosecutor can recast almost any bad behavior into a federal crime," Pollack said. "Being a jerk should make you a jerk, not a federal felon."

Glen Donath, a white-collar and government enforcement partner with Katten Muchin Rosenman in Washington, also expressed displeasure over the Edwards indictment. "It is both surprising and distressing that the government has brought these charges, considering the novel theory underlying its case," Donath said.  "Campaign finance violations are very difficult to prosecute given both the complex and subjective nature of the elements of the offenses."

In addition to confirming my first impression of the Edwards indictment, these comments have me hungering even more for the possibility that Edwards might try to use his skills as an advocate and lawyer to turn the tables on the feds here and put their prosecutorial charging and bargaining choices on trial in the weeks and months ahead. 

The enormous discretionary powers of federal prosecutors and the often questionable forces that can drive the execise of these powers never get as much scrutiny as they justify.  Especially in a case like this where it is hard to fully understand the national importance of spending considerable federal resources to try to turn a jerk like Edwards into a federal felon, I am hoping not only that federal prosecutorial charging and bargaining choices get put under the microscope, but also that we might learn some broader lessons about the possibilities and problems created by broad a novel application of federal criminal law.

Some recent posts on the Edwards indictment:

June 6, 2011 in Celebrity sentencings, White-collar sentencing, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rubashkin appeal raising more questions about high-profile federal fraud case

Regul;ar readers likely recall some aspects of the high-profile federal case, detailed in this prior post, in which last summer a federal district court in Iowa decided to give Sholom Rubashkin a 27-year federal prison sentence for his leadership in a financial fraud involving his kosher meat-packing plant.  As explained in this post, I helped put together an amicus brief on sentencing issues as the case comes before the Eighth Circuit, and thus I am not a truly non-partisan observer of these proceedings.  Nevertheless, anyone interested in this case or more generally in the administration of the federal criminal justice system will want to check out this new article from the Des Moines Register headlined "New questions surface about impartiality of federal judge." Here are excerpts:

The court schedule of a federal judge who faces allegations of bias in the financial fraud trial of Sholom Rubashkin has raised fresh questions about judicial impartiality.  Defense attorneys argue that Rubashkin, who is serving a 27-year sentence, deserves a new trial because U.S. District Chief Judge Linda Reade failed to disclose all of the meetings she held with prosecutors before a 2008 immigration raid on Agriprocessors, a kosher meatpacking plant in northeast Iowa where Rubashkin served as an executive.

Oral arguments are scheduled for the afternoon of June 15 at the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.  That morning, Reade -- a judge in the Northern District of Iowa temporarily filling in on the appeals court -- will hear cases with two of the three judges who will later listen to arguments in Rubashkin's appeal.  Reade is also scheduled to sit with the same judges a day earlier.

The scheduling is unfortunate because the subject of the appeal is judicial impartiality, said Steven Lubet, a law professor at Northwestern University.  However, he said he doesn't expect it to disqualify any of the judges from hearing the case. "I would call it awkward, but I don't think there's anything more to say about it," he said....

Many also questioned the 27-year sentence she handed down, two years more than the prosecution requested.  Before sentencing, six former U.S. attorneys general signed a letter expressing their concern about the sentence sought by prosecutors.  The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, the Washington Legal Foundation in Washington, D.C., and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers filed legal briefs in support of Rubashkin's appeal.

Forty-five members of Congress have written to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to ask questions about the handling of the case.  Last month, three members of the House of Representatives asked Holder about the case when he testified before the judiciary committee.

Reade had previously acknowledged that she worked with the prosecution on logistics before the raid to ensure attorneys and interpreters would be available for the 389 workers arrested on immigration charges, but offered no further details.  The defense argued Reade failed to disclose that she began meeting with law enforcement officials more than six months before the raid, and that she discussed topics far beyond "logistical cooperation."...

Lubet, the law professor, said he can't imagine why Reade decided to sit on the trial.  By doing so, she became a judge who made a point of assisting the prosecution in at least the initial stages of the case, he said.  "Why not have a judge who had nothing to do with the prosecution, instead of one who had devoted significant time and energy into facilitating it?" he said.

Related prior posts on the Rubashkin case:

May 31, 2011 in Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Offense Characteristics, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, White-collar sentencing, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Third Circuit to hear feds' complaints about 55-month sentence for corrupt state politician

As effectively reported in this new piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer, which is headlined "Prosecutors to argue for longer Fumo jail term," the Third Circuit hears argument today in a high-profile sentencing appeal by prosecutors.  Here are the essentials:

Federal prosecutors will appear before a three-judge panel Wednesday to argue that former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo, nearly midway through a 55-month sentence for corruption, should be resentenced to a longer term.  Once one of the most influential politicians in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Fumo was convicted in 2009 on 137 counts of corruption and fraud. Prosecutors want a sentence that meets federal guidelines, which call for a much longer term of 21 to 27 years....

Fumo was sentenced after the jury found that he had turned his Senate staff into personal servants and political minions, doing errands for him on state time.  The jury also found that he had defrauded a pair of nonprofit organizations.  After Fumo realized the FBI was on the trail, he tried to obstruct the probe. The wrongdoings cost taxpayers and the nonprofit groups more than $2 million.

At sentencing, U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter said the 55-month term was justified by Fumo's public service, 259 letters asking for leniency and extolling Fumo's work, and the nature of Fumo's offenses.

"It's not murder. It's not robbery. It's not even assault," Buckwalter said of Fumo's wrongdoings.  "It's nothing violent.  It's not the selling of a political office," Buckwalter said at Fumo's sentencing hearing.

His decision produced an outcry, and federal prosecutors are hoping the Third Circuit will send the case back for resentencing.  Meanwhile, Fumo is asking for a new trial. The three-judge panel will decide both issues.  "It is likely impossible to identify a defendant in recent years who stole over $2 million, abused a position of public trust, and obstructed justice in the process who received a sentence anything like Fumo's," Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Zauzmer wrote in the government's appeal....

In their court filings, the defense attorneys argue that there were "no significant" errors in Buckwalter's sentencing and that the cost to taxpayers of Fumo's fraud was just below $2.5 million.  A greater financial loss, as prosecutors insist occurred, would have likely meant a longer sentence.

Related posts concerning Fumo sentencing and appeal:

UPDATE:  As detailed in this Philadelphia Inquirer piece, it appears that at least two judges on the Third Circuit panel indicatyed at oral argument that "the sentencing of the disgraced politician in 2009 was rife with serious procedural errors."

May 25, 2011 in Booker in the Circuits, Offender Characteristics, Offense Characteristics, Sentences Reconsidered, White-collar sentencing | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Brother of Raj Rajaratnam asks friends to write letters to judge urging leniency

As detailed in this interesting article, which is headlined "Raj's Brother Tells Friends How They Can Influence Raj's Sentencing With A Letter To The Judge," Rengan Rajaratnam "has sent a long letter to friends asking them to write to Judge Holwell to help make sure his brother Raj gets a more lenient sentence."  Here are excerptsfrom the now-public letter:

As we prepare for the appeals process, we need your help and I am I only sending this letter to a handful of people.  The sentencing phase is coming up relatively quickly and the federal guidelines are calling for 15 to 19 years in jail.  The guidelines are harder and less flexible than many prison sentences for violent and predatory offenders.  This is simply unfair, and we are praying for leniency from the judge while we prepare for the appeal.

In the meantime, on behalf of Raj and the family, I would like to enlist your support one last time.  Positive character letters from family, friends, and colleagues that know Raj well can play a pivotal role in helping persuade the Hon.  Judge Holwell to be fair, and lenient during Raj’s sentencing.

If you can find it in your hearts to write a personal letter to Judge Holwell describing your relationship with Raj; when and how you met; as well as illustrate some of the positive experiences you’ve had with him, it would be of immense service to Raj and our family. The longer you can state you have known Raj, clearly the better.

The goal is to appeal to Judge Howell, by informing him that Raj is a loving human being with deep friendships and ties to the community.  That Raj is a person of good character, a positive member of society who is deserving of the court’s leniency.  As many of you may be aware, Raj has donated significant amounts of money to charity in excess of $30 MM in the last 5 years alone.  If you need specifics, please call me.

It is important that the letter come from you, and paints Raj in a positive light. Since time is of the essence, it would be great if you could send the letters to me before the end of the week or the early part of next week.

The format of the actual letter is important, and there are several examples on the web. I have included one link that I found helpful on some guidelines on how to properly write a character reference: http://www.ehow.com/how_4683439_write-letter-judge-before-sentencing.html

I am interested to hear from experienced federal practitioners concerning whether they believe in this case (or others) that "character letters from family, friends, and colleagues ... can play a pivotal role" in post-Booker sentencing decision-making.

May 24, 2011 in Offender Characteristics, Offense Characteristics, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, White-collar sentencing, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"Enron exec Andy Fastow nears prison release"

The title of this post is the headline of this new CNN piece.  Here are snippets:

Former Enron executive Andrew Fastow has been transferred from prison to a halfway house, the last stage of incarceration before his scheduled release later this year, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons.

Fastow, who was chief financial officer at the now-defunct energy company, was moved on Monday to a facility in Houston, according to the bureau. Moving into a halfway house is a typical move for most prisoners during the last portion of their sentence. "It's a bridge, if you will, a transition period," said bureau spokesman Edmond Ross.

The purpose of the halfway house is for prisoners to reestablish family ties and adjust to society outside of prison, he said. Prisoners are allowed to leave the facility to go to their jobs, but their movements are still controlled. "They cannot come and go as they please," said Ross. "Their lives are restricted to the rules of the halfway house."...

Fastow pleaded guilty in 2004 to two counts of wire and securities fraud for his role in the accounting scandal that brought down Enron.... Fastow provided information on Enron's sketchy financial shenanigans, including the names of bankers who he considered complicit, to lawyers representing Enron shareholders.

May 19, 2011 in Enron sentencing, White-collar sentencing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, May 12, 2011

What insider trading sentence for Raj Rajaratnam would avoid "unwarranted" disparity?

I had not been following closely the trial of Raj Rajaratnam, but the conviction of the founder of the Galleon Group on all counts of insider trading (basics reported here) now turns the case into a interesting federal sentencing story.  And this new Reuters piece, headlined "Factbox: Prison sentences in insider trading cases," prompts the question in the title of this post.  Here are the facts reported by Reuters:

The Galleon Group founder could face up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced in July, although prosecutors said on Wednesday that [Raj Rajaratnam] could get 15-1/2 to 19-1/2 years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.  Following is a list of punishments meted out to defendants in other high-profile insider trading cases:

IVAN BOESKY -- Boesky, the famed Wall Street stock speculator of the 1980s, was sentenced to three years in prison in 1987 after pleading guilty to a criminal charge related to insider trading.  Boesky, who faced a maximum penalty of five years, cooperated with prosecutors in their probe of trading firms that resulted in charges against more than a dozen people.

MARK KURLAND, ROBERT MOFFAT AND ALI HARIRI -- All three pleaded guilty in the sweeping Galleon probe. Kurland, a former senior managing director at New Castle Funds LLC, was sentenced in May 2010 to two years and three months in prison. Kurland admitted to trading on information he got from Danielle Chiesi, also a former New Castle employee who became a central figure in the Galleon investigation.  Chiesi has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.  Moffat, a former International Business Machines Corp executive, was sentenced to six months in prison for tipping Chiesi about an impending IBM deal with Advanced Micro Devices Inc.  Hariri, a former executive at chipmaker Atheros Communications Inc. received an 18-month sentence in November for tipping a former Galleon employee.

SAM WAKSAL -- The founder of biotechnology company ImClone Systems Inc. was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to insider trading in 2002.  The scandal also ensnared Waksal's father as well as lifestyle entrepreneur Martha Stewart, who was convicted of lying to federal agents about her sale of ImClone stock.  She served five months in prison.

JOSEPH NACCHIO -- Nacchio, the former CEO of Qwest Communications, was sentenced to six years in prison, later reduced by two months, after he was convicted in a 2007 trial of 19 counts of insider trading in selling $52 million in Qwest stock.  A judge also ordered Nacchio to forfeit $44.6 million and pay a $19 million fine.

JOSEPH CONTORINIS -- Contorinis, a former hedge fund manager, received a 6-year sentence in December for his role in providing tips on impending mergers, such as the 2006 buyout of the supermarket chain Albertsons Inc.

HAFIZ NASEEM -- A judge sentenced Naseem, a former Credit Suisse Group investment banker, to 10 years in prison after he was found guilty in February 2008 of participating in a $7.5 million scheme to leak inside information about pending corporate deals.

RANDI AND CHRISTOPHER COLLOTTA -- Randi Collotta, a former Morgan Stanley lawyer, received a sentence of 60 days in prison on nights and weekends for passing along tips to her husband about impending merger deals.  Her husband, Christopher, got a sentence of 6 months' home confinement.

So, based on this (incomplete) list, it appears that nobody has received more than a decade for insider trading and that sentences of six year or much less are more common for this crime.  Does this entail that the sentencing judges in Raj Rajaratnam's case ought to feel a special statutory obligation to impose a below-guideline sentence based on Congress's instruction in 18 USC 3553(a)(6) to consider at sentencing "the need to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct"?

May 12, 2011 in Booker in district courts, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Offense Characteristics, White-collar sentencing | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"Prosecutors in the Boardroom: Using Criminal Law to Regulate Corporate Conduct"

9780814787038_Full The title of this post is the title of this new book edited By Anthony Barkow and Rachel Barkow, which has just been released by NYU Press. Here is a summary of the book's coverage from the NYU Press website:

Who should police corporate misconduct and how should it be policed?  In recent years, the Department of Justice has resolved investigations of dozens of Fortune 500 companies via deferred prosecution agreements and non-prosecution agreements, where, instead of facing criminal charges, these companies become regulated by outside agencies. Increasingly, the threat of prosecution and such prosecution agreements is being used to regulate corporate behavior.  This practice has been sharply criticized on numerous fronts: agreements are too lenient, there is too little oversight of these agreements, and, perhaps most important, the criminal prosecutors doing the regulating aren’t subject to the same checks and balances that civil regulatory agencies are.

Prosecutors in the Boardroom explores the questions raised by this practice by compiling the insights of the leading lights in the field, including criminal law professors who specialize in the field of corporate criminal liability and criminal law, a top economist at the SEC who studies corporate wrongdoing, and a leading expert on the use of monitors in criminal law.  The essays in this volume move beyond criticisms of the practice to closely examine exactly how regulation by prosecutors works.  Broadly, the contributors consider who should police corporate misconduct and how it should be policed, and in conclusion offer a policy blueprint of best practices for federal and state prosecution.

Contributors: Cindy R. Alexander, Jennifer Arlen, Anthony S. Barkow, Rachel E. Barkow, Sara Sun Beale, Samuel W. Buell, Mark A. Cohen, Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, Richard A. Epstein, Brandon L. Garrett, Lisa Kern Griffin, and Vikramaditya Khanna.

May 10, 2011 in Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, White-collar sentencing, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Intermediate Louisiana court declares 60-year sentence for post-Katrina scammer excessive

A helpful reader alerted me to this interesting story from Louisiana reporting on an interesting state appellate ruling. The piece is headlined "60-year prison sentence thrown out in post-Katrina home contracting scam," and here are the basics:

A state appeals court panel on Wednesday scrapped the 60-year prison sentence that an Orleans Parish judge leveled last year on a former Alabama state legislator convicted in a home contracting scam that fleeced six families out of $247,000.

John Wesley Colvin, 64, pleaded guilty to six counts of theft for bilking the families, who were desperate to return to New Orleans two years after Hurricane Katrina. The victims testified that Colvin promised them affordable modular homes, took between $40,000 and $65,000 from each -- much of it Road Home grant money -- then failed to deliver.

Unswayed by pleas from Colvin, his friends and family -- and a letter from Alabama Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom -- citing Colvin's charity toward the poor, his remorse and his bad business sense, Orleans Parish Criminal Court Judge Darryl Derbigny on Feb. 12, 2010, handed down consecutive 10-year sentences to Colvin for each of the six counts and ordered him to pay restitution....

But on Wednesday, the panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal called the punishment unconstitutionally excessive and sent the case back to Derbigny for a lesser sentence.... In his 15-page opinion, Judge Roland L. Belsome cited those who spoke on Colvin's behalf, his attempt to return $5,000 to one victim before his arrest and his lack of a criminal record....

Yet the panel also said it didn't think a 10-year sentence for Colvin is enough, "considering the extreme economic and emotional harm suffered by the victims in this case." Colvin, who briefly served as an Alabama state representative in 1989, has remained in state prison since May 2009, said his attorney, Craig Mordock, who hailed the appeals court ruling. "It shows that for people who take responsibility for their actions, they're not going to be subject to excessive sentences, which this clearly was," Mordock said.

The opinion in Louisiana v. Colvin can be downloaded below, and here is the key concluding substantive paragraph:

Although mindful of the trial court’s discretion with regard to sentencing, we find that the sentences imposed are excessive under these particular facts and circumstances. Considering the mitigating evidence presented to the trial court, the age of Defendant, Defendant’s attempt to mitigate the loss to one of the victims before his arrest, and the fact that Defendant is non-violent and has no prior criminal record, we find that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering the six ten-year sentences to be served consecutively.  See State v. Cox, supra.  However, we do not find that a ten-year sentence is sufficient either, considering the extreme economic and emotional harm suffered by the victims in this case.  Accordingly, the matter is remanded to the trial court for resentencing.

Download LA v. Colvin

April 21, 2011 in Scope of Imprisonment, Sentences Reconsidered, White-collar sentencing, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Intriguing health-care fraud sentencing and restitution ruling from Sixth Circuit

Savvy federal criminal justice practitioners know that health-care fraud is a hot topic, and this morning brings a hot new ruling on heath-care fraud sentencing issues from the Sixth Circuit.  The ruling in US v. Jones, No. 09-3664 (6th Cir. Apr. 12, 2011) (available here), covers an array of sentencing issues and these snippets provide a taste of some of the specifics:

There is no rule that a district court must rely upon statistical analysis in a situation such as this to determine the amount of loss pursuant to section 2B1.1.  However, here, the district court relied solely upon a statistical analysis. Without a sound representative sample, that analysis was flawed.  As a result, the amount of loss calculation was clearly erroneous. We remand this case so that the correct amount of loss may be established by a preponderance of the evidence....

In the context of mail fraud convictions, we have read [the mandatory restitutiuon] statutory definition of “victim” to allow for restitution for the loss attributable to all the victims of a defendant’s scheme to defraud, even when the defendant was not indicted or convicted of fraud with respect to each victim....

es’s indictment defined his scheme as a broad, over-arching plan “to defraud and to obtain money by means of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises.” The indictment listed as components the more specific acts falling under that plan such as up-coding, billing for services not rendered to Carter and Tubbs, billing under Stewart’s Medicare Provider Number, and others.  Therefore, the grand jury defined Jones’s scheme as a general plan to defraud Medicare and Medicaid by committing many different distinct acts. The scheme included not only the acts of which he was convicted, but also the ones of which he was acquitted.

Accordingly, once the district court correctly determines the amount of loss caused by Jones on remand, it may properly order him to pay restitution for both his convicted and acquitted conduct.

April 12, 2011 in Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Offense Characteristics, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, White-collar sentencing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monica Conyers makes impossible(?) sentence modification request from prison

This local piece coming from Detroit, headlined " Monica Conyers asks to serve remainder of her sentence at home," provides an interesting example of a high-profile federal prisoner making what seems to be an impossible sentencing request.  Here are the details:

Former City Council President Monica Conyers wants out of "Camp Cupcake." The imprisoned wife of U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, has asked a federal judge to modify her 37-month prison sentence for bribery and let her serve time at home, according to a three-page handwritten letter filed today in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

In arguing for reconsideration, Conyers, 46, said a federal judge failed to consider her age, education, work skills, employment record, family ties and "likihood (sic)" she would commit another crime.  Plus, her son's babysitter is returning to school soon, Conyers wrote in the letter to U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn.

Her bid is a long shot considering Conyers has filed an appeal, which is pending before the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University and former federal prosecutor. "You can ask," Henning said. "Barring extraordinary circumstances, I doubt he would reconsider."

The request comes seven months after Conyers reported to a federal women's prison camp in Alderson, W.Va. Dubbed "Camp Cupcake," the prison camp offers plenty of perks, including washers, dryers, microwave ovens, hair dryers, curling irons and cosmetology areas where inmate-to-inmate pedicures and manicures are allowed.

In a letter, Conyers said the court could, as an alternative, sentence her to home confinement, community confinement or intermittent confinement to "correct the blatent (sic) sentencing disparities." Conyers is serving the sentence after pleading guilty to accepting at least $6,000 for her deciding vote in the 2007 Synagro Technologies Inc. sludge contract.

After her sentence, Conyers tried to withdraw her guilty plea and appealed. She complained that she pleaded guilty because she was unable to resist pressure from her lawyer, the government and the news media, according to an appeal brief....

In a letter to The Detroit News this year, Conyers complained that Camp Cupcake doesn't live up to its cushy nickname, provides no second servings of food to inmates and has few education opportunities.

Those interested in seeing Monica Conyers' letter to the judge can check it out at this link.  And, as the title to my post is meant to suggest, I am pretty sure Judge Avern Cohn lacks any legal authority to give Conyers' the relief she seeks even if he were moved by her request.

April 11, 2011 in Celebrity sentencings, Prisons and prisoners, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, White-collar sentencing | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Detroit's Granny Valjean gets probation and home confinement for Social Security fraud

Last week I asked in this post what would seem a fitting federal sentence for an elderly woman who fraudulently received nearly $120,000 in Social Security benefits over a 20-years period and used the funds to raise and support her grandkids.  Here is the news report on her actual sentencing:

In the end, the judge showed her mercy.  Mary Alice Austin, a Detroit grandmother who admitted she stole from the government because she needed money to help raise her five grandchildren, avoided a prison sentence Friday when a federal judge gave her probation instead.  But Austin will have to pay back $119,000 in restitution and will serve four months in home confinement on a tether.

U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts issued the sentence after Austin, 67, pleaded for her freedom.  She faced 10-16 months in prison for unlawfully receiving her son's disability checks while he was in prison.  "Please understand me. Please," a frail-looking Austin said at her sentencing.

Austin told the judge she still has a mentally ill son in an institution to look after.  She also talked about the struggles she faced in raising five grandchildren and said desperate times forced her to make a bad choice.  "I am remorseful," Austin said.  "I got scared.  I got very scared."

According to court records, Austin paid someone to pose as her mentally ill son so she could continue receiving his disability benefits while he was in prison.  From 1990 to 2009, Austin received nearly $120,000 in benefits -- about $6,000 a year, records show....

At Austin's sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Blondell Morey conceded Austin doesn't present a threat to the public but pushed for prison time.  "I think basically Ms. Austin is a good woman, but she did some bad things. ... And she needs to be punished."

April 3, 2011 in Booker in district courts, Offender Characteristics, Offense Characteristics, White-collar sentencing | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Tuesday, 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 in Booker in the Circuits, Offense Characteristics, White-collar sentencing | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Notable comments about federal sentencing trends from Senator Charles Grassley

A helpful reader pointed out to me that US Senator Charles Grassley had these notable comments about federal sentencing law and practice at the end of this lengthy statement prepared for today's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on fraud prosecutions:

Finally, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to note that regardless of the substantive laws we pass, the investigative and law enforcement resources appropriated, and the prosecutions brought so far, criminal fraud will not be adequately deterred unless we revisit the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Booker.  In that case, the Supreme Court held that mandatory Sentencing Guidelines violated the Sixth Amendment.  Now that the Guidelines have been held to be merely advisory, the disparity and unfairness in judicially imposed sentences that we sought to eliminate on a bipartisan basis are returning, especially in two areas: child pornography and fraud cases of the type we are discussing today.  If potential fraudsters view the lenient sentences now being handed down as merely a cost of doing business, efforts to combat criminal fraud could be undermined.

Supporting this position is a Reuters analysis of 15 insider trading cases that were brought by the United States Attorney in New York in 2009 and 2010, which concluded that in 13 of them, or 87 percent, the sentences imposed were lighter than the terms prescribed by the Sentencing Guidelines, and seven, nearly half, contained no prison term.  By contrast, in other cases, New York federal judges issued sentences below those called for in the guidelines 57 percent of the time, in itself a shocking change from the system that the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 created until the Supreme Court's Booker decision. Nationwide, 42 percent of all federal sentences were below the guidelines.  Federal judges often seem not to understand the seriousness of these crimes.  At one sentencing proceeding in an insider trading case, Judge Alvin Hellerstein said, "[T]here are no victims in this crime, at least not in any real sense."  Rather than imposing a sentence in keeping with the guidelines of 37 to 46 months, he noted that the defendant was an accomplished academic with an autistic son, and gave three years' probation.  Most of the defendants who received lenient sentences did not cooperate with the government.  As a result, defense lawyers are now arguing that to avoid disparity, their non-cooperating insider trading clients should also receive sentences below the guidelines.

January 26, 2011 in Booker in district courts, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, White-collar sentencing, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Inside-Trading Convicts Avoid Prison Term in 44% of New York Court Cases"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable lengthy new article from Bloomberg News.  Here is how it starts, along with some other stats from the piece:

Almost half of the 43 defendants who were sentenced in Manhattan federal court in the past eight years for insider trading avoided a prison term, with many never seeing the inside of a jail cell because they cooperated with prosecutors.

Nineteen who were sentenced since 2003, or 44 percent, weren’t incarcerated, an analysis of court cases by Bloomberg showed. Of the remainder, the average defendant got a prison term of 18.4 months. The greater the profit made on illegal trades, the longer the sentence. The longest term was 10 years. Danielle Chiesi, who pleaded guilty yesterday for her role in the Galleon Group LLC hedge fund insider-trading scandal, faces between 37 and 46 months in prison.

Since 2009, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan has stepped up insider-trading prosecutions, charging more than 30 people in three overlapping rings. Of the three defendants sentenced so far in the Galleon ring, the average sentence has been 17 months. The nationwide investigation has implicated hedge funds, technology companies and so-called expert- networking firms....

The average sentence in 7,617 fraud cases in fiscal 2009 was 21.8 months, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which establishes the guidelines. Of those convictions, 94.9 percent were the result of guilty pleas and 5.1 percent came at a trial.

In non-insider trading cases that year, judges in Manhattan federal court sentenced Bernard Madoff to 150 years for masterminding the largest Ponzi scheme ever, former KPMG LLP senior manager John Larson got 10 years for selling tax shelters to wealthy clients, and law firm founder Marc Dreier received a 20-year term for cheating hedge funds out of more than $400 million.

A review of government statements issued since 2003 by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office in cases in which the chief crime was insider trading showed that many sentences included probation or home confinement. Defendants typically were ordered to pay fines and restitution....

Twenty-eight of the 43 sentences reviewed by Bloomberg occurred in 2007 or later, when prosecutors stepped up their scrutiny of insider trading. In those cases, the average sentence was 17.2 months behind bars.

January 20, 2011 in Offender Characteristics, Offense Characteristics, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, White-collar sentencing | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

An appellate amicus brief in the Rubashkin case on sentencing issues

As regular readers may recall, and as detailed in this prior post, last summer a federal district court in Iowa decided to give Sholom Rubashkin a 27-year federal prison sentence for his leadership in a financial fraud involving his kosher meat-packing plant.  Having spent some time looking at various facets of this high-profile case, I was troubled by the severity of this sentence and the district court's decision-making and I decided to help put together an amicus brief on sentencing issues as the case was appealed to the Eighth Circuit.

I am pleased to report that the Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) help me put together and file this amicus brief, as is detailed in this press release and this blog post from the fine folks at WLF. The full Rubashkin amicus brief and be downloaded at this link, and the WLF blog posting by Stephen Richer does an especially nice job spotlighting why I wanted to get involved and also what the brief argues:

Consider a man who has ten kids, is an active participant in his town, runs a business that provides a needed service for his religious community, and has never before been accused of a crime. Imagine that this man is convicted of financial fraud that is tenuously linked to large societal monetary loss. The alleged fraud served to keep the community business afloat, not to fund personal extravagances.

What type of punishment would this man deserve? A prison sentence? If so, how long? One year? Three years? But what about 27 years?...

That’s the penalty recently imposed by a judge in the Northern District of Iowa on Sholom Rubashkin, owner of Agriprocessors, a Kosher meat processing plant in Potsville, Iowa....

Washington Legal Foundation, representing 18 noted law school deans and professors, former federal judges, and former prosecutors, added its voice to the opposition on Monday, January 10th by filing a brief asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit to vacate the sentence and remand it to another federal trial judge for resentencing....

WLF’s brief makes three arguments: First, that the district court’s calculation of the guideline range was contrary to the Sentencing Guidelines’ instruction and related jurisprudence; second, that the district court largely ignored the Supreme Court’s repeated admonition that a district court must not presume reasonable a sentence within the calculated Guidelines range; and third, that the functional life sentence given to Mr. Rubashkin (who is currently 51 years old) is incompatible with his personally history and is substantively much greater than necessary to comply with the purposes of sentencing set forth by Congress.

Related posts on the Rubashkin case:

January 12, 2011 in Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Offender Characteristics, Offense Characteristics, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, Scope of Imprisonment, White-collar sentencing, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

"DeLay flunked attitude test?: Harsh penalty could be linked to lack of remorse, some experts say"

The title of this post is the headline of this intriguing article in today's Houston Chronicle, which follows up on the notable Texas prison sentence given to former House leader Tom DeLay.  Here are excerpts:

The three-year prison sentence meted out to former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in a political money laundering case is far harsher than sentences recommended for two other public offenders recently convicted in Central Texas.

There is, however, a high likelihood that DeLay's case will be overturned on appeal before he ever sees the inside of a prison cell, according to several criminal defense lawyers. DeLay's sentence may reflect more on his remorseless attitude before visiting District Judge Pat Priest than on the seriousness of the crime, they said.  "Maybe DeLay flunked the attitude test in front of Pat Priest," William Allison, a criminal law professor at the University of Texas, said Tuesday. "It's likely he copped a pretty bad attitude."

DeLay was convicted last November and sentenced Monday on felony charges of conspiracy and money laundering in a scheme to give $190,000 in corporate money illegally to seven Republican state House candidates in 2002.  Priest gave Delay three years in prison on the conspiracy charge and 10 years of probation on the money laundering charge.

Two other recent high profile Central Texas cases involved far less punishment: Former state Rep. Kino Flores, D-Palmview, received probation last month on four felony counts of not properly reporting his income on state ethics forms, income prosecutors said he received by using his official position to demand a 10 percent payment from his business associates.  Flores was sentenced by District Judge Bob Perkins, whom DeLay's lawyers had removed from his case in 2005.

The former general manager of the Pedernales Electric Cooperative, Bennie Fuelberg, in December received a recommendation of probation from a jury on felony charges of illegally funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars in co-op money to his brother.  A final sentence in that case has not been issued.

DeLay's defense lawyer, Dick DeGuerin of Houston, Tuesday said DeLay's sentence is unfair, especially when compared to the one Flores received.  "This was a guy who was known as Mr. Ten Percent. He took a kickback on everything," DeGuerin said.  DeLay "didn't steal any money.  He didn't rob anybody.  He didn't beat anybody up."

Prosecutors had asked Priest for a longer sentence, at least 10 years, so DeLay would have to start serving time immediately.  They said they wanted to send a signal that just because someone wears a suit and a tie does not mean he is going to get probation.... 

Sam Bassett, who was Flores' defense attorney, ... said he "was a little surprised" that DeLay received a prison sentence instead of probation in the case.  He said the case is very different from the financial fraud cases involving people such as Enron's Jeffrey Skilling.  "No one was defrauded or harmed in a direct way," Bassett said.

Related post:

January 12, 2011 in Offender Characteristics, Offense Characteristics, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, White-collar sentencing, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Feds make case to Third Circuit that corruption sentence too low for state senator

As detailed in this local article, which is headlined "Prosecutors argue for stiffer sentence for Fumo," a real interesting sentencing appeal is heating up in the Third Circuit. Here are the basics:

Federal prosecutors Monday again ripped into a judge's decision to reduce former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo's sentence for corruption in return for what the judge called Fumo's "extraordinary" public service.

Drawing upon an FBI investigation of Fumo's travel, the prosecutors said the claim that Fumo toiled tirelessly for the public was both a cliché and a myth. In fact, Fumo "devoted a huge amount of time to vacationing and leisure activities," spending a quarter of his time on holiday in Martha's Vineyard and Florida.

The two prosecutors noted that besides serving as a Democratic legislator, Fumo worked as a "rainmaker" for a Philadelphia law firm and was the chairman of a bank. The firm paid him nearly $1 million yearly to drum up business, and the bank also compensated him heavily....

On Monday, the prosecutors fired their final salvo, a 204-page brief, in their fight to have Fumo hauled back into court to face a resentencing in his 2009 corruption conviction.

In a decision that stirred widespread public outrage, U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter sentenced Fumo to serve 55 months in prison for his crimes. A jury found Fumo guilty on every count in a massive indictment that charged the once-powerful legislator with defrauding the state Senate and two nonprofit organizations, and with leading the cover-up to try to thwart the FBI's probe.

The government sought a much stiffer term, agreeing with a conclusion by the U.S. Probation Office that Fumo's wrongdoing meant he should face up to 27 years behind bars under nonmandatory federal sentencing guidelines.

Buckwalter interpreted the guidelines far differently. He said they called for Fumo to receive a punishment of at most 14 years. Then, he gave the Democrat a big break because of his record in office over 30 years. "You worked hard for the public, and you worked extraordinarily hard, and I'm therefore going to grant a departure from the guidelines," the judge said.

Fumo, 67, has now served 17 months of his sentence, at a prison in Kentucky. After one more filing from the defense and probable oral arguments, he and the public will likely learn later this year whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit will affirm his sentence or order a new sentencing hearing.

In a defense filing last month, Fumo's legal team said that Buckwalter was on firm legal ground in crafting the sentence and that the Third Circuit court should not second-guess the judge.

In Monday's brief and an even longer one filed last year, the prosecutors said Buckwalter had made numerous errors in calculating the guidelines applicable to Fumo and a codefendant, former Senate aide Ruth Arnao. Arnao is now free, having served her sentence of one year behind bars. Buckwalter, they wrote in Monday's filing, made "fundamental mistakes, on the basis of no stated reasoning, which contributed significantly to the grossly lenient sentences imposed in this case."

Citing a Third Circuit precedent, they said that the judge had failed to heed a rule that corrupt officials should not get special credit for "civic and charitable work," because "we expect such work from our public servants." Such credit should only be given when the official "goes well beyond the call of duty and sacrifices for the community," the appellate court ruled.

But Fumo, the prosecutors said, did not work especially hard. And, they added, "he presented no evidence that he sacrificed in any other way; rather he used his public position to gain great riches (and steal more), and gave almost none of it to charity."

Related posts concerning Fumo sentencing and appeal:

January 11, 2011 in Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Offender Characteristics, Sentences Reconsidered, White-collar sentencing, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, January 10, 2011

Texas law providing wide discretion in sentencing of former House leader Tom DeLay

As detailed in this local article, which is headlined "Sentencing hearing to begin in Tom DeLay trial," former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay could soon get life imprisonment or get merely probation as a sentence following his recent state corruption convictions.  Here are the intriguing details:

The former Houston-area Republican congressman will be back in court on Monday for the sentencing phase of his trial after his Nov. 24 conviction on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering in a scheme to illegally funnel corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002.

Unlike DeLay's trial, which lasted nearly a month, the sentencing hearing is expected to take about two days.  DeLay has chosen Senior Judge Pat Priest to sentence him.  Priest says he is likely to make a quick decision after both prosecutors and defense attorneys finish presenting witnesses.

While he faces up to life in prison on the money laundering charge and up to 20 years on the conspiracy charge, DeLay is also eligible for probation.  "Of course we will ask the judge to grant probation," said Dick DeGuerin, DeLay's lead attorney.  "This is not a matter of economic loss, not a matter of anyone being injured or of any evil intent."

Up to nine witnesses are expected to testify on DeLay's behalf, including former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and others who worked with him.  DeLay's lawyers also submitted more than 30 character and support letters from friends and political leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and eight current U.S. congressmen. Most of the letters ask for leniency in the sentencing.

Steve Brand, one of the prosecutors, said they planned on calling several witnesses. He declined to comment on what the witnesses would testify about or what sentence the Travis County District Attorney's Office planned to request.  Some legal experts believe DeLay will likely receive little, if any, prison time.

"Diehard Democrats will want to see the book thrown at him and his conservative supporters will feel (any) sentence will be unjust," said Bradley Simon, a New York criminal defense attorney who's followed the case.  "No matter what the judge says, he is unlikely to please anybody."

In this prior post, a number of commentors had a number of creative suggestions for the sentencing judge in this notable case.  Folks should, of course, feel free to make some more suggestions now.

Related post:

January 10, 2011 in Celebrity sentencings, Offender Characteristics, Offense Characteristics, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, White-collar sentencing, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Why shouldn't imprisoned former Governor George Ryan get released to see his dying wife?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this AP article, headlined "Jailed ex-Illinois gov. asks to visit gravely ill wife." Here are the basics:

Family members of imprisoned former Illinois Gov. George Ryan have gathered at the hospital bedside of his gravely ill wife while waiting for a federal appeals court to decide whether he should be allowed to join them.

Ryan's attorneys filed an emergency motion Wednesday asking that the 76-year-old former governor be let out of prison during daytime hours so he can be with his wife of 55 years, who they said was in intensive care suffering complications from chemotherapy.

One of Ryan's attorneys, former Gov. James Thompson, told The Associated Press that Lura Lynn Ryan's family was called to her side Wednesday morning. Family members did not address reporters who congregated outside Riverside Medical Center in Kankakee. "Doctors have told the family that they have to go hour by hour," Thompson said.

An emergency motion filed with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago says Ryan's wife went into septic shock, a complication of her treatment for what the motion describes as incurable cancer of the lungs, back, pelvis, ribs and liver. "Though neither radiation nor chemotherapy will affect a cure, Mrs. Ryan . . . has elected to receive both treatments in the hope that they will keep her alive until she can be with her husband to say goodbye," the motion says. "She has, at most, weeks to live."

The former governor has served three years of a 6 1/2-year sentence on convictions of racketeering, conspiracy, tax fraud and making false statements to the FBI. His attorneys' motion argues "he is not a flight risk or a danger to the community." Attorneys also appealed directly to federal prison authorities to release Ryan under a program allowing inmates temporary leave to visit gravely ill family members, Thompson said.

Thompson said Ryan remained in prison as of Wednesday night but that his attorneys were keeping in touch with prison authorities in hopes of winning an immediate release. U.S. Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Traci Billingsley said prison wardens decide whether to grant bedside visit requests, but that the agency cannot disclose whether a request is made or granted due to privacy and safety concerns....

Ryan was convicted in 2006 of steering state contracts and leases to political insiders while he was secretary of state and then governor for one term. He received vacations and gifts in return. He also was accused of stopping an investigation into secretary of state employees accepting bribes in exchange for truck driver's licenses.

For all non-violent offenders who pose no obvious risk of flight or to the community, I would endorse a general rule that they readily be permitted release for a short period to be with a dying spouse. Such a temporary release rule, especially if limited to critically ill spouses, seems essential to a truly humane criminal justice system.

January 6, 2011 in Prisons and prisoners, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, White-collar sentencing | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack