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August 29, 2008

AP covers the remarkable story of (my client) Patrick Lett

Long-time readers may recall prior posts about the sentencing and appeals of Sgt. Patrick Lett (many of which are linked below).  As I have said before, I am so very proud to now represent Lett is (along with Douglas Cole of Jones Day), and we have a cert petition still pending before the Supreme Court.  Today the AP has this article about Lett's case, which starts this way:

Patrick Lett returned to south Alabama when he finished an unblemished 17-year Army career, including two tours in Iraq. Then his father died, he couldn't find work to support his two daughters and his life took a wrong turn. Lett pleaded guilty in federal court to cocaine possession for his involvement in a cousin's drug operation and was sentenced in 2006 to five years in prison.

U.S. District Judge William Steele didn't want to order Lett to serve time at all, but he thought the law required it.  Steele noted at the sentencing Lett had led "an exemplary life up until the time of the offenses and even after," when Lett re-enlisted and served another 17 months before his indictment.

Lett, 39, probably would be in prison today if a friend hadn't helped Steele realize that he had misunderstood the sentencing requirements.  Steele changed the prison term to three years of supervised release, and Lett was free to go, the judge's honest mistake apparently cleared up.

But that didn't satisfy prosecutors, who appealed the lighter sentence on the grounds that Steele didn't have the authority to change the initial five-year sentence.  The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, saying Steele couldn't undo his own error.  The bizarre scenario may end with the former soldier reporting to prison unless the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to take on the case and decide whether a judge can go back and change a mistakenly issued sentence.

Some related posts on the Lett case:

August 29, 2008 at 09:47 PM | Permalink


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Military service is a somewhat hard one for me to pin down into any sort of anti-criminal history matrix. Perhaps non-generic awards should count, but I'm not sure that non-descript service should.

I will say that I have much greater disquiet with people who try to put police service forward as a mitigation factor, I am unable to see such a position of trust as anything other than an aggrevating issue.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Aug 30, 2008 12:53:15 PM

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