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July 14, 2009

Big break given to prominent former judge/prosecutor for back-end cooperation

A helpful reader alerted me to this local story of a notable white-collar defendant getting a huge back-end sentencing break for cooperation.  Here are the details:

Sam Currin, a former judge, federal prosecutor and state Republican Party chairman, was ordered released from prison after serving a fraction of a nearly six-year sentence for money laundering and obstruction. Senior U.S. District Judge W. Earl Britt made the order Monday.

Federal prosecutors recommended in May that Currin, imprisoned since 2007, have his original 70-month sentence cut in half following his testimony against a co-conspirator, David A. Hagen.

Thomas Walker, one of Currin's defense attorneys, argued in court Monday that the fallen federal prosecutor and former state judge should be granted the kind of leniency he often opposed for criminals.  Walker asked the judge to reduce the sentence to 29 months to allow Currin, 60, to be home in Raleigh in time to see his son graduate from law school next year. "He has suffered greatly," Walker said. "We're begging for the court's mercy."

Britt, who handed down Currin's original sentence and presided over the Hagen trial, went even further, commuting Currin's sentence to time served.... Under the original terms of his sentence, Currin was not due for release until April 2013.  He has been held at the Federal Medical Center at Fort Devens, Mass., though the reason he has been in the hospital has not been made public.

A conservative Republican and close aide of the late U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, Currin served from 1981 to 1987 as the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, a jurisdiction that sweeps from Raleigh to the coast.  He was a Superior Court judge from 1987 to 1990 and elected as the state's GOP chairman in 1996, serving until 1999.  At his sentencing in 2007, Currin admitted to laundering $1.3million on behalf of Hagen, an e-mail spammer who authorities said ran one of the most prolific spamming operations in the world, peddling everything from mortgages to stock picks...

In his decision Monday, Britt cited Currin's extensive cooperation with federal prosecutors.  But he also echoed Walker's observation that Currin has visibly declined while in prison.  Currin's defense attorney said both his physical health and mental condition deteriorated while staying in the Mecklenburg County jail during Hagen's two-week trial.

Picking up on the legal themes of the week, this DailyKos diary entry provides this description of the story: "Empathy explosion releases money-laundering Republican judge from prison."

July 14, 2009 at 02:54 PM | Permalink

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Comments

No lawyer should sit on any bench.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 14, 2009 8:12:36 PM

I guess it pays to be a snitch so long as you're not killed between the snitching and the commutation of a sentence. The judge noted, "extensive cooperation with federal prosecutors. But he also echoed Walker's observation that Currin has visibly declined while in prison." I primarily work on state post-conviction/fed habeas. So my question is whether this is exceptional in the federal courts? Can the U.S. atty appeal the commutation citing unreasonableness? Sorry, I'm so curious, but I'd really like to have some insight on this issue.
Thank you

Posted by: Heather | Jul 15, 2009 9:58:05 AM

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