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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 at 10:26 PM | Permalink


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Okay, so somewhere between 10 and 60 years. I do find any argument based on these creep's being in public office as some sort of mitigation, or their actions while in office to be a bit much. He directly parlayed his office into the crime of commission, I would say because of that he should forfeit any goodwill that such an office would normally entail. OTOH, 15 or 20 years might well be long enough to be a functional life sentence for a 64 year old.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Apr 22, 2011 12:02:34 AM

LOL lucky guy! let's see they are gonna cut him a break becasue out of the quarter million bucks he stole he TRIED to give 5k back....

nice. got to cut the politicians a break i guess.

but he's very very lucky!

steal 50 bucks from me and i know who you are i'm goona hurt you bad! 50k or more...your just gonna be DEAD!

knowing the state of the former united states of america's joke of a justice sytem i'm not gonna waste my time and effort with law enforcment and the justice department i'm just gonna kill you!

Posted by: rodsmith | Apr 22, 2011 12:40:47 AM

The "age of the defendant" cited by the appeals court as a mitigating factor is a bit ironic, given that it called for greater than a 10 year sentence. Let's call it 15 years just for arguments sake. The guy's going to be 79 at that point--with 15 years of doing absolutely nothing to keep his mind or body active. Unless he's genetically blessed, he ain't getting out alive.

Seems like much ado about nothing.

Rod--I also enjoyed the attempt to give $5,000 back. I guess the take home message is, if you bilk people, make sure to offer 2% of it back to ensure you have a mitigating factor on your side.

Posted by: Res ipsa | Apr 22, 2011 9:35:41 AM

Great post. I was looking up nationwide modular homes when I came across your post. I can't believe people take advantage of people in need. I don't think 10 years is enough. My boyfriend would love this post, I will have to send it to him. Thanks so much for sharing.

Posted by: lauren | Feb 7, 2013 9:51:52 AM

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