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April 11, 2013

Latest proof that every issue, including gay marriage, has a sentencing angle

One of many reasons I love to obsess over sentencing is because I see sentencing issues in everything other issue of public or private concern.  Indeed, as my students (and reader of this blog) often hear from me, I see any and every issue of public policy concern to really be a crime and punishment issue in some way.  The latest proof of this sentencing-is-everything perspective comes today with a gay marriage spin thanks to this new article from the New York Daily News.  The piece is headlined "Openly gay daughter of Colombo gangster pleads for mercy in sentencing," and here are excerpts:

The openly gay daughter of Colombo gangster Dennis Delucia has outed her father as a supporter of same-sex marriage. In a moving letter seeking mercy from the judge who will sentence him, Donna Delucia says her father is a family man in the truest sense.

“My dad was the one who told me he would love me no matter what I would do or tell him,” Donna Delucia wrote to Judge Kiyo Matsumoto. “I finally came out at 22 years old. My mother did not handle it well and pushed me away .... I was scared, frightened and afraid of my dad’s reaction,” she continued in the letter filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.

“My dad accepted me, embraced me and has supported me. His love and acceptance helped me through the rough times and growing pains.”

Dennis Delucia, 71, a reputed capo in the crime family, pleaded guilty last year to extortion and faces 46 months in prison. He admitted using a couple of extra-large goons who made him look like a “midget” to intimidate the operator of a rival gambling club in the Bronx.

She conceded her father is a “chauvinist” and recalled his “king of the castle” views that included prohibiting her brothers from cleaning off the dinner table because they were boys. But after Donna fell in love with her partner and informed him they were planning to have a baby, the mobster cried. “He made me so proud,” Donna wrote.

Delucia helped pay for Donna and her spouse to move from Philadelphia to New York where same-sex parents pass parental rights to their partner. Today, they live in Kentucky, “far from the hype of Italian-Americans,” where they are raising their 9-year-old son. “Please let him come home,” Donna begged the judge. “I want my son to spend long days with his grandfather. I want him to know my dad.”

As federal sentencing gurus know, there is a long-running (and never quite resolved) debate over whether and how "family ties and responsibilities" can and should impact a federal sentencing decision. This story provides a timely reminder that whether and where same-sex marriage is allowed can and will, in turn, impact whether and how defendants with gay relatives can and will be able to tell a more modernized story of the importance of "family ties and responsibilities."

April 11, 2013 at 12:55 PM | Permalink


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Guy looks like Judge Alex Kozinski.

That's sweet and all though as noted pretty typical. Coming from a family with various traditional beliefs, I can relate (ha) to those who bend them when family is involved. The puns just keep on coming. Anyway, yes, changing social norms and so on will pop here as well. It's a reason law like religion in general is so interesting -- so many things pop up. A judge must be a generalist, huh?

Posted by: Joe | Apr 11, 2013 1:05:33 PM

[to forestall confusion, the fact he was such a nice dad doesn't mean he should get a lesser sentence though families ties in certain cases, such as if a person plays an important role in caring for a child or family member, very well might factor in somehow; here, it seems just an attempt to make him look sympathetic]

Posted by: Joe | Apr 11, 2013 1:08:06 PM

Joe --

"[to forestall confusion, the fact he was such a nice dad doesn't mean he should get a lesser sentence ..."


The idea that father-loves-daughter merits special leniency at sentencing is roughly equivalent to the idea that special leniency is due because the sun rises in the east.

In addition to that, the basic idea here seems to be that a defendant should get leniency because of his political beliefs, and in particular a political belief that's very much in vogue right now.

Let's say a college kid who prominently backed traditional marriage at campus rallies was suspended for "insensitivity." Would the fact that his father stood by him be trumpeted as a reason to give the father leniency at sentencing?

I guess it's theoretically possible, but I sure don't think so. Making the espousing of Politically Correct views, or any political view, a sentencing factor would pollute a judicial process to a scandalous extent.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 11, 2013 2:53:47 PM

Then how do you explain Judge Jack Camp?

How do you explain Scooter Libby, other than you reccommended his Commutation...Should be good..

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Apr 11, 2013 3:39:55 PM

MidWestGuy --

"Then how do you explain Judge Jack Camp?"

I wasn't aware that I expressed approval of Camp's sentencing. Where was that? I'll wait.

"How do you explain Scooter Libby, other than you reccommended his Commutation...Should be good.."

It won't be nearly as good as your lying about my position on the efficacy of incarceration, but I'll answer anyway.

First, I never said that Libby should get a commutation because of his family life, about which I know nothing.

Second, my proposal for a commutation was in line with the standard defense position on first-time, nonviolent, non-drug offenders, and the defense bar went after me on it, not because they thought my proposal was substantively incorrect, but, to exact contrary, because it was not applied broadly enough.

Third, Libby was the guy from Central Casting for whom leniency was designed: A 56 year-old, first-time, nonviolent offender with zero chance of recidivism, a long history of public service, and posing no threat to anyone.

His offense was serious, you bet, which is why I was not in favor of a pardon. But if a defendant like that isn't a candidate for leniency, there isn't any.

Finally, when you start complaining about the pardon (not commutation) of fugitive billionaire swindler Marc Rich, get back to me on all the things wrong with leniency for Libby.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 11, 2013 4:06:38 PM

The letter is as much about his love for the daughter as some sort of political statement. If someone's parent was asking for mercy for vandalizing an abortion clinic, I can imagine a more liberal child asking for mercy, since the parent -- even though his or her beliefs are different -- was a loving sort. I would find the parent loving his/her child about as relevant.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 11, 2013 7:16:23 PM

All lawyer proposed mitigating factors are aggravating factors. If the defendant loved his family, he would act more responsibly, less selfishly.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 11, 2013 11:54:01 PM

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