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April 1, 2020

Wondering again about pace and number of federal sentencings after another Varsity Blues defendant gets imprisonment term

This AP article, headlined "Mother Sentenced to 7 Months in College Admissions Scam," reports on the high-profile federal sentencing that went forward in Boston by video conference yesterday.  Here are the basics:

A California woman was sentenced Tuesday to seven months in prison for paying bribes to rig her two daughters' college admissions exams and get one of them into Georgetown University as a fake tennis recruit.

In an unusual hearing held via videoconference due to the coronavirus pandemic, the judge rejected Elizabeth Henriquez's bid to avoid prison because of the public health crisis but is allowing her to remain free until at least June 30 in the hopes that the outbreak will have diminished by then. “I have every hope that the coronavirus crisis will abate in a matter of months and that Ms. Henriquez will be able to serve her sentence safely and rebuild her life,” U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton said.

Henriquez and her husband were charged with paying $400,000 in bribes to get their oldest daughter into Georgetown as a bogus tennis recruit in 2016. They also paid bribes to have someone cheat on their daughters' college entrance exams, authorities said. In one instance, the purported proctor sat next to her daughter while she took a test and fed her the answers and then “gloated” with Henriquez and the teen about how they had cheated and gotten away with it, authorities said....

Her husband, Manuel Henriquez, is the founder and former CEO of Hercules Capital, a finance firm in Palo Alto, California. He is scheduled to be sentenced April 8.

Her lawyers had urged the judge to give her home confinement, citing a memo written by Attorney General William Barr who said some nonviolent inmates who are particularly at risk to the virus may be safer at home than behind bars....

Henriquez was sentenced via videoconference to keep people from gathering at the federal courthouse in Boston amid the pandemic. The judge talked to Henriquez and lawyers over video chat while news media and other members of the public listened on the phone. The Boston court and halls of justice across the country have delayed jury trials and moved to video and telephone hearings to keep the criminal justice system moving while people are hunkered in their homes.

Prosecutors had argued in court documents that she deserved more than two years behind bars. Gorton ordered Henriquez to begin serving her prison sentence on June 30 but said he would consider a request to push that back further if necessary.

As I mentioned here a few weeks ago, under normal circumstances 300 federal sentences are imposed every work day, 1500 federal sentences are imposed every work week, 6200 federal sentences are imposed every month in US courts nationwide.  Clearly, some number of federal sentencings are going forward, but I am so very eager to know how many.  I am hoping that before too long, the US Sentencing Commission or the Justice Department will try to provide some real-time data on the administration of federal criminal justice amidst the COVID crisis.

A few prior recent related posts:

April 1, 2020 at 12:20 PM | Permalink


Doug: Are you going to address the issue that occurred in this sentencing case of the defendant being sentenced by video teleconference (ZOOM), without being "present" in the same Courtroom with the sentencing judge? According to the USA Today article that I sent you last night, the $2 trillion Coronavirus relief laws that the President signed last Friday contained provisions modifying Rule 43 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure to permit the sentencing of criminal defendants by video conference call, without the defendant being physically present in the Courtroom with the Judge, defense counsel and the prosecutors. This defendant may have been the first Federal criminal defendant in America sentenced by video conference call. There remains a serious issue about whether this change in the law is Constitutional. Federal appellate courts that have ruled on this issue in the past have found it to be a kind of structural error that is not susceptible to harmless error analysis. See, for example, U.S. v. Bethea, 888 F.3d 864, 867 (7th Cir. 2018); U.S. v. Williams, 641 F.3d 758, 765 (6th Cir. 2011).

Posted by: James Gormley | Apr 1, 2020 3:18:55 PM

This will surely get litigated if the defendant preserved the claim, but I doubt this was the first sentencing by conference call. The CARES Act went into effect on Saturday, and I am sure people go sentenced on Monday this way... It would be nice to hear about this from USSC and DOJ, as I mentioned in the post.

Posted by: Douglas A Berman | Apr 1, 2020 6:12:04 PM

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