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June 23, 2023

Notable sentencing memos in high-profile Ohio political corruption case (showcasing nuttiness of guidelines)

The Buckeye State was the crime scene for a notable case of political corruption involving our House Speaker Larry Householder.  Back in March, Householder and his co-defendant were convicted after trial on one count of conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise involving bribery and money laundering.  Next week brings sentencing on a single charge with a 20-year statutory maximum sentence, and these local article highlight that the prosecution and defense have very different visions of the proper sentence:

"Feds say Householder should get 16-20 years in prison: Liken him to mob boss in court filing"

"Householder asks for 12-18 month sentence as feds seek 16-20 years"

Especially with the prosecution seeking a sentence up to the statutory maximum prison term of 20 years and the defense seeking a sentence as low as just one year, one might hope that the US Sentencing Guidelines would help guide the federal sentencing judge toward an appropriate sentence.  But, highlighting what I will call the nuttiness of the guidelines, the Government's sentencing memo contends that "Householder’s guideline range recommends life imprisonment."  That would be, of course, an illegal sentence because the stat max is just 20 years. 

Moreover, as discussed in the defendant's sentencing memo, "Probation calculated the total offense level under the advisory Guidelines [to be] Offense Level 52" even though the highest possible offense level under the guidelines is 43.  In other words, for a crime committed by a 64-year old first offender, the guidelines somehow score way above the statutory maximum sentence and way above the guidelines' own defined offense seriousness ceiling.

There are various factors that contribute to the guidelines being especially nutty in this case, and the fact that the guidelines are advisory serves to soften the import and impact of their nuttiness.  I have linked the sentencing memos not only because they make for interesting reads, but also because they highlight how a discourse and debate over the application of the 3553(a) statutory sentencing factors makes far more sense than a discourse and debate over the application of the guidelines that get used in a political corruption case like this one.   

June 23, 2023 at 03:54 PM | Permalink


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