Tuesday, July 11, 2006
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of United States v. Martin (Michael Martin) here ruled that the sentence issued by the district court was insufficient, despite the defendant providing cooperation pursuant to a 5K1.1 motion. The court stated:
"In Martin's case, we now are squarely presented with the question of whether a 23-level departure under s 5K1.1 for his assistance and an ultimate sentence of 7 days' imprisonment for his multi billion-dollar securities fraud are reasonable. The answer is easy: they are not."
Martin, a former CFO of HealthSouth provided evidence against Richard Scrushy at his HealthSouth related trial, in which Scrushy was found not guilty. Despite this cooperation, the government argued that a 23 level departure was unreasonable. The appellate court stated:
"[T]he choice of a 23-level guidelines departure under 5K1.1 to a 0-6 months guideline range was unreasonable where Martin's crimes yielded an advisory guidelines range of 9-11 years' imprisonment and a potential sentence of 15 years. Martin's cooperation, while commendable and extremely valuable, is not a get-out-of-jail-free card."
The court found the sentence "shockingly short" and the fact that Richard Scrushy was found not guilty at this trial was not comparable. Martin did "forfeit $2.375 million" dollars.
Although this sentence was clearly short, the government appeal is somewhat surprising. Normally the risk of going to trial reaps greater rewards than not going to trial. Thus, when one accused receives a greater sentence than the individual who went to trial, the incentive of the plea is minimized. When you roll the dice at trial you risk a huge sentence if convicted. Likewise, if you roll the dice and take a plea, the chance may be that you will do more time than the person who you testified against.