Monday, February 4, 2008

Former Wal-Mart Exec Gets Low Cost Sentence on Remand

Tom Coughlin, the former Chief Operating Officer and key executive at Wal-Mart, received a 27-month term of home confinement with five years probation after pleading guilty to five wire fraud counts (aiding and abetting) and one false tax return filing count. The government appealed the sentence and the appellate court spoke by remanding the case back for re-sentencing finding it unreasonable.  In the interim the Supreme Court issued the Gall decision.  The district court, on remand, has now issued its new sentence and it's probably not quite the way the government hoped.  The court added 1,500 hours of community service.

In failing to impose jail time, the court states:

"[This] punishment is far from an act of leniency, and its characterization as such deprives sentencing courts of a valuable and effective form of punishment.

That form of punishment is especially appropriate in cases such as Coughlin’s, where there is little concern for future criminal activity on the part of the defendant and the defendant is in need of medical attention."

The Hon. Robert T. Dawson should be credited for demanding individualized sentencing and explaining all the rationales that support his issuing this particular sentence.  He states:

"Punishment is imposed parsimoniously and with respectful consideration for the individuality of each peculiar defendant. A court that mechanically doles out precalculated sentences on a wholesale basis to categories of faceless defendants fails to do justice. A court that succumbs to apathy, bred by repetition, will cease to see defendants as individuals, with pasts and potentials, with humanity and promise."

Also check out WSJ here, Benton County Daily Record - NW Arkansas News Service here, Professor Douglas Berman's Sentencing Law & Policy Blog here.


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