Monday, August 4, 2008

One Day Sentence Affirmed

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a one-day sentence here.  The case involved a plea to "several counts of health care fraud, embezzlement, and money laundering."  The sentence was to be served at a facility that would allow the defendant to "work, pay restitution and visit with his then 11-year-old son."  But the corrections center "would not house prisoners" so the court amended the sentence to "one day of imprisonment and three years of supervised release, with the condition that he serve 12 months and one day of his supervised release" at this center.  The government unsuccessfully took this modification up on appeal. 

Guest Bloggers at Sentencing Law & Policy here have analysis of this decision, including the strong dissent that like the majority interprets the recent Supreme Court decision in Gall.   In the dissent, Circuit Judge Gould states:

"To provide for a mere slap on the wrist of those convicted of serious economic crimes, with no or virtually no time imprisoned as punishment, strikes a blow to the integrity of our criminal justice system. In the end, if not corrected, the majority’s approach will be dangerous to respect for our legal system. Can it be seriously maintained that wilful offenders who commit white collar crime, who steal intentionally hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, should receive no forced incarceration, while those poor and powerless criminal defendants who commit common larceny or theft often serve extensive hard time?"

The majority, in a footnote, lists the many sentences that have provided a like punishment in a white collar crime case. But more importantly, is it a "mere slap on the wrist" to brand a person for life as a convicted felon? And  is this true when the convicted individual is being held up in society as felon who committed crimes such as money laundering? And in the case of a non-violent crime, should innovative sentences such as this be welcomed? Maybe part of the problem for the government is the charging of this conduct using so many different federal statutes. 


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I am not so sure that the "branding" argument works anymore. Martha Stewart seems to be doing just fine. I think we could capture many names of convicted felons who are lawyers, doctors, politicians, etc.

Posted by: George Curtis | Aug 6, 2008 6:11:52 AM

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