Thursday, July 19, 2012

Big Dig Sentence Decision

The First Circuit affirmed the sentences of Robert Prosperi and Gregory Stevenson. The government appealed the sentences following their convictions for mail fraud, highway project fraud and conspiracy to defraud the government. "Both appellees were employees of Aggregate Industries NE, Inc. ('Aggregate'), a subcontractor that provided concrete for Boston's Central Artery/Tunnel project, popularly known as the 'Big Dig.'"  The judge calculated the sentence under the guidelines as 87-108 months and then gave the defendants 6 months of home monitoring, 3 years probation, and 1,000 hours of community service. 

The appellate court found the sentences met the reasonableness standard. The First Circuit stated: 

Although the degree to which the sentences vary from the GSR gives us pause, the district court's explanation ultimately supports the reasonableness of the sentences imposed.  The district court emphasized that its finding on the loss amount caused by the crimes, the most significant factor in determining the GSR, was imprecise and did not fairly reflect the defendants' culpability.  Hence it would not permit the loss estimate to unduly drive its sentencing decision.  Relatedly, it found that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that the defendants' conduct made the Big Dig unsafe in any way or that the defendants profited from the offenses.  The court then supplemented these critical findings with consideration of the individual circumstances of the defendants and concluded that probationary sentences were appropriate.  We cannot say that it abused its discretion in doing so.

The judges ended this thoughtful opinion with:

In this case, the district court carefully explained its sentencing decisions.  Most significantly, the court explained why the estimated loss amount was an unfair proxy for culpability, and why it should not drive the sentencing process.  Importantly, it also found that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that the defendants' conduct compromised the structural integrity of the Big Dig, or that they sought to enrich themselves.  Coupled with the individual circumstances of the defendants, these findings provided a "plausible explanation [for the sentences], and the overall result is defensible."  Innarelli, 524 F.3d at 292.

It is nice to see judges looking at the individuals and not sentencing by the numbers.

See also Doug Bermans, Sentencing Law & Policy here

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