Thursday, January 20, 2005

White Collar Sentencing Post- Booker

Everyone has been awaiting decisions post-Booker in hopes of finding some answers to questions that might be hanging in the wake of this new decision.  Professor Doug Berman provides thoughtful analysis in his posts of Judge Cassell's reasoning issued in the first post-Booker sentencing case and now again in Judge Adelman's decision in the Ranum case.

The Ranum case is important for this blog as it can easily be classified as a white collar case. Ranum "held the position of section loan officer at State Financial Bank." with "duties includ[ing] managing a commercial loan portfolio and evaluating loan applications."  The defendant was found guilty of three counts that included charges of "misapplication of bank funds by a bank officer pertaining to [a] $580,000 loan, count two charged him with making a false statement in connection with a loan application ...." and count three charged him with misapplication of bank funds pertaining to the $300,000 loan . . ."

If sentenced under the sentencing guidelines the sentence would have been "37-46 months."  Instead the judge, in an extremely thoughtful opinion, "imposed a sentence of one year and a day."

Some may grab this case and say - "YOU SEE, we need the guidelines."  But a careful reading of this decision will convince you immediately that this is exactly why the sentencing guidelines were problematic.

The judge provides careful reasoning that includes details of the offenders characteristics. Significantly, the judge notes that "defendant's conviction had significant collateral effects on him."  Collateral consequences are common in white collar cases, but often went unnoticed with use of the sentencing guidelines.  The judge also considers "third party interests" - "the significant benefits to family members resulting from his presence."

This decision provides a wonderful model for white collar decisions in the post-Booker world.  It demonstrates that white collar offenders will not skate from jail time as a result of the Supreme Court's ruling.  It also demonstrates how judicial discretion can offer reasoned analysis to fit the specific circumstances of a case.


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