Articles Posted in Federal Sentencing

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In U.S. v Wright the defendant Wright pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft by filing fraudulent tax returns in the name of identity theft victims in order to obtain the refunds in violation of 18 USC §1349 and possessing 15 or more counterfeit and unauthorized access devised with the intent to defrauds in violation of 18 USC §1029. Other counts involved possession of names and social security number of five different people. The factual proffer of the plea agreement revealed that the IRS discovered fraudulent returns coming from the same Interne Protocol (IP) address what turned out to belong to a Florida apartment that was rented by Wright. The IRS agents executed a search warrant at the apartment where they found person identifying information PII for thousands of people in a number of places in the apartment. After seizing and analyzing the documents, the IRS determined there were 12,124 identities, 331 debit of credit cards containing account information and 2,090 identities found on the computers and flash drive.

The district court sentenced Wright to 84 months. Because the intended loss on all the tax returns totaled $868,472 plus an additional $6,905,500 representing $500 for each of the 13,811 remaining compromised identities found in the apartment. The issue on appeal was whether the loss amount calculated for determining Wright’s sentencing should the $500 amount for each of the remaining 13,811 compromised identities. The appeals court refined the issued by asking whether the 13,311 compromised identities qualified as “access devises” under any part of the definition for access devices as given in the sentencing guidelines. While the court of appeals found the 331 debit or credit cards and numerous social security number are access devises, the question became whether the other thousands of compromised identities which were described only as “personal identifying information.”

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David Ryan Alberts was sentenced to 120 months after pleading to receiving and possessing child pornography. Albers was arrested after F.B.I. agents in Orlando Florida went to Albert’s home and where he admitted accessing and receiving and possessing child pornography as long as 15 years ago. They discovered over 160 images on his thumb drive. Albert also admitted having engaged in sexual acts with his younger relatives on different occasions when they were under the age of 12 and when he was approximately 16 years old. The PSR also said that he admitted to searching for images depicting incest and law enforcement agents found numerous incest related stories on his thumb drive. Based on his teenage sex acts with his younger relatives, the PSR assessed a five-level increase to his offense level under section 2G2.2(b)(5) of the guidelines for engaging in a pattern of activity involving sexual abuse or exploitation of a minor.   This gave him a range of 135-168 months. At his sentencing, he challenged the application of this enhancement though he did not challenge the factual accuracy of this history. The district court granted the defendant’s motion for downward departure and imposed a sentence of 120 months.

Albert challenged the five-level enhancement his sentence on several grounds. First, he argued that the government did not produce sufficient evidence to justify the enhancement. But the court concluded that Alberts did not object at sentencing to the statements in the PSR regarding his past sexual activity. Furthermore, his admissions were corroborated by his long-standing preoccupation with incest and pedophilia. Therefor the appellate court found the district courts findings of fact regarding the enhancement were not erroneous.

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Defendant Freeman Jockisch was indicted and convicted of a violation 18 USC §2422(b) which prohibits the use of the Internet to attempt to persuade a minor to engage in sexual activity. The indictment alleged he tried to commit rape in the second degree, sodomy in the second degree, and sexual abuse in the second degree. The indictment listed three sexual offenses under Alabama statutes, which had Jockisch consummated with the minor, would have resulted in criminal charges under Alabama state law or federal law.  Jockish is a former Mobile County, Alabam Commissioner.

The defendant began an email correspondence with someone he believed to be a 15-year old girl on Craigslist and said multiple times during his emails that he wanted to make love to the young woman. Eventually they agreed to meet and when the defendant arrived at the address and time she provided, he only found police officers waiting for him.

The district court turned down a defense instructed instruction and instead instructed the jury that it only had to unanimously find the defendant knowingly used the internet to attempt to persuade the minor to engage in unlawful sexual activity and that if the sexual activity had occurred the defendant could have been charge with a criminal offense under the laws of Alabama.

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Doyle pled guilty to distribution of more than fifty grams of cocaine bade and was facing a 10 year minimum sentence and up to live imprisonment. After calculating his advisory guidelines rant of 262 to 327 at sentencing the district court asked his counsel if she had anything to say before the sentence was imposed and she used the opportunity to argue successfully for a sentence at the low end of the advisory guidelines range. The court did not ask Doyle himself if he wished to make a statement or to allocate as required by the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Doyle’s counsel did not object. Doyle later filed a pro se motion to vacate pursuant to 28 U.S.C. section 2244 claiming that he had asked his former counsel to file a direct appeal but that she had failed to do so. The district court granted his 2255 motion with respect to his failure to appeal claim and the court ordered the remedy spelled out in U. S. v. Phillips, which requires vacating the original sentence and resentencing him to the same sentence as before, so it can be reviewed on appeal. It does not reopen the sentencing. The same sentence as before was imposed.

The sole issue for the appellate court was whether Doyle’s sentence must be vacated because his right to give allocution, as embodied in the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32 was violated. In the pre-Booker era, the court of appeals presumed prejudice from the district court’s failure to ask a defendant if he had anything to say before sentence was pronounced, except where the defendant was sentenced at the low end of the applicable mandatory guideline range. The question here is whether that low-end exception to a presumption of prejudice still applies in the post-Booker advisory guideline era.

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In U.S. v. Osman, the defendant appealed his restitution order following his guilty plea to one count of production of child pornography, one count of distribution of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. On six occasions Osman sexually abused an molested his approximately one-year-old daughter and used his cell phone to photograph his sexual abuse. He sent some of the child pornography images he had created to another individual in exchange for other child pornography images. When Department of Homeland Security executed a search warrant at Osman’s residence he admitted to using the internet to search or child pornography. A forensic examination of his electronic services revealed at least 94 movies and 588 images of child pornography that included his daughter.

After a grand jury indicted him with possession, production, and distribution of child pornography. As part of his plea he agreed to make full restitution to his daughter under the Mandatory Restitution for Sexual Exploitation of Children Act 18 U.S C. 2259.

At the restitution hearing Osman argued the government’s estimate of A.E.’s future counseling needs was speculative given her very young age. The government’s position was that any estimate of damages and further counseling needs would be speculative to some extend in a case involving an infant victim but nevertheless asserted restitution was appropriate. The government used a licensed counselor who specialized with child victims of sexual abuse and testified about her experience involving victims of child sexual abuse and working with children at various developmental stages. She acknowledged her estimate about A.E.’s future need would be based on prediction about the care she would likely need and was in some sense speculative but her opinion was based on many years of research about the consequences of early adverse life events and her extensive experience counseling victims of abuse.

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McCullough was arrested and convicted for marijuana distribution. His conviction was affirmed by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in United States v. McCullough. This is how the facts unfold. He was initially pulled over by an Alabama police officer for driving with a partially obscure license plate. While the numbers on the Alabama issued plate were visible, a license bracket in the shape of an eagle with outstretched wings obscured pares of the license plate including the state of issue. Alabama law provides that every motor vehicle operator shall at all times keep the license tag or license plate plainly visible on the rear end of a mother vehicles. The officer stopped McCullough because the officer believe that he had violated this law by having the eagle bracket. When McCullough was stopped, the officer issued him a ticket for failing to have a plainly visible license plate.

The officer then smelled marijuana coming from the inside of the truck and a search of the truck led to the discover of $8,335 and a marijuana. After the officer seized $4,000 and a key to a hotel room, the officer obtained a search warrant for the room and found $1,000, bags of marijuana and a gun.

He was charged with possession with the intent to distribute marijuana, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He moved to suppress on the grounds the officer lacked probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop him for partly obscuring the license plate because Alabama law only requires that the alphanumeric symbols be visible not the full license plate. The district court denied the motion. He pleaded guilty to each count before a magistrate judge. Prior to sentencing the probation officer calculated the guideline range to be 262-327 base on his status as a career offender with a career history e category of VI and a consecutive mandatory minimum of five years for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

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In U.S. v Scheels the Defendant pled guilty to one count of production of child pornography and one count of receipt of child pornography and received a 600-month sentence of imprisonment. In calculating his sentencing guideline range, the district court imposed a four-level enhancement under 2G2.1(b)(4) of the U. S. Sentencing Guidelines. This guidelines provision requires the imposition of a four-level enhancement where a defendant’s “offense involved material that portrays sadistic or masochistic conduct or other depictions of violence.” The defendant conceded that the pornography he produced does depict sadistic or masochistic conduct and admitted that it contained among other things images involving whipping and bondage. But the defendant argued that the enhancement should not apply to him because the sadistic or masochistic conduct in the pornography was directed at him not the child victim.

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After a two-week trial, defendant in U.S. v Stein was convicted of mail, wire, and securities fraud based on evident that he fabricated press releases and purchase money orders to inflate the stock price of his client, Signalife, Inc, a publicly traded manufacturer of medical devices. The district court sentenced Stein to 205 months in prison, ordered $5 million in forfeiture, and $13 million in restitution. In his appeal Stein argued that the government failed to disclose Brady v. Maryland material to the defense before trial and knowingly relied on false testimony to make its case. As for the sentence, Stein argues that the district court erred in calculating actual loss for the purpose of the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996 (MVRA) and § 2B1.1 of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. He argued that in estimating actual loss the district court erroneously presumed that all purchasers of Signalife stock during the period the fraud was ongoing relied on false information advanced by Stein.   He also argued that the district court failed to take into account other market forces that likely contributed to the investors losses.

After the Department of Justin conducted a criminal investigation of Stein and his work with Signalife, he was charged with money laundering and wire and securities fraud. Prior to his trial Stein moved to produce documents in the Security and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) files. The government’s response was that is lacked control over the SEC and it did not conduct a joint investigation with the SEC. Prior to trial Stein learned that in the course of its investigation the DOJ had accessed a very small subset of documents in the SEC’s date base which the DOJ then provided to him. As a result he filed a motion to dismiss on the basis of this Brady violation. Following his conviction at trial, he obtained additional documents from the SEC that he believed were exculpatory and he filed motion for a new trial based on the Brady violation.

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In this case Garcia Martinez pleaded guilty to reentry after deportation in violation of 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1326(a) and his guidelines sentence was enhanced 16 levels by the district court who found his Florida conviction for second degree burglary of a dwelling, for which he was deported, was a crime of violence. He appealed the district court’s conclusion arguing that the facts of the Florida conviction for burglary of a dwelling as set forth in the presentence report do not qualify for a 16- level increase in his guideline range.

The court of appeals reversed after determining that the Florida statute does not fall under the enumerated offense clause definition for crime of violence under the sentencing guidelines.

The court arrived at this decision by first determining that the generic definition of the enumerated offense of burglary requires the unlawful entry into a building or structure with intent to commit a crime. However, the sentencing guidelines specifies that the offense must be a burglary of a dwelling. This required the court to determine the generic definition of a dwelling. It concluded a generic dwelling is a building or portion thereof, a tent, a mobile home, a vehicle, or other enclosed space which is used or intended for use a s a human habitation.

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In U.S. v Plate the defendant worked at Wells Fargo in Orlando Florida as a financial advisor. One of her long time clients was an elderly couple for whom she managed their securities and bond portfolio. She became close friends with the couple. As their mental capacities diminished with age Plate began to perform personal duties for the couple beyond the traditional financial advisor role. After Plate’s husband died, she eventually induced the husband to execute a Wells Fargo ACH authorization agreement allowing for the transfer of funds from the couples’ Wells Fargo trust account into a separate account. Plate manipulated the husband into writing her personal checks and then she liquidated the securities in the trust account by making a number of unauthorized sales. In total she defrauded the couple of $176,079 and left noting in the account.

She was charged with a single count of embezzlement by a bank officer in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 656 and pled guilty to the offense. The PSI came back with a guideline range of 27-33 months.  Prior to sentencing Plate filed a memorandum asking for a probation sentence and to show remorse she sold her house to pay restitution and expressed determination to pay everything back. She argued probation was appropriate because her crime was an anomaly brought on by depression and reduced mental capacity following the death of her husband. To support her position she attached a forensic evaluation by a licensed psychologist who concluded that she had developed a maladaptive coping style of avoidance characterized by apathy and impaired emotional understanding and reduced mental capacity brought on by the loss of her husband.

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