Monday, July 13, 2015

No jail for Beanie Babies tax fraudster

Judges are starting to speak out about the ridiculous guideline system we have and incarcerating first time non-violent offenders for no reason.  Here's the latest -- a 7th Circuit opinion affirming a non-jail term sentence for the billionaire owner of Beanie Babies in a very large tax fraud case:
Defendant H. Ty Warner, the billionaire creator of Beanie Babies, evaded $5.6 million in U.S. taxes by hiding assets in a Swiss bank account.  He pled guilty to one count of tax evasion, made full restitution, and paid a $53.6 million civil penalty.  The Sentencing Guidelines provided a recommended 46- to 57-month term of imprisonment, but the district judge gave Warner a more lenient sentence: two years’ probation with community service, plus a $100,000 fine and costs.  The government claims his sentence is unreasonable because it does not include a term of incarceration.
In a typical case, we might agree.  But this is not a typical case.  The district judge found Warner’s record of charity and benevolence “overwhelming.”  Indeed, the judge remarked that Warner’s conduct was unprecedented when viewed through the judge’s more-than-three decades on the bench.  In the district court’s opinion, this and other mitigating factors — including the uncharacteristic nature of Warner’s crime, his attempt to disclose his account, his payment of a penalty ten times the size of the tax loss, and the government’s own request for a sentence well below the guidelines range — justified leniency.  District courts enjoy broad discretion to fashion an appropriate, individualized sentence in light of the factors in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a).  The court here did not abuse its discretion.  Rather, it fully explained and supported its decision and reached an outcome that is reasonable under the unique circumstances of this case.  We therefore affirm Warner’s sentence.

In other news, President Obama is going to see what federal prison is all about -- he's making a visit Oklahoma to see the federal prison there, a first for a sitting President:
President Barack Obama will become the first sitting chief executive to visit a federal prison when he goes to El Reno, Oklahoma, next week to meet with law enforcement officials and inmates as part of the administration’s push for criminal-justice reform.
“Next week, the president will underscore the administration’s focus on the need to reform and improve America’s criminal justice system,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said during Friday’s news briefing.
Obama will speak to that on Tuesday when he addresses the NAACP conference in Philadelphia before stopping at the medium-security federal facility in Oklahoma on Thursday. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the facility houses 1,301 inmates in all, including 248 at an adjacent minimum-security satellite camp.

Finally, a pro-se litigant won this appeal (via
Every day, state prisoners flood Florida’s courts with appeals and pleadings about their cases that they’ve written themselves. Those pro se filings — Latin for “on his own behalf” — rarely get far.
This spring, however, an inmate sex offender serving a life sentence convinced the Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach that a Broward judge erred when she failed to order prosecutors to explain potentially serious discrepancies about his Miranda rights warning form.
The state introduced the Miranda form as evidence at Charles D. Williams’ 1998 trial, but Williams contends the document was a fraud and that police forged his signature. For years, Williams and his family filed public records requests seeking to obtain a copy.
“After serving multiple requests to the Broward County Clerk and the State Attorney’s Office over a course of years, his brother finally obtained a copy of a Miranda waiver form,” says the unanimous order by a three-judge appeal panel. “The date on the form produced differed from the date on the form introduced at trial, and the signature on the form produced varied from the petitioner’s signature.”
The panel ordered Broward Circuit Judge Lisa Porter to require prosecutors and the clerk’s office to respond to the “factual issue of whether the form produced is the same as the form introduced at trial.” If the response doesn’t resolve the matter, Porter was instructed to “hold an evidentiary hearing.”
The court issued its mandate to Judge Porter on June 12 after denying a request for reconsideration by Florida Assistant Attorney General Richard Valtunas, who in previous court papers called Williams’ assertions “outlandish allegations of fraud and skullduggery.” The judge had not taken action as of Monday.

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