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7th Circuit upholds embezzlement convictions against ex-mayor

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed ex-East Chicago Mayor George Pabey’s convictions of embezzling government funds and conspiring to embezzle and found the District Court didn’t err when it sentenced him to 60 months in prison.

Pabey – along with East Chicago’s head of the Engineering Department, Jose Camacho – was convicted in September 2010 on the two embezzling counts. Pabey and Camacho used government funds and government employees to renovate a house Pabey and his wife, Hilda, purchased in Gary, Ind., in October 2007. Pabey claimed that he had no idea about the scheme to use city funds and employees. The District Court gave the jury a conscious avoidance instruction – also known as an ostrich instruction – that Pabey’s knowledge of the scheme can be inferred if they find he deliberately avoided the knowledge necessary for his conviction.

Pabey was convicted and sentenced to 60 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $70,000 in fines and restitution, which was above the United States Sentencing Guidelines. His sentence was also enhanced for obstruction of justice, for his leadership role in the offense, and for abuse of a position of trust.

Pabey challenged the jury instruction, but the 7th Circuit found the District Court did not abuse its discretion by giving it. In this case, the government presented both types of evidence – committing overt physical acts to avoid the knowledge and purely psychological avoidance – to show that if Pabey was unaware of the embezzlement scheme, then he deliberately avoided such knowledge.

The appellate court also found each of the sentencing enhancements were appropriate. Regarding the increased sentence, the District Court provided adequate support for its upward departure based on the 18 U.S.C. Section 3553(a) factors, and further supported its departure using the United States Sentencing Guidelines recommendations, wrote Judge Joel Flaum in United States of America v. George Pabey, No. 11-2046.

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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