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Bipolar defense fails in wire fraud, tax evasion appeal

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A woman sentenced to five years in prison after she pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and tax evasion for swindling an elderly couple failed to persuade the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to revise her sentence.

The panel affirmed the 60-month sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker of the Southern District of Indiana in United States of America v. Stephanie L. Donelli, 13-2548. Stephanie Donelli was convicted of inducing a couple to “lend” her money more than 500 times, totaling almost $443,000. She peddled a phony story that her daughter was awaiting a $750,000 settlement for injuries sustained in a crash involving a drunken driver.

“Donelli asserts that briefly mentioning her bipolar disorder at sentencing was enough to require a response from the district court,” Judge David Hamilton wrote for the panel.

“We disagree, and we affirm Donelli’s sentence for two independent reasons. First, she failed to present the fact of her diagnosis as a principal argument in mitigation relevant to her sentence,” Hamilton wrote. She also waived her claim of error “by telling the district court at the close of her sentencing hearing that she had no objection to her sentence apart from the fact that the sentence was above the guidleline range.”

Hamilton wrote the District Court didn’t fail to comply with its duty under United States v. Cunningham, 429 F.3d 673 (7th Cir. 2005), requiring sentencing judges to address a defendant’s principal arguments in mitigation when those arguments have recognized legal merit.

Counsel’s statement at sentencing, “'The defendant has a mental illness’ is an observation of fact, not an argument in mitigation,” Hamilton wrote. “The few statements about bipolar II disorder made by Donelli’s lawyer at sentencing did not amount to an argument in mitigation that the district court had a duty to discuss.”

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  1. Poor Judge Brown probably thought that by slavishly serving the godz of the age her violations of 18th century concepts like due process and the rule of law would be overlooked. Mayhaps she was merely a Judge ahead of her time?

  2. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  3. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

  4. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  5. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

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