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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. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  2. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  3. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  4. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

  5. I totally agree with John Smith.

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