Judge's focus 'odd,' 'inappropriate' for Circuit's taste

September 14, 2010
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The post was written by IL managing editor Elizabeth Brockett.

Sometimes a case makes the news not because of the merits, but for some other reason. Such a case came from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Monday. Writing for the panel, Judge Diane P. Wood noted there was “little out of the ordinary” in Jose Figueroa’s trial and conviction. He was charged with heading a multimillion-dollar drug conspiracy in Wisconsin. A jury convicted him of conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute and distribution of cocaine.

Judge Wood wrote that his evidentiary decision challenge had no merit; however, it was comments made during sentencing by Wisconsin Eastern District Judge Rudolph T. Randa that raised questions. The appellate panel remanded, noting that Judge Randa’s “process was so far out of bounds that Figueroa is entitled to resentencing.”

In United State of America v. Jose Figueroa, also known as Jose Figueroa-Maldanado, No. 09-3333, Judge Wood noted the sentence of 235 months was unremarkable, but “the process the district court used to get there – in particular, its extraneous and inflammatory comments during the sentencing hearing – cast doubt on the validity of the sentence.”

Judge Wood wrote, “The sentencing transcript reveals an odd focus on nation-states and national characteristics. The district court linked the drug trade to Mexico, then to Colombia and Venezuela, and then to Iranian terrorists through the person of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. … Turning to punishment, he remarked that Figueroa should be happy that he was headed to an American – rather than a Mexican or Turkish – prison, and that Figueroa’s conduct could have resulted in execution had it occurred in Malaysia or Thailand.”

“The transcript also reveals the district court judge’s use of colorful – and inappropriate – analogies to dispense with arguments that he did not appreciate. Rejecting Figueroa’s wife’s comment that the sentence was unfair, he said that ‘[i]t reminds me of … the person who killed his parents . . . asking [the judge] to have sympathy for him because he’s an orphan.’”

“Later, the judge discounted Figueroa’s claim that he was a good family man: ‘even Adolf Hitler was admired by his family. Adolf Hitler loved his dog. Yet he killed six million Jews.’”

Is Judge Randa one who’s tough on drug dealers and got a little overzealous in his rebuke? For the record, Judge Randa is no rookie. He served as chief judge of that district from 2002 to 2009. He also previously served on the U.S. Judicial Conference Code of Conduct Committee.

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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