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Judges order woman resentenced for health care fraud

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found that a woman knowingly and voluntarily pleaded guilty to one count of health care fraud, but it sent her case back to the District Court for resentencing. The District judge violated the ex post facto clause by sentencing her under the wrong version of the sentencing guidelines.

Carol Woodard was the managing director of Gideon’s Gate, which provided educational services to children of indigent families. When the Indiana Department of Education stopped providing funding to the non-profit in January 2006, Woodward enrolled Gideon as an authorized Indiana Medicaid provider, but she provided no medical services. She fraudulently billed Medicaid from January 2006 through December 2007.

She submitted 2,437 false claims to Medicaid for a total of $8.9 million in phony services. Woodard was indicted on one count of health care fraud.

As the first trial date approached, Woodard filed the first of many motions to change counsel. After the District Court appointed a third attorney, it sua sponte ordered Woodard to undergo a competency examination because it felt that she might not understand the nature of the proceedings against her. After a doctor concluded that Woodard was competent to stand trial because she knew and understood the charges against her and was able to assist in her defense, the court found Woodard legally competent to stand trial. Nearly two years later, after several more delays and new attorneys, Woodard asked for a second competency evaluation, which the court denied. Woodard pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 80 months imprisonment.

In United States of America v. Carol Y. Woodard, 12-3363, Woodard argued that the District Court abused its discretion by not ordering a second competency evaluation; that she did not knowingly and voluntarily plead guilty during her Rule 11 colloquy; and the judge violated the ex post facto clause at sentencing.

The federal appeals court rejected her first two claims, finding the trial court reach a reasonable conclusion after it reviewed a previous psychological evaluation, considered the advice of two mental health professionals, and considered her interactions with her attorneys, Judge Ann Claire Williams wrote. A review of the record shows that she voluntarily and knowingly pleaded guilty during her colloquy, as no red flags were raised to alert the court to the contrary.

But, the 7th Circuit agreed that Judge Larry J. McKinney sentenced her under the wrong version of the sentencing guidelines. She committed her crimes in 2006 and 2007, but, relying on 7th Circuit precedent, McKinney sentenced Woodard based on sentencing guidelines in effect at the time she was sentenced in 2012. Instead of a sentencing range of 51 to 63 months based on the 2007 version of the sentencing guidelines, she was subject to a range of 97 to 121 months.  

The 7th Circuit ordered Woodward resentenced based on Peugh v. United States, 133 S. Ct. 2072 (2013). The Supreme Court of the United States held that the ex post facto clause is violated when a defendant is sentenced under guidelines promulgated after the commission of the crime when the use of those guidelines results in a higher sentencing range than the one calculated under the guidelines in effect at the time the offense was committed.

“Although the district court sentenced Woodard under then-controlling Seventh Circuit precedent, it is plain at the time of our review that under Peugh, the district court committed an error,” Williams wrote.
 

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