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Judges vacate 2 conditions of supervised release

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Because two special conditions imposed on a man convicted of attempted extortion do not bear a reasonably direct relationship to his underlying crimes, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated those conditions.

Walbert Keith Farmer attempted to extort money from Walter Allen, an employee at Horseshoe Casino in Elizabeth. Farmer learned that Allen had used a company credit card without authorization and threatened Allen over the phone to tell the casino about his actions unless Allen paid him off.

The police busted up Farmer’s scheme, and he pleaded guilty to two counts for attempting to extort Allen and using interstate communications in the execution of his plot. The presentence report prepared did not disclose to the parties any information about the conditions of supervised release that the probation service intended to recommend to the District Court.

Judge Tanya Walton Pratt imposed those special conditions, which included that Farmer submit to the search of his person, vehicle, office, residence and property at the request of his probation officer, even without a warrant or reasonable suspicion; and a ban on self-employment.

In United States of America v. Walbert Keith Farmer, 13-3373, the 7th Circuit judges noted their concern that the parties weren’t privy to the conditions of the supervised release suggested by the probation officer prior to the hearing. The sentencing recommendation, which contained some of the conditions, was designated as confidential under a local rule. By keeping this information confidential, it does not allow a defendant to properly challenge the recommendation at the sentencing hearing.

“We recommend that sentencing judges follow the best practices outlined in Siegel when imposing conditions of supervised release, particularly the suggestion that judges “[r]equire the probation service to communicate its recommendations for conditions of supervised release to defense counsel at least two weeks before the sentencing hearing,” Judge John Tinder wrote.

The judges were “at a loss” as to how the broad search and seizure authority is connected to Farmer’s current offense or criminal history. And they found that the judge’s explanation for imposing the ban on self-employment did not provide the necessary nexus between Farmer’s underlying crime of attempted extortion and the self-employment ban.

They vacated these two conditions of supervised release and remanded for further proceedings.

 

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