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7th Circuit affirms above-guidelines sentence for embezzlement

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A man’s 60-month sentence for stealing from his employer for many years – a sentence beyond the advisory guidelines range – is reasonable, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday. The man challenged the District Court’s recalculation of his guidelines range after he appealed his sentence.

In United States of America v. Richard Brown, 12-3313, Chief Judge Richard Young in the Southern District of Indiana, after considering the sentencing factors listed in 18 U.S.C. Section 3553(a), decided to sentence Richard Brown above the guidelines of 21 to 27 months based on the extensive nature of his crimes. Brown worked as the office manager and accountant for a cluster of small businesses owned by the Walker family when it was discovered in 2009 that he had been embezzling from the company for years, putting the businesses in financial straights and destroying the Walker family’s credit.

Brown was indicted on more than 150 counts of wire fraud, mail fraud and tax fraud. He pleaded guilty to a single count of each.

Brown appealed four days after sentencing. Three weeks later, Young issued an amended judgment and attached statement of reasons explaining the sentence. In that statement, Young recalculated Brown’s guidelines range, but kept the original sentence.

Brown claimed the District Court violated Rule 32(h) by not giving notice before applying “departures” to recalculate the guidelines range. The 7th Circuit affirmed.

“Accordingly, if there was error below, it was not the district court’s failure to give notice under Rule 32(h), it was the court’s effort to recalculate Brown’s guidelines range after the notice of appeal was filed. At the sentencing hearing, the district court correctly calculated the guidelines range and then varied upwardly based on the § 3553(a) factors, explaining why the sentence was appropriate. The court’s post-appeal statement of reasons needlessly introduced complication,” Judge Diane Sykes wrote.

She pointed out the real issue with the court’s recalculation is that it lacked the power to amend because the case is now before the 7th Circuit on appeal.
 
“Even if we construed the recalculated range as a nonsubstantive change in the rationale for the sentence — after all, the 60-month sentence was unaffected — the judge’s written explanation is plainly at odds with his oral statement from the bench. In cases of conflict between the written and oral pronouncement of sentence, the oral pronouncement controls,” the court held.
 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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