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7th Circuit affirms kidnapping and extortion convictions, sentence

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Finding no error in the admittance of three photo identifications of a defendant following charges of kidnapping and extortion, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Lamar Sanders’ convictions and 25-year sentence Thursday.

In United States of America v. Lamar E. Sanders, 11-3298, Sanders argued that the District Court denied him due process by admitting Timicka Nobles’ three identifications of him. Sanders claimed that the District Court ran afoul of the Confrontation Clause, or, alternatively, abused its discretion, by limiting his cross-examination of Nobles. Finally, Sanders contends that the District Court applied the incorrect mandatory minimum sentence.

Sanders and Ralph Scott forced their way into Nobles’ apartment, kidnapped her 10-year-old daughter, and forced Nobles to drive to her mother’s currency exchange store in Chicago. There, she took money out of the store’s safe and placed it in a plastic bag on her car’s front seat, where Sanders then removed it. She was able to notify her mother of the plot, who then alerted police. Scott was arrested at the scene and Sanders turned himself in shortly thereafter.

Nobles was shown a photo at the scene found in Sanders’ car of him at a birthday party; two hours later she was shown a formal photo array. She also identified Sanders in court. The daughter, who did not see the birthday party photos, also identified Sanders as her kidnapper.

Two mandatory minimum sentences apply to kidnapping – 20 years or 25 years. The District Court imposed the higher penalty.

The 7th Circuit upheld the admission of Nobles’ identifications of Sanders in a 33-page decision, finding any errors to be harmless because the government’s evidence was strong and Sanders’ case was weak.

The District Court did not allow Sanders’ to probe the details of Nobles’ criminal past, including that her previous convictions of theft and forgery involved a currency exchange.

“Sanders presented the jury with his entire theory of Nobles’s motive to lie. The fact that the prior convictions involved crimes at another currency exchange would not have given the jury any further material information in appraising her credibility,” Judge Michael Kanne wrote. “The jury might not have possessed all the information Sanders wanted it to have, but it certainly had sufficient information to evaluate Nobles’s testimony.”

The judges also believed that Congress intended for the 25-year minimum sentence for kidnapping to apply, as that minimum was passed after the 20-year minimum sentence was in place.

 

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