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7th Circuit: ‘Ransom demand’ requires third-party involvement

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In order to enhance a criminal sentence on the basis of a ransom demand, that demand must be conveyed to a third-party, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held Wednesday.

In United States of America v. Tyrone Reynolds, 12-1206, Tyrone Reynolds challenged two sentencing guideline enhancements imposed following convictions of kidnapping and other offenses: a four-level enhancement for being the “leader or organizer” of the criminal activity, and a six-level enhancement for making a ransom demand during the crime. He received a life sentence.

Reynolds and seven other men originally from Belize drove from Chicago to Gary in order to rob Glenford Russell of his money and marijuana. Not believing that $15,000 was all Russell had, they tied him up and beat him. Later, the men drove to Chicago with Russell, believing that Russell could get them additional marijuana. He fled in Chicago and the eight men were later arrested.

Two of the men and Russell fingered Reynolds as the ringleader, pointing out he was the main one to interrogate Russell, Reynolds divvied up the money, and that he had decided the men would go to Chicago with Russell to get more drugs.

“The evidence was simply overwhelming that Reynolds oversaw the scheme and had greater relative responsibility than the other participants,” Judge Ann Claire Williams wrote.

But the judges ordered Reynolds resentenced because his enhancement for making a ransom demand isn’t supported by the evidence. “Ransom” isn’t defined in the guidelines, U.S.S.G. Section 2A4.1(b)(1), nor does the commentary shed any light on its definition. They concluded that Section 2A4.1(b)(1) may be applied only if kidnappers’ demands for “money or other consideration” reach someone other than the captured person.

The men who robbed and kidnapped Russell did not demand something from a third-party in exchange for his release. They only demanded the drugs or money from Russell to release him.

“Section 2A4.1(b)(1) is a substantial adjustment, and additional punishment is warranted when demands reach third parties because those who are contacted will experience great stress and may attempt a rescue, escalating the threat of violence,” Williams wrote. “But when a kidnapping is conducted without the knowledge of anyone except for the victim, the scope of the crime and risk of harm to others, while undoubtedly extensive, is nonetheless not as great.”

“Finally, we find it telling that although no appellate court has considered whether § 2A4.1(b)(1) requires the communication of demands to third parties, we have not found a single appellate decision where the adjustment had been applied to a defendant who did not intend for his demands to reach a third party,” she wrote.

 

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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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