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. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.