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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. "So we broke with England for the right to "off" our preborn progeny at will, and allow the processing plant doing the dirty deeds (dirt cheap) to profit on the marketing of those "products of conception." I was completely maleducated on our nation's founding, it would seem. (But I know the ACLU is hard at work to remedy that, too.)" Well, you know, we're just following in the footsteps of our founders who raped women, raped slaves, raped children, maimed immigrants, sold children, stole property, broke promises, broke apart families, killed natives... You know, good God fearing down home Christian folk! :/

  2. Who gives a rats behind about all the fluffy ranking nonsense. What students having to pay off debt need to know is that all schools aren't created equal and students from many schools don't have a snowball's chance of getting a decent paying job straight out of law school. Their lowly ranked lawschool won't tell them that though. When schools start honestly (accurately) reporting *those numbers, things will get interesting real quick, and the looks on student's faces will be priceless!

  3. Whilst it may be true that Judges and Justices enjoy such freedom of time and effort, it certainly does not hold true for the average working person. To say that one must 1) take a day or a half day off work every 3 months, 2) gather a list of information including recent photographs, and 3) set up a time that is convenient for the local sheriff or other such office to complete the registry is more than a bit near-sighted. This may be procedural, and hence, in the near-sighted minds of the court, not 'punishment,' but it is in fact 'punishment.' The local sheriffs probably feel a little punished too by the overwork. Registries serve to punish the offender whilst simultaneously providing the public at large with a false sense of security. The false sense of security is dangerous to the public who may not exercise due diligence by thinking there are no offenders in their locale. In fact, the registry only informs them of those who have been convicted.

  4. Unfortunately, the court doesn't understand the difference between ebidta and adjusted ebidta as they clearly got the ruling wrong based on their misunderstanding

  5. A common refrain in the comments on this website comes from people who cannot locate attorneys willing put justice over retainers. At the same time the judiciary threatens to make pro bono work mandatory, seemingly noting the same concern. But what happens to attorneys who have the chumptzah to threatened the legal status quo in Indiana? Ask Gary Welch, ask Paul Ogden, ask me. Speak truth to power, suffer horrendously accordingly. No wonder Hoosier attorneys who want to keep in good graces merely chase the dollars ... the powers that be have no concerns as to those who are ever for sale to the highest bidder ... for those even willing to compromise for $$$ never allow either justice or constitutionality to cause them to stand up to injustice or unconstitutionality. And the bad apples in the Hoosier barrel, like this one, just keep rotting.

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