ILNews

Woman waived challenge to amount of loss attributable to her conduct

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the 57-month sentence for a woman involved in a real estate fraud scheme, finding she waived the issue regarding the amount of loss attributable to her conduct.

Donella Locke was charged with 15 counts of illegal conduct, but 10 counts were dismissed upon Locke’s motion because the government couldn’t present any evidence on those counts. The presentence investigation report calculated a loss of more than $2.3 million based on all of the properties underlying all 15 counts against Locke, including those that formed the basis of the dismissed counts. She initially objected, but then her attorney withdrew the objection.

Locke was sentenced to 71 months and ordered to pay the full loss amount calculated in the report. She appealed, and the 7th Circuit remanded for resentencing. Before resentencing, she successfully petitioned for the government to not present any new evidence at the resentencing proceeding. Her sentence was reduced to 57 months because the court could not consider the enhancement for offenses involving 10 or more victims. Her restitution amount was reduced to approximately $340,000.

Locke appealed again, this time arguing the District Court erred when it failed to reduce the loss amount incurred as a result of her convicted conduct by the amount the victims received when they sold the real estate that secured the fraudulently obtained loans.

The 7th Circuit judges noted this case “takes on an unnecessarily complicated pallor by co-mingling the concepts of loss and restitution. … The confusion in this case comes from the fact that although Locke waived any right to ask the appellate court to reconsider the amount of loss, on remand, the district court was required to reconsider restitution.”

“Locke was free to preserve a challenge to the loss amount based on the fair market value of the collateral at the time of the first sentencing,” Judge Ilana Rovner wrote. “Instead, she made a tactical decision to withdraw any objection to the loss amount. Had Locke not withdrawn the objection, the court would have taken evidence regarding both the amount placed at risk, the fair market value of the collateral and relevant conduct in determining the amount of loss. By waiving the objection, the district court had no reason to consider either matter and no evidence was presented.”

“Although it is true the application notes to U.S.S. G. 2B1.1 instruct that loss amounts also should be offset by the collateral, the issue of loss had been waived. Had it not been waived, the district court could have considered the evidence about sale of the homes to determine the amount of offset of the collateral, but then the relevant conduct of the unconvicted counts would also have been fair game. Locke cannot argue that the court should have considered evidence to lower the amount of loss, but not to consider conduct that surely would have increased the amount of loss. That smacks of wanting to have one’s cake and eat it too.”

The case is United States of America v. Donella Locke, 11-3743.
 

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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