7th Circuit affirms minor sexual exploitation conviction, sentence for woman connected to Jared Fogle

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A woman with ties to disgraced subway pitchman Jared Fogle who was convicted of sexual exploitation of a minor and other crimes failed to convince the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that her prosecution was vindictive or that her sentence is excessive.

The government first learned of Angela Baldwin, along with her then-husband Russell Taylor, as part of the investigation into Fogle.

At first, only Taylor was charged with crimes stemming from the couple’s sexual exploitation of minors, including Baldwin’s two daughters and niece. Taylor was a friend and employee of Fogle.

Taylor cooperated with the government in prosecuting Fogle and pleaded guilty to sexually exploiting minors and producing videos of their exploitation. He was sentenced to 27 years, but the Indiana Southern District Court vacated the conviction after finding his counsel ineffective.

The government decided to prosecute Taylor again, and he pleaded guilty to a smaller set of offenses and received the same sentence. But the 7th Circuit vacated that conviction, ruling there were constitutional concerns the Indiana Southern District Court needed to address.

As part of the government’s reevaluation of Taylor’s case, prosecutors looked at the entire file and decided to bring similar charges against Baldwin for her involvement in the girls’ exploitation.

A jury in the Indiana Southern District Court, Indianapolis Division, convicted her of sexual exploitation of a minor, conspiring to produce child pornography and possession of child pornography. She was sentenced to a little more than 33 years, below the advisory range of 110 years.

On appeal, Baldwin argued the district court should have granted her motion to dismiss because the government’s decision to prosecute her was vindictive. Baldwin maintained she was prosecuted in retaliation for Taylor’s success in vacating his first conviction.

“Her argument lacks evidentiary or logical support,” the opinion says.

While Baldwin argued the timing of her indictment showed prosecutorial animus, the 7th Circuit said the record “tells a very different story.” New prosecutors evaluating the case, the opinion says, determined the evidence — including testimony from her now-adult victims — made the charges appropriate.

“In light of these facts and Taylor’s successful reprosecution, it is clear that the government was neither responsible for nor hampered by Taylor’s postconviction success,” the opinion states. “It is thus hardly surprising that Baldwin offers nothing but timing as evidence of the government’s improper motive.”

Even looking past the evidentiary shortcomings, the 7th Circuit ruled Baldwin’s vindictive prosecution claim “makes little sense on its own terms” because her position that she was prosecuted to punish Taylor “holds no water.”

Baldwin also argued her sentence was unreasonable because Taylor — whose conduct she said was more reprehensible than her own — received a lighter sentence.

Baldwin pointed to the fact that Taylor pleaded guilty to 30 counts and was sentenced to 324 months, or 10.8 months per count, while she was convicted on four counts and sentenced to 400 months, or 100 months per count.

“We have repeatedly and unambiguously rejected the idea that sentences must be evaluated on a per-count basis,” the 7th Circuit ruled, citing the case United States v. Jett, 982 F.3d 1072 (7th Cir. 2020).

The court also said Baldwin faced “an uphill battle” to show her below-guidelines sentence was unreasonable. The difference between Baldwin’s sentence and Taylor’s is explained by Taylor’s cooperation and contrition, the 7th Circuit said.

“Finally,” the opinion says, “Baldwin contends that the district court’s implication that she was a bad mother is evidence of untoward prejudice. But the district court can consider the facts before it, and the record speaks for itself.”

Judge Thomas Kirsch wrote the opinion in United States of America v. Angela Baldwin, also known as Angela Taylor, 22-1835.

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