In criminal trials that end in a jury returning a guilty verdict, the judge presiding over the case has digression when handing down a sentence. Even in cases where an individual is found guilty, a judge often takes a number of factors into consideration when determining a sentence. Included in these factors is an individual’s criminal history, likelihood to commit another similar crime and evidence presented by defense attorneys during the trial.
A sentencing decision made by a federal judge in Dec. 2010, was recently questioned as prosecutors appeal the matter. The sentencing decision in question relates to a case in which a woman, her husband and a former Best Buy employee were found guilty of defrauding Best Buy of some $42 million.
While the jury found the defendants’ guilty, the judge sentenced the former Best Buy employee to seven-and-a-half years and the woman’s husband 15 years in prison. The criminal charges against the woman, which included money laundering, fraud and tax evasion, could have warranted a sentence of up to 14 years in prison. Instead, the judge sentenced the woman to three years probation.
Three years later, the judge recently commended the mother of two for successfully completing the terms of her probation. The woman thanked the judge who continues to defend his sentencing decision to federal prosecutors, arguing the woman’s husband was the mastermind behind the scheme and she was merely a “passive participant”.
The decision of how to handle the sentencing appeal now goes to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court who must make a decision. If the court agrees with prosecutors that the sentence was too lenient, the case could be returned to the same judge who would then be required to resentence the woman.
For an individual facing a potential criminal conviction, a defense attorney will present evidence to refute the prosecution’s claims. Often equally as important, a defense attorney will provide jurors and a judge insight into a defendant’s life and those circumstances that may have led him or her to be accused of criminal activity.
Source: Star Tribune, “Judge defends light sentence in Best Buy fraud case,” Jackie Crosby, April 10, 2014