Federal Sentencing Guidelines Hijacked by Judge

Federal criminal prosecutions too often are one-sided. For many accused and tried in Federal court it appears to them that the rules change with each turn of the wheel.

Florida federal criminal defense attorneys see it again and again. From drug possession prosecutions through wire fraud and money laundering the ‘relevant conduct’ sentencing loopholes permit sentencing which has all the appearance of a kangeroo court making up rules which favor the government.

South Florida criminal lawyers, among them attorney Ralph Behr, a former member of the Federal Rules Committee of the Florida Bar, has fought for clients who have been unfairly treated at sentencing. Here’s an example:

In what may be one of a long line of cases highlighting the unfairness of Federal criminal prosecutions Anwuan Ball was sentenced by a Judge in Federal court for crimes for which he was not on trial.

An angry juror wrote:

As you remember, Judge Roberts, we spent 8 months listening to the evidence, filling countless court-supplied notebooks, making summaries of those notes, and even creating card catalogues to keep track of all the witnesses and their statements. We deliberated for over 2 months, 4 days a week, 8 hours a day. We went over everything in detail. If any of our fellow jurors had a doubt, a question, an idea, or just wanted something repeated, we all stopped and made time. Conspiracy? A crew? With the evidence the prosecutor presented, not one among us could see it. Racketeering? We dismissed that even more quickly. No conspiracy shown but more importantly, where was the money? No big bank accounts. Mostly old cars. Small apartments or living with relatives.
It seems to me a tragedy that one is asked to serve on a jury, serves, but then finds their work may not be given the credit it deserves. We, the jury, all took our charge seriously. We virtually gave up our private lives to devote our time to the cause of justice, and it is a very noble cause as you know, sir. We looked across the table at one another in respect and in sympathy. We listened, we thought, we argued, we got mad and left the room, we broke, we rested that charge until tomorrow, we went on. Eventually, through every hour-long tape of a single drug sale, hundreds of pages of transcripts, ballistics evidence, and photos, we delivered to you our verdicts.

What does it say to our contribution as jurors when we see our verdicts, in my personal view, not given their proper weight. It appears to me that these defendants are being sentenced not on the charges for which they have been found guilty but on the charges for which the District Attorney’s office would have liked them to have been found guilty. Had they shown us hard evidence, that might have been the outcome, but that was not the case.

Jurors acquitted Ball in November 2007 Ball was found not guilty on all counts of racketeering, drug conspiracy and murder. He was found guilty of possession of a half-ounce hand-to-hand crack-cocaine sale in Washington seven years prior.

Federal prosecutors requested Judge Richard W. Roberts to sentence Ball to 40 years, based on charges that were never filed or conduct the jury never asked considered.

Federal sentencing guidelines permit judges to sentence for crimes not charged under the “acquitted and uncharged conduct” federal sentencing.