Criminal Law, Pages 27–31

United States v. Brewer

United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, 2013

Facts:

Defendants were indicted on seventeen charges related to creating a sham contracting operation which led to $6,445,370 in ill-gotten gains, half of which went to themselves.

The advised sentence is 108 to 135 months in prison for Mr. Brewer and 70 to 87 months for Mrs. Brewer. Defendants already disgorged almost all of their assets. They now live on $2,800 per month from Social Security and disability.

Issue:

Should the Brewers be imprisoned for their crimes?

Rule:

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18 U.S.C. § 3553 provides in part that punishment should be decided taking into account:

  1. the nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the defendant;
  2. the need for the sentence imposed—
    1. to reflect the seriousness of the offense, to promote respect for the law, and to provide just punishment for the offense;
    2. to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct;
    3. to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant; and
    4. to provide the defendant with needed educational or vocational training, medical care, or other correctional treatment in the most effective manner ...
Section 3553(a)(2) calls upon the Court to consider the goals of sentencing. "[R]etribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation—are the four purposes of sentencing generally, and a court must fashion a sentence `to achieve the[se] purposes ... to the extent that they are applicable' in a given case."

Reasoning:

  • Defendants are 64 years old. Mr. Brewer was involved in a plane crash 9 years ago and is paralyzed and suffers other medical issues as a results. Mrs. Brewer lives to take care of her husband. To follow the sentencing guidelines would result in a life sentence for all practical purposes.

  • It would also be very expensive to imprison Mr. Brewer. If possible, these costs should be avoided. Attorney General Holder instructed US Attorneys not to charge certain non-violent drug offenders with amounts that would force mandatory imprisonment. It is appropriate to save money by letting defendants' monetary and social penalties suffice.

  • Greed is often stronger than any deterrent in white-collar cases. No matter how harsh the punishment, some crimes will never be deterred. Incarcerating defendants would not significantly deter future offenders.

  • Defendants' probation already sufficiently incapacitates them from further crime. In addition to the standard conditions, they are also prohibited from being fiduciaries or being employed handling money. Imprisonment is therefore not necessary for this purpose.

  • Defendant cannot be well rehabilitated in prison, again because of his medical condition.

Holding:

No, defendants should be given a non-custodial sentence.