Friday, September 6, 2013

You Get to Be the Judge

What would you do?

I am heading down to sentencing this morning for a defendant who committed a robbery and a separate home invasion. We have wrestled with what an appropriate sentence should be for months as the case dragged on. This is a summary of the facts and I thought it would be a good exercise to see the real decisions prosecutors must make on a daily basis.

On day 1, the female defendant (call her Sara) and her boyfriend (call him Sam) went to an antique store, where Sam robbed a man at gunpoint and pistol whipped him, while Sara orchestrated the getaway.

On day 2, Sara went to her 81 year old aunt's house, saying she wanted to help with her errands. While Sara and her aunt were out, Sara called Sam and told him to steal things while they were out. Sam couldn't get in and waited for aunt and Sara to get home. Sara left the door unlocked when she went in with the aunt and Sam burst in at gunpoint. Sam and Sara duct taped the aunt, and Sam beat her with the gun, choked her, and stomped her into unconsciousness, leaving her for dead. Sam and Sara stole everything valuable from aunt's home and then stole her car.

The aunt survived and identified Sara, but could not identify Sam. Sara confesses and agrees to cooperate against Sam. She leads us to evidence of the crimes to tie Sam to them and testifies against him at trial. Sara has Sam's baby while the case proceeds and actually marries Sam while he is in jail awaiting his trial.

Sam is convicted of robbery and burglary and is setenced as a persistnet violent offender (3 violent felonies in 10 years) to 25 to life in jail.

The aunt wants Sara to have a similar sentence, but the plea deal only allows the judge to sentence Sara anywhere from probation up to 14 years in state prison.

Be the judge and leave a comment or send me an email. What should Sara's sentence be taking into account the horrible crimes, but also that we could not have convicted her boyfriend/husband without her?


  1. What is Sara's record? If probation is on the table, I assume she has no priors, or at least no felony convictions. I also assume this is a jurisdiction with "truth in sentencing"/"five years is five years" and sentence her to 5 years active, another five on post-release. Social services/nearest relative gets the kid (who is screwed for life, pretty much regardless of outcome).
    -another ADA

    1. No record and you serve 7/8 of the sentence in NY with 3 years of post release supvision on this level felony

  2. Given the nature of the crime, her role in it, her subsequent role in testifying against her husband, and her desire to plead guilty and speed up the process, it's clear that the maximum is not appropriate. However, the second crime in particular violated a personal familial bond in a shocking way. Both crimes involved a firearm, and someone could have very easily been killed. While her level of help is useful, this woman clearly needs to be removed and punished for what she did.

    Given the fact that she willingly participated in severely injuring her aunt, she's lucky she wasn't charged with attempted murder.

    The harm outweighs the help. I would sentence her to ten years, with three years probation. Whatever her personal feelings about Sam, willfully taking advantage of a vulnerable relative, duct-taping them to a chair, and allowing your lover to beat them, choke them, and strike them with a pistol before stealing everything from their place is no laughing matter. Also, her role in the armed robbery at the antique shop made the crime possible. While she didn't hold the gun up to the storeowner, it's pretty clear that if they had died, Sara could have been charged with felony murder.

    She is a very lucky that no one was killed by her actions or those of Sam.

  3. Sara should get 14 years in state prison. Her cooperation was already factored into the plea deal she agreed to. Horrible human beings deserve no further consideration.