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Federal sentence outcome "makes no sense at all"

The opinion asserted in today's above blog entry headline comes courtesy of a former federal prosecutor responding to a sentence recently imposed upon a defendant in a health care fraud case.

Rest assured, Patrick Cotter is far from alone in his sentiment.

Here's what has spurred memorable responses from Cotter and many other criminal justice insiders in the wake of a recent sentencing outcome handed down by a federal judge in Texas: its unprecedented harshness, which strikes many as misaligned and wholly inappropriate.

To wit: 75 years behind bars for a woman with spreading stage IV breast cancer, who is also the mother of young twins.

The woman's health and personal family life are not the only factors that sentencing critics are pointing to in their staunch criticisms of the case. Another problematic aspect for many relates to the sentencing guideline given the judge by prosecutors; the suggested 35-year prison term was already deemed to be a severely tough and upper-end recommendation.

And it was more than doubled by the judge. And in a case that, given an estimated $13 million in fraudulent activity, was widely considered to be rather routine.

"This would [typically] be considered a run-of-the-mill health care fraud case," says commentator Gejaa Gobena.

Gobena's view would seem to matter, given his former status as chief of the federal government's Health Care Fraud Unit.

Certainly one material take away from the case is its spotlighting of the fact that federal sentencing guidelines are merely advisory for judges.

Those recommendations can be adjusted downward to yield a defendant a less-than-asked-for prison term.

And, as noted in the above case, precisely the opposite can occur, as well.

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