Case spotlight: Punishment and sentencing mitigation

One of the stated rationales that is often attached to criminal sentencing is punishing a defendant with a harsh sentence simply for the sake of punishment.

That justification is often alluded to and sometimes even pointed out by judges. One federal judge in New York, for example, recently told a defendant that the sentence imposed upon him “is meant to hurt and to punish you for what you did.”

And yet, in that case and notwithstanding that declaration, the outcome was a clear demonstration of sentencing mitigation. After due consideration of the sentencing guidelines, the judge meted out a penalty that stood as a clear example of sentence reduction for a defendant whose case was clearly differentiated from many others.

Federal district court judge Roslynn R. Mauskopf openly noted the distinguishing aspects of the case and the defendant that stood before her for sentencing last week. The wrongdoer is a former doctor convicted of selling vast numbers of prescription drugs out of his home.

He is also frail and 85 years old, with a wife in ill health who is completely dependent upon him. The doctor, who has already lost his medical license, begged the court for lenience, asking the judge “not to put me in jail because my wife will die.”

The judge admitted that the case was comparatively difficult. She said that, “If there ever were a case that cried out for mitigation, it is this one,” while also telling the defendant that, “You need to feel the restrictions on your liberty.”

Ultimately, the judge managed to address both those concerns. In lieu of imposing a jail sentence on the ex-doctor, she sentenced him to six months of house arrest. She also imposed a probationary term and a $25,000 fine.

Source: New York Times, “No jail time for ex-doctor, 85, convicted of drug charge,” Mosi Secret, Jan. 11, 2013