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Justice Department's Chief of Criminal Division Questions Fairness of Financial Fraud Sentencing

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, head of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, at the American Lawyer/National Law Journal Summit said, "One area - though by no means the only one - in which we have seen significant disparities in sentencing in the last several years is financial fraud. With increasing frequency, federal judges have been sentencing fraud offenders - especially offenders involved in high-loss fraud cases - inconsistently."

Joe Palazzolo of the Wall Street Journal highlighted the sentencing disparity by citing U.S. Sentencing Commission data to show the following:

...between October 2010 and June 2011, judges in the Northern District of Illinois (Chicago) sentenced defendants to prison terms within guidelines ranges 45.7% of the time.

Judges in the Southern District of New York, by comparison, sentenced defendants to prison terms within guidelines ranges 36.2% of the time. And judges in the Southern District of Texas (Houston), meanwhile, sentenced within the guidelines ranges 66.7% of the time.

Federal district courts nationwide sentenced fraud defendants within the guidelines 52.6% of the time, for an average of 23.2 months in prison.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission Preliminary Quarterly Data Report for the 3rd quarter of the 2011 fiscal year is available here.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.