Tuesday, November 6, 2018
Judge Wright’s Refusal to Hear From Defendant Requires Resentencing
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Ninth U.S. Court of Appeals yesterday invalidated a two-year sentence for conspiracy to launder money because the District Court judge, Otis D. Wright II of the Central District of California, refused to allow the defendant to speak at sentencing.
In a memorandum opinion, a three-judge panel declared that the right of allocution—to make a statement before being sentenced—is a “fundamental right” and that Wright “plainly erred” in denying it.
The opinion says Wright interrupted defendant Luis Krueger as he began an apology to the court, telling him:
“No, no, listen, please, you are already kind of ahead on points. If you start throwing B.S. up here, things are going to change.”
Appealing the sentence, Kruger cited Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure Rule 32(i)(4)(A)(ii), as well as due process. The rule provides that before sentencing, the judge must “address the defendant personally in order to permit the defendant to speak or present any information to mitigate the sentence.”
Yesterday’s opinion says:
“The record reflects that the district court’s statement, and its suggestion that it might impose a higher sentence if Krueger continued to speak, intimidated Krueger and caused him to limit his remarks. Under these circumstances, we conclude that Krueger was denied his fundamental right to speak and ask for a lesser sentence.”
It notes that Wright could have imposed a lesser sentence, so the error was prejudicial.
The panel ordered that the case be shifted to a different judge for resentencing, on remand.
The case is United States v. Krueger, 17-50302.
Krueger, of Malibu, was among 20 persons charged in connection with a racketeering conspiracy entailing the international laundering of hundreds of millions of dollars.
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