U.S. Sentencing Commission Promulgates Amendment to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Responding to the Dodd-Frank Act

April 13, 2012

U.S. Sentencing Commission on April 13, 2012 released the following:

U.S. SENTENCING COMMISSION PROMULGATES AMENDMENT TO THE FEDERAL SENTENCING GUIDELINES RESPONDING TO THE DODD-FRANK ACT

Also promulgates amendments regarding human rights, drug, and other offenses

WASHINGTON, D.C.― Today the United States Sentencing Commission promulgated amendments to the federal sentencing guidelines responding to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act) regarding securities fraud, mortgage fraud, human rights offenses, drug offenses, and other offenses.

The Dodd-Frank Act contained directives to the Commission to review the fraud guideline with respect to securities fraud, fraud on financial institutions, and mortgage fraud. Judge Patti B. Saris, chair of the Commission, noted “Fraud offenses represent almost ten percent of the federal criminal docket annually, and have been the focus of congressional attention as evidenced by the directives to the Commission.” Judge Saris explained, “The Commission’s action today increases penalties for insider trading cases and ensures that no defendant will receive a reduced penalty because of a federal intervention, such as a bailout. The Commission also adopted presumptive rules governing the calculation of loss in mortgage and securities fraud cases.”

“This is the first step in a multi-year review of the fraud guideline,” stated Judge Saris. “We have received feedback from a number of stakeholders that broader review of the operation of the fraud guideline should be undertaken. Specifically, we have heard from the courts, defense attorneys, and prosecutors that the interaction of the loss attributed to an offense and the number of victims in an offense (the loss and victims tables in the guidelines), particularly in high-loss fraud cases, may result in disproportionate or disparate sentences. This is an area of the guidelines that the Commission must continue to review in a comprehensive manner.” More than 30 other federal sentencing guidelines (such as those covering money laundering, public corruption and identity theft offenses) either reference the fraud guideline or have a proportional relationship with it. Therefore, any change to the loss or victims calculations in the fraud guidelines must be undertaken comprehensively.

The Commission also promulgated an amendment to the federal sentencing guidelines to cover substantive human rights violations. First, the Commission promulgated new sentencing enhancements that would apply to a defendant convicted of committing a serious human rights offense, including genocide, torture, war crimes, and the use or recruitment of child soldiers. Second, the Commission promulgated an amendment to the guideline covering immigration offenses to provide a penalty enhancement if a defendant committed the instant offense to conceal or attempt to conceal their role in a serious human rights offense. “These amendments will ensure appropriate penalties for those who commit serious human rights offenses,” explained Judge Saris. “Human rights violations are an important issue to Congress and the Commission shares this concern.”

The Commission also promulgated an amendment to the federal sentencing guidelines to address the growing number of federal drug cases involving the stimulant “BZP.” BZP is a Schedule I stimulant used both alone and in combination with other chemicals to produce effects that mimic those of the drug “Ecstasy,” and promoted as such to the youth population, particularly for use during all night “raves.” The proposed amendment adds BZP to the list of chemicals covered by the federal sentencing guidelines in a manner consistent with available scientific literature. Judge Saris noted, “The Second Circuit Court of Appeals brought this important matter to our attention. The Commission is pleased to have addressed concerns about the growing prevalence of this drug in the Second Circuit and elsewhere by providing appropriate coverage under the federal sentencing guidelines.” The Commission also promulgated an amendment that provides a sentence reduction under the guidelines for certain low-level, non-violent offenders convicted of offenses involving precursor chemicals, which parallels provisions already in the federal sentencing guidelines for low-level, non-violent drug offenders who meet certain criteria.

The Commission also resolved a circuit conflict by confirming that for purposes of calculating a defendant’s criminal history under the federal sentencing guidelines, driving while intoxicated, driving under the influence and similar offenses are, without exception, always counted. The Commission’s actions today also resulted in amendments to the guidelines covering contraband cell phones in prison, cigarette offenses, trafficking in fake Indian goods, and animal crush videos.

The Commission must submit its 2011-2012 amendment package to Congress by May 1, 2012. Congress has 180-days to review the amendments submitted by the Commission. The amendments have a designated effective date of November 1, 2012, unless Congress affirmatively acts to modify or disapprove them.

More information on the amendments promulgated today may be found on the Commission’s website, http://www.ussc.gov.

The United States Sentencing Commission, an independent agency in the judicial branch of the federal government, was organized in 1985 to develop national sentencing policy. The resulting federal sentencing guidelines provide the starting point for the court’s consideration of a sentence and help ensure that similar offenders who commit similar offenses receive similar sentences.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Feds Eye Retired CIA Officer Steve Stormoen in Prisoner Death

July 13, 2011

The Associated Press (AP) on July 13, 2011 released the following:

“By MATT APUZZO and ADAM GOLDMAN
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — A CIA officer who oversaw the agency’s interrogation program at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and pushed for approval to use increasingly harsh tactics has come under scrutiny in a federal war crimes investigation involving the death of a prisoner, witnesses told The Associated Press.

Steve Stormoen, who is now retired from the CIA, supervised an unofficial program in which the CIA imprisoned and interrogated men without entering their names in the Army’s books.

The so-called “ghosting” program was unsanctioned by CIA headquarters. In fact, in early 2003, CIA lawyers expressly prohibited the agency from running its own interrogations, current and former intelligence officials said. The lawyers said agency officers could be present during military interrogations and add their expertise but, under the laws of war, the military must always have the lead.

Yet, in November 2003, CIA officers brought a prisoner, Manadel al-Jamadi, to Abu Ghraib and, instead of turning him over to the Army, took him to a shower stall. They put a sandbag over his head, handcuffed him behind his back and chained his arms to a barred window. When he leaned forward, his arms stretched painfully behind and above his back.

The CIA interrogated al-Jamadi alone. Within an hour, he was dead.

Now, nearly eight years after a photo of an Army officer grinning over al-Jamadi’s body became an indelible image in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, federal prosecutors are investigating whether al-Jamadi’s death amounted to a war crime.

The instructions from CIA lawyers could become an important element of that inquiry. Though it’s not required for prosecutors to show that someone knew such interrogations were against the rules, it’s still valuable evidence, said David Crane, a Syracuse law professor and former war crimes prosecutor. The instructions also undercut the argument that the CIA officers were simply following rules laid out by their superiors.

“The government can say, `He was told not to, and he went ahead and did it anyways,'” Crane said.

Two witnesses who testified before a grand jury in Virginia said they were asked about Stormoen’s role at the prison and his whereabouts when al-Jamadi died. The witnesses and officials agreed to discuss the case only on condition of anonymity because they were told not to speak with reporters.

Stormoen, who ran what was known in the CIA as the detainee exploitation cell, processed al-Jamadi into the prison but was not in the shower room when al-Jamadi died.

Stormoen, 56, was part of the CIA’s paramilitary arm, the Special Activities Division, after leaving the Army. He retired after al-Jamadi’s death and received a letter of reprimand for his role in Abu Ghraib. He has since rejoined the intelligence community as a contractor working for a company called SpecTal, which was bought last year by BAE Systems, a leading defense contractor.

Stormoen, whose identity is no longer classified, did not return numerous messages seeking comment. His lawyer also declined to comment.

CIA spokesman George Little had no comment on the inquiry.

Much of the public attention in the al-Jamadi case has been on interrogator Mark Swanner, who was in the shower room when al-Jamadi died. Another CIA officer, who goes by the nickname “Chili,” also came up at the grand jury, one witness said. Chili continues to work with the agency and his name is classified. The witness, who was at the prison, told prosecutors that Chili was at Abu Ghraib the day al-Jamadi died.

Though President George W. Bush’s administration allowed the CIA to interrogate terrorism suspects in secret overseas prisons, that authorization did not apply in Iraq. CIA lawyers determined that, as a traditional war zone, Iraq fell under the Geneva Convention rules of war. That meant prisoners had to be documented and treated without cruelty, with access to medical attention.

Tactics such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation, which the CIA used in other overseas prisons, were prohibited at Abu Ghraib without prior approval. In videoconferences with headquarters, Stormoen and other officers in Iraq repeatedly asked for permission to use harsher techniques, but that permission was never granted, one former senior intelligence official recalled.

Current and former officials say the CIA officers at Abu Ghraib saw ambiguity in the rules, believing they could interrogate detainees before they were formally processed into the military prison. That gray area could last several days or longer.

Military investigators said the informal nature of the CIA’s ghosting program contributed to a sense that the rules didn’t apply at the prison.

At the time, the CIA’s station in Baghdad, which was in charge of overseeing agency operations at the prison, was in such disarray that its top two officers were pulled out for mismanagement. An internal CIA inquiry did not single out any officer as responsible for al-Jamadi’s death and no one has been charged.

A military autopsy labeled the death a homicide. Doctors said al-Jamadi died from a combination of factors: injuries he received while being captured by Navy SEALs and breathing difficulties caused by a lung injury and made worse by having a sandbag over his head.

Shortly after al-Jamadi’s death, senior CIA officials once again circulated the rules. In January 2004, the agency sent a blunt memo flatly ordering agency officials to stop all interrogations, officials said.

Al-Jamadi’s death has twice been reviewed by the Justice Department and prosecutors have declined to bring charges. Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed a new prosecutor, John Durham, to investigate CIA interrogation tactics. Durham is now re-investigating the al-Jamadi death, and Holder said the investigation has uncovered new information, though he did not say what it was.

Prosecutions for torture and war crimes are rare in the United States. The most high-profile recent case was the successful torture prosecution of the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor in Florida in 2008.

There is no statute of limitations on war crimes if a death is involved.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read The Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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