I don’t know how many people I have sentenced. But it must be well over 1,000 since I became a district judge in 1992. One year, I kept track. I sentenced over 200 folks that year alone. Anyway, I got to thinking about vengeance.
Not often, but once in a great while, I am terribly upset, angered and sickened by a defendant’s abuse of a victim. In those cases, some might say that I act like an avenging angel at sentencing.
Now, this doesn’t happen often. I have been jaded for a very long time.
Nothing much upsets or shocks or angers me anymore. The rape of children by their parents in child porn production cases rolls off my back, and I readily accept Rule 11(C)(1)(c) plea agreements without blinking.[i] The guy who killed two other fellows because they stiffed him on a $500 weed deal caused me to shake my head, but not much more.
But, as I say, there are cases where one might describe my sentence as an act of vengeance. Take the case of United States v. Lounsbury, No. 09-3058 (8th 2010) (unpublished). In that case I varied upward to 72 months for a first-time offender whose Guideline range was 27 to 33 months.
In that case, the offender held a power of attorney for her elderly aunt. The offender put her aunt in the Alzheimer’s wing of a nursing home and then stole about $250,000 from the old woman after paying the nursing home. Because the victim had been moved from Indiana to Nebraska, the old woman was deprived of the comfort of family members during her final years. Indeed, the offender ignored the old woman for over a year. While there were other aggravating factors, the mistreatment of the victim was a motivating factor for my sentence.
Was my sentence an act of vengeance? Or, was my sentence “just punishment” within the meaning of those words as they are found in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(2)(A)? You be the judge!
All the best.
Richard G. Kopf
Senior United States District Judge (Nebraska)
[i] Those are plea agreements that require me to impose a specific sentence (or sentence within a specific range) if I accept the agreement. In kiddie porn production cases, CDLs who know me demand those plea agreements ‘cause they know I would max their clients out if given the chance. The government agrees to save the kids the horror of testifying.