Thursday, September 24, 2009

U.S. v. Bragg (9th Cir. - Sept. 23, 2009)

Commit brazen multimillion dollar tax fraud? No biggie. As long as you and your rich parents agree to pay the money back -- after you're caught, of course -- even if the U.S. wants you to spend two years or so in prison, you may well get a sympathetic judge to give you three years of probation. Even if, as here, you've previously (1) twice been convicted of sex offenses, (2) been convicted four times of DUI, and (3) been convicted of illegally diverting the mail; in particular, checks from the IRS, which you pimped for yourself. And even if, as here, you were already on probation for that last crime when you stole the $2 million at issue here.

I mean, come on. It's not like you've done something serious, like stealing a piece of pizza or $150 worth of videotapes from Kmart. For that you get 25 years. But two million from the feds? Chump change. Just promise not to do it again. Or at least for three years. (But this time really mean it, not like last time you were on probation.)

That's what Judge Carroll, in Arizona, thought, anyway. And Judge Randy Smith's willing to affirm.

But unfortuntately for Randy Bragg, he drew Judge Noonan when the U.S. decided to appeal. And Judge Noonan sometimes sees things, well, let's just say, in pretty stark terms. Especially when it's a rich dude getting completely off when people with far less influence and resources rot away. That just doesn't strike him -- or Judge Berzon -- as right. So the Ninth Circuit reverses and remands. Allegedly to have the district court "explain" the sentence more. But anyone can read between the lines here. Two of the three don't like what's transpired. And want something more brought to bear.