Thursday, May 02, 2013

U.S. v. Mancuso (9th Cir. - May 1, 2013)

Think dentistry is a profession for nerds?

Whatever else dentist Jerome Mancuso was, he was assuredly not a nerd.  As Judge Bea notes in the opinion, Dr. Mancuso "distributed a lot more than free toothbrushes to his friends and acquaintances in Billings, Montana."  In particular, Mancuso liked to distribute . . . cocaine.

It's not that Mancuso was a straight-up dealer.  Make no mistake:  He did, indeed, distribute coke.  But he didn't sell it from his office like you'd normally think.  Rather, he was principally a buyer.  Albeit a buyer who liked to party.  A lot.  Lots of witnesses testified that Mancuso had a particular catchphrase:  "I'll buy and you fly."  Mancuso bought the cocaine and shared it with his friends.  For free.  How's that for a drug distribution network?

But distributing drugs for free is still distribution.  Whether it's in a dirty alley or, as here, tooting lines with your friends in (as Judge Bea puts it) "bars, restaurants, golf courses and ski resorts."  Apparently Mancuso did not realize that it's no longer the 1980s.

So Mancuso's found guilty, and the district court has to sentence him.  Lots depends on how much cocaine Mancuso distributed.  The PSR calculates the drug amount as over 750 grams.  That's a lot.  But it divided that amount in half on the theory that Mancuso snorted half of it himself.  Which is nearly a pound of cocaine.  Which is only the amounts to which the witnesses testified at trial.  Who knows how much Mancuso snorted with others or by himself?

In short, Mancuso liked cocaine.  A lot.  Now he gets to pay the piper.  (Beyond, of course, the fact that his heart and nose are almost certainly trashed forever.)

Ultimately, both the AUSA and district court are pretty nice to Mancuso.  At least with respect to the sentencing issues.  The district court uses only a calculation of 263 grams, and then it downwardly departs to result in a sentence of less than half the lowest guideline range.  So Mancuso receives a sentence of only 16 months.

On the theory, in part, that he still has the potential to be "an outstanding doctor."  At least if he stops spending all his spare time doing lines.

The Ninth Circuit gives Mancuso a partial victory on his appeal, vacating some of his convictions and remanding for potential resentencing.  Though it also grants the government's cross-appeal regarding its attempts at forfeiture. So maybe Mancuso gets a month or two less time in jail and ends up losing the $160,000 the government seeks.

Hopefully Mancuso won't need that much money anyway.  In the future, he can put the money in the bank instead of up his nose.