Tuesday, November 29, 2016

U.S. v. Doe (9th Cir. - Nov. 29, 2016)

When I first read the caption of this case, I was intrigued.  It's a criminal case, but the name of the defendant is deliberately obscured as a "Doe"?  Why?  It's a criminal case.  It's public.  Why not use the defendant's real name?

Then I read the opinion.  Which discussed something I hadn't seen -- or thought about -- before.

The opinion doesn't use the defendant's name because no one knows it.

The guy's charged with identity theft.  He's been using someone else's name, social security number, etc. for nearly 30 years.  And the guy refuses -- to this day -- to tell the authorities who he really is.

And the government can't figure it out.

That's certainly interesting.

I think it may also explain, in part, why the district court departed upward.  The guidelines range here calls for a sentence of only one or two years.  But the district court gives him six and a half.

The Ninth Circuit affirms the departure, since the identity theft here did really cause the victim a ton of harm over the past several decades.  And I think that's right.

But I'd have also said that the upward departure also seems fine to me because we don't even know who this guy really is.

That means two things.  First, it means we totally can't be sure what he's done in the past.  He's got a "criminal history" category of II.  But let me add this:  That's just what we know about.  Who knows what he's done in the past?  Certainly not us, because we can't even figure out his name.  Isn't it just a tiny bit likely that the guy's got some "problems" in his past?  'Cause last I checked, people who are living a perfect, law-abiding life rarely ditch their identity and refuse to admit -- even when caught -- who they really are.

Second, it also means that this guy's probably unlikely to be law-abiding in the future.  He's refusing to tell anyone who he is.  Think he's going to just admit everything after he's out of prison and then live a normal life?  Doubtful.  He may well just find -- i.e., steal -- a new identity and give that one a shot.  That's another reason to keep him in the joint for a bit longer, IMHO.  Incapacitation.  For at least a while.

Parenthetically, I tried to find a picture of the defendant.  I thought it'd be worth posting.  If only in the unlikely event someone would recognize him.  But all I could find was a picture of this gavel.

Not exactly helpful.