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Was Justice Served With the Resentencing of Jamie Olin?

For the past two and a half years years, Tom Kirkendall of Houston's Clear Thinkers has been offering continuing coverage of the long, tragic story of Jamie Olis, a midlevel executive at Dynegy who was sentenced by federal district Judge Sim Lake to a 24-year prison term for his involvement in a fraudulent accounting scheme. Today, following a successful appeal of  the original sentence and a remand for resentencing, Judge Lake resentenced resentenced Olis to six years with credit for the 2.5 years that Olin has already served.

Outside of Houston papers, there hasn't been extensive coverage of the Olis case, which has been overshadowed by the numerous Enron prosecutions. But there's much that distinguishes Olin's case and makes him deserving of sympathy, even by those who otherwise supported the Enron prosecutions.

Kirkendall has described the injustice of the Olis case in his previous posts. Olis was a midlevel executive who chose not to accept a plea bargain because he believed that he hadn't acted illegally. By contrast, as described here, Olis' boss (who engineered and approved the deal) received a 15-month deal in exchange for testifying against Olis, while Olis' co-worker got off with only a month in jail. Moreover, all conceded that Olis did not derive any personal gain from the transaction. And finally, the government produced no evidence of the $100 million loss that pushed Olis into a higher category under federal sentencing guidelines -- which ultimately, was the basis for the 5th Circuit's decision to vacate the sentence. 

Still, the government won't rest. Kirkendall reports that the government announced that it will appeal the six-year sentence. And others in the blogosphere, while gratified that the judge substantially reduced the sentence, aren't yet convinced that justice has been served. Here's a major question raised at White Collar Crime Prof Blog about prosecutors' enormous power to effectively punish those disproportionately more harshly for exercising their rights to a trial:

But a question that definitely needs to be considered and addressed by Congress and the courts is whether the government should have this enormous prosecutorial power to leverage individuals against each other in order to obtain evidence for a prosecution on the individual who decides not to enter a plea.  Is it within the bounds of the Constitution to punish individuals with higher sentences because they decide they want to use their constitutional right to a jury trial? Noteworthy here is that no other individuals at Dynegy were charged with criminal or civil conduct, except Gene Foster (Olis' boss) who received a sentence of 18 months and Helen Sharkey who received one month.   

And more thoughts from Doug Berman's Sentencing Blog here and here.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on September 22, 2006 at 05:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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