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The ‘Varsity Blues’ Sentencing Battles To Come

Law360

In an article published on May 6, 2019 in Law360, Brooklyn Sawyers Belk provides insight into the sentencing factors that federal judges are required to consider when deciding defendants’ fates. Using the college admission bribery scandal defendants as examples, she shares how those factors may be used to the defendants’ advantages, with particular attention to the nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the defendants.

Over 90% of federal cases end in guilty pleas, meaning most defendants never hold the government to its trial burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. At sentencing, where the rules of evidence do not apply and hearsay is admissible, virtually no holds are barred. That is because in the punishment phase is where the case is actually won or lost.

“In this case with global appeal, savvy defendants, high-powered attorneys, a strong dose of celebrity intrigue, limitless financial resources and multiple insider informants, brutish sentencing battles will come,” says Belk, adding that to be as prepared as possible, the attention must shift to the punishment, framing the facts in the most favorable light, in the hopes of receiving the best outcomes.

This case involves unique facts, and importantly, there is not a body of precedent for the judges to make direct comparisons, which may be a good thing for the defendants. “They have a clean slate to distinguish themselves as parents who gave, rather than criminals who took,” said Belk.

For the full article, subscribers of Law360 may click here.

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