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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides Indiana case April 7th

In USA v. Stephanie Donelli (SD Ind., Barker), a 10-page opinion, Judge Hamilton writes:

Defendant Stephanie Donelli appeals the 60-month prison sentence she received after pleading guilty to wire fraud and tax evasion. She argues that the district court made a procedural error by failing to address her diagnosis of a mental illness, bipolar II disorder, which Donelli now calls a “principal argument in mitigation.”

Since our decision in United States v. Cunningham, 429 F.3d 673 (7th Cir. 2005), we have required sentencing judges to address a defendant’s principal arguments in mitigation when those arguments have recognized legal merit. See, e.g., United States v. Vidal, 705 F.3d 742, 744 (7th Cir. 2013); United States v. Chapman, 694 F.3d 908, 913–14 (7th Cir. 2012); United States v. Gary, 613 F.3d 706, 709 (7th Cir. 2010). Our cases do not show clearly, however, what is necessary for a defendant’s mitigation argument to trigger the district court’s duty to explain under Cunningham. Donelli asserts that briefly mentioning her bipolar disorder at sentencing was enough to require a response from the district court.

We disagree, and we affirm Donelli’s sentence for two independent reasons. First, she failed to present the fact of her diagnosis as a principal argument in mitigation relevant to her sentence. Second, she waived her claim of a Cunningham procedural error by telling the district court at the close of her sentencing hearing that she had no objection to her sentence apart from the fact that the sentence was above the guideline range.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 9, 2014 01:19 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions