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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decided, 2-1, an Indiana case yesterday (3/17/17)

In USA v. Jeffrey Rothbard (SD Ind., Young), a 16-page, 2-1 opinion, Chief Judge WOOD writes:

Jeffrey Rothbard pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in connection with his participation in a scheme to defraud companies that were interested in obtaining loans for environmentally friendly upgrades to their facilities. He committed this offense, which yielded more than $200,000 for him, while he was on probation for a felony forgery conviction in Indiana. The district court sentenced him to 24 months’ imprisonment, despite the fact that Rothbard is an older man with serious health problems and the Probation Office thought that incarceration was not necessary. On appeal, Rothbard urges us to find that his sentence is substantively unreasonable, both because he has stayed out of trouble for nearly three years and because he fears that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) may be unable to furnish the medication on which his health critically depends.

Perhaps, had we been the sentencing judges, we would have accepted his arguments. But the district court here gave sound reasons for its chosen sentence. In addition, both the evidence in the record before the district court, and supplemental information that we requested about BOP’s ability to provide appropriate care, satisfy us that the nominal 24- month sentence will not, in reality, spell doom for Rothbard. We therefore affirm the district court’s judgment. * * *

We close, however, with a caveat. If Rothbard shows up at a BOP facility and discovers that the responsible people are dragging their feet in a way that deprives him for any significant time of his nilotinib, or if the BOP evaluator (contrary to all of the evidence we have seen) takes the position that a medically suitable alternative from the formulary exists, Rothbard is free to use the BOP’s grievance procedures to complain about any such problem. On that understanding, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.

[p. 10] POSNER, Circuit Judge, dissenting. * * *

I am mindful that if Rothbard is denied nilotinib in prison he can invoke the BOP’s grievance process. But how long will that take? We’re not told, and Dr. Cripe, Rothbard’s physician, warns that any “prolonged interruption” in Rothbard’s access to nilotinib will endanger his health.

To conclude, my inclination would be to reverse the judgment of the district court with directions to impose the sentence recommended by the probation service. But I would be content to reverse and remand with instructions that the district judge appoint neutral expert witnesses drawn both from the medical profession and from academic analysis of prison practices and conditions, with particular emphasis on the federal prison system, and that the judge reconsider his sentence in light of evidence presented by these witnesses as well as any witnesses that the government or the defendant may care to call.

What is clear is that Jeffrey Rothbard is entitled to a more informed and compassionate judicial response to his physical and mental illnesses than he has received from the district court and this court.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Saturday, March 18, 2017
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions