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February 02, 2008

Court Applies Abuse of Discretion Standard in Determining Reasonableness of Sentence - Tax Fraud (Criminal)

A Business owner's sentence for section 7202 violation and related offenses was affirmed by the Eight Circuit in U.S. v. Wetzel, CA 8, 101 AFTR 2d ¶2008-375.  The taxpayer's unreasonableness and disparity objections failed in face of the facts brought out in the case that his case was dissimilar to that of predecessor business owner's case and that district court had given due consideration to his mitigating circumstances claims and properly weighed relevant 11 USCS 3553(a) factors.

Specifically, the Court reviewed the defendant’s sentence for reasonableness in light of the 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors, applying an abuse-of-discretion standard. See United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220, 261–62, 125 S.Ct. 738, 160 L.Ed.2d 621 (2005);United States v. Boss , 493 F.3d 986, 987 (8th Cir.2007). The Court found that there was no abuse of discretion. The Court found that the disparity argument failed because, as the district court correctly determined, the defendant’s case and criminal history were not at all similar to those of another individual who owned the predecessor to the defendant's business. See 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(6) (court is to consider “need to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct”). Further, the Court’s review of the record convinced the Court that the district court considered and rejected the defendant's arguments regarding mitigating circumstances, properly took into account only relevant section 3553(a) factors, and did not commit a clear error of judgment in weighing these factors. See United States v. Long Soldier, 431 F.3d 1120, 1123 (8th Cir.2005) (sentencing court abuses its discretion if it fails to consider relevant factor that should have received significant weight, gives significant weight to improper or irrelevant factor, or considers only appropriate factors but commits clear error of judgment in weighing them).

See U.S. v. Wetzel, CA 8, 101 AFTR 2d ¶2008-375 attached below.

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February 02, 2008

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