Convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein was sentenced today to 50 years in prison just a few moments ago. U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn, rendered the sentence after a lengthy hearing in Fort Lauderdale’s federal courthouse this morning.
When a Federal judge decides how many years to sentence a person to, there are always a set number of factors that she or he considers. They are:
1) The nature of the crime. How severe or minor was it?
2) Victim input.
3) Defendant’s character, including criminal history.
4) Prosecutor’s recommendation.
5) Defense recommendation.
6) Recommendations of any pre-sentence investigation.
Given the enormous magnitude of this case and the immeasurable harm Rothstein has inflicted on his victims, there were only two reasons why Rothstein did not get sentenced to the maximum of 100 years.
First, the U.S. Attorney’s Office gave official recognition to Rothstein’s cooperation upon being arrested. This included helping victims recover some of the stolen assets as well as cooperating with Federal law enforcement in their efforts to nab a wanted mafioso member.
Second, credit must be given when a defendant pleads guilty from the start and owns up to his actions. This is especially the case when the defendant had the opportunity to run, but chose not to.
HOWEVER, and this is a BIG “however,” there is a HUGE difference between the question of whether or not a defendant deserves credit and how much credit they deserve. One question is qualitative, the other is quantitative.
In this case, Judge Cohn weighed the difference between the good Rothstein did after being arrested to the great harm he caused while committing his offenses. If Judge Cohn didn’t give Rothstein any meaningful credit for his guilty plea and cooperation, then future offenders would lack any incentive to do as Rothstein did. Thus, not only is Judge Cohn considering the impact his ruling has one the present case, but he likely considered the impact his ruling would have on future victims and future law enforcement needs to have defendants cooperate.
Once it is determined that an offender should get some credit, the next question is “How much?”
In my humble opinion, Judge Cohn’s sentence reflects his valuation