Supreme Court of the United States rules Colleyville’s Karen Lucchesi Judgment vacated

para serbit Vejvoda

The United States Supreme Court, during the March 7, 2005 session, turned down seven of eight Appellate Docket cases. The one case the Supreme Court took summary action was that of Karen LucchesiLewis, the well-known former owner of the Colleyville LaPlaza Spa.

LNO reported on the sentencing of Karen Lucchesi on January 10, 2004.
In the 2004 article, LNO reported that Federal Judge John McBryde said it was, “the court’s opinion that lesser involvement by Lucchesi merited a downward departure.” He said that he recalculated the points and that the result was a range of 78 to 97 months, adhering to federal guidelines.

Lucchesi surrendered, to start her prison term of 78 months, on January 30, 2004 at the Carswell Federal Medical facility in Fort Worth.

Prior to the Lucchesi sentencing, LNO wrote a column concerning the federal sentencing guidelines, “And if you are unfortunate enough to be found guilty in the federal system, you could go to prison for a longer period than the guy convicted of murder last week.”

As noted in previous reports on LNO, from a layman’s perspective, a number of disturbing events took place in this ONE DAY trial that has forever altered the life of Karen Lucchesi and her loving family. The most outrageous item was the U. S. Attorney’s office recommending that Karen Lucchesi be sentenced, subject to the mandatory guidelines, based on the $500,000 Lucchesi’s crooked attorney was caught red-handed money laundering. Now understand she was NOT CHARGED with the crime, but a separate $20,000 amount that had nothing to do with the $500,000 concocted solely by the greedy lawyer.

The crooked lawyer pled guilty, cut a plea bargain to testify against Lucchesi, AND was an admitted cocaine user. For these admirable traits, he gets a thirty-six month sentence with time off for his drug rehab and soon will be walking the streets on parole. Today the crooked lawyer is out of prison at a half-way house, while Lucchesi lingers in the Fort Worth federal prison facility, in spite of what appears a favorable ruling from America’s highest court.

Karen Lucchesi with brother Bryan and mom Kathy in happier days. Lucchesi won what appears to be a major victory with the U.S. Supreme Court, but remains in prison because the Northern District U.S. Attorney’s office has objected with the United States 5th Circuit of Appeals. A decision is possible within the month.

Lucchesi’s attorney filed a Writ of Certiorari with the Supreme Court. Certiorari is a Latin word meaning “to be informed of, or to be made certain in regard to”. It is also the name given to certain appellate proceedings for re-examination of actions of a trial court, or inferior appeals court. The U.S. Supreme Court still uses the term certiorari in the context of appeals.

Petition for Writ of Certiorari,. (informally called “Cert Petition.”), a document which a losing party files with the Supreme Court asking the Supreme Court to review the decision of a lower court. It includes a list of the parties, a statement of the facts of the case, the legal questions presented for review, and arguments as to why the Court should grant the writ.

Basically, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Fifth Circuit should re-examine the sentencing of Karen Lucchesi for “reasonableness” in the light of recent Supreme Court decisions declaring the previous federal sentencing guidelines to be unconstitutional.

Lucchesi’s appeals attorney, Julian Murray of New Orleans filed his brief with the Fifth Circuit on April 20, 2005 and the U.S. Attorney of the Northern District of Texas filed their objection to any change of sentencing on May 3, 2005. Lucchesi is referenced by her married name Lewis.

In summary, the Government argues Lucchesi should remain in prison under the previous sentencing guidelines on the technicality that she did not “preserve” some of her objections during her initial trial. The Government then proceeds to state the following; “Thus, the government concedes that Lewis meets the first two prongs of the plain error test. The district court committed a clear or obvious error in sentencing based on facts not found by a jury or admitted by the defendant, and in doing so under a mandatory guidelines system.”

However, the Government brief states that, “Lewis has not carried her burden to establish that the error affected her substantial rights. First, although the district court sentenced Lewis at the bottom of the chosen guidelines range, that alone is “no indication that the judge would have reached a different conclusion under an advisory scheme.”

The Government continued to state, “Because the district court expressed no hesitancy about sentencing Lewis within the guidelines range it ultimately chose, she has not proven that it would have given her a lower sentence had the guidelines been advisory rather than mandatory. In any event, even if Lewis had met all three initial prongs of the plain-error test, she still would not be entitled to relief because the error does not seriously affect the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings.

The Government concludes: Lewis received a fair sentencing proceeding under a long-standing practice that had been approved by the Supreme Court and by every court of appeals. The mere imposition of a sentence under binding guidelines, although erroneous in hindsight, was certainly not so “egregious,” as to call for discretionary reversal.”

So allow me to sum up your Government’s definition of “not so egregious” in layman’s terms.

Karen Lucchesi is charged with one count of money laundering for $20,000, as a result of her crooked lawyer getting caught in a government sting operation. After a one day trial, where the main government witness is the same crooked attorney, who has taken a plea deal, and where the jury is not allowed to hear evidence on audio tape because the government’s tape recorder failed to operate properly, Lucchesi is found guilty.

Lucchesi’s attorney initially gets prepared to argue, during sentencing, that her client has never had a criminal conviction and was a major contributor to charities and her community, and should be given the lightest sentence possible. Even by the federal guidelines, Lucchesi would be facing a minimum amount of time.

However, the Government had other ideas. Forget the fact the Government did not charge Lucchesi nor PROVE to a jury that Lucchesi was involved with anything other than the $20,000; the recommendation was to hold her accountable for the additional $500,000 her crooked attorney took in the final sting. The additional funds created significant additional time on her sentence.

Now that the very sentencing guidelines used to sentence Lucchesi has been ruled unconstitutional and the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that this probably impacted Lucchesi, the Government continues to argue otherwise.

The Government claims that there was “no indication that the judge would have sentenced otherwise,” absence the mandatory sentencing. Further the Government says that Judge McBryde “expressed no hesitancy” when he passed sentence. Well, if you were in the court room, you know that statement is absolutely not true, in fact the judge even called a recess and went to his chambers to further study the matter.

Most amazing, to those of us that observe this kind of thing from a distance, your Government argues that, while there are admitted errors, that Lucchesi is not entitled to relief because, ” the error does not seriously affect the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings.” Then…”although erroneous in hindsight, was certainly not so “egregious,” as to call for discretionary reversal.”

Viewers frequently hear of someone accused of a heinous crime walking free on a technicality. The public is outraged when a child molester is put back on the street and kills a child. All because of “errors” in judgment or guidelines?

Yet the Government argues that Lucchesi should be kept behind bars because THIS TIME their error was not “egregious!” Ask Karen’s mom Kathy or Brother Bryan or dad Frank if THEY feel the error is “egregious.”

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