Solofa attorneys continue arguments for leniency
As part of its argument for Paul Solofa to receive leniency when sentencing is handed down on Friday at the federal court in Washington D.C., the defense contends that prosecution for this offense “has had a tremendous impact on Mr. Solofa regardless of whether any additional period of incarceration is imposed.”
Solofa’s argument also stated that he is facing a serious medical condition, “Stage IV renal failure”, which Samoa News reported in last Friday’s edition.
“While in the past he has been lawfully admitted to this country, his conviction will likely result in his deportation after his period of incarceration and may bar his reentry,” said the defense for Solofa, who was convicted in January by a federal jury on one count each of witness tampering and obstruction of justice relating to the Department of Education school bus spare parts bribery scheme.
“This conviction also cost him his job – a profession he had for more than a decade. These collateral consequences are additional punishment that he has faced and provide additional deterrence for him and others who might act in a similar fashion,” argued Solofa’s attorney, Washington D.C. based Assistant Federal Public Defender Michelle Peterson.
According to the defense, no period of incarceration is necessary to protect the public from further crimes of Mr. Solofa and “there is no reason to believe there will be further crimes.”
“The effect that this case has had on his life and the lives of his family – absent any additional period of incarceration – is a sufficient guarantee that he will never commit another offense,” said Peterson.
Moreover, as the U.S. Sentencing Commission has recognized, defendants without any prior contact with the criminal justice system “are unlikely to recidivate”. Peterson claims that Solofa “has an exceptionally low risk of recidivism” because he is 50 years old, a first offender, educated with a bachelor’s degree, has been employed throughout his adult life, is married, and has no history of drug or alcohol abuse.”
“All of these factors decrease significantly his risk of recidivism,” she argued and cited provision of regulations set by the Sentencing Commission in Measuring Recidivism.
For example, for male offenders in Criminal History Category I, the recidivism rate is 15.2%; for offenders over age 50 at the time of sentencing, however, the recidivism rate in Category I is only 6.2%.
For those who are college graduates, the rate in Criminal History Category I is just 7.1%; for those who have been employed, the rate is 12.7%; and for those who were ever married, the rate is 9.8%. For those with no history of illicit drug use, the recidivism rate is half that of those who do have a drug history.
“Undoubtedly, for those like Mr. Solofa who are educated, have been employed, are married, are drug free and over 50, the combined rate is even lower,” she said, adding that “offenders like Mr. Solofa with zero criminal history points have a rate of recidivism half that of offenders with one criminal history point.
“In imposing the least sentence sufficient to account for the need to protect the public from further crimes this Court should consider the statistically low risk of recidivism presented by Mr. Solofa,” she said.
Additionally, his risk of recidivism is so low as to make him an appropriate candidate for an alternative to lengthy incarceration.
Peterson also argued that Solofa “has and will continue to be punished for his conduct. To the extent that would-be criminals are deterred by the sentences of others, Mr. Solofa’s damaged reputation, along with the negative effects on his ability to obtain employment, coupled with a short period of incarceration would sufficiently deter any similarly situated individuals.”
Research has consistently shown that while the certainty of being caught and punished has a deterrent effect, “increases in severity of punishments do not yield significant — if any — marginal deterrent effects,” said Peterson citing federal cases and information.
She also reminded the court that Solofa needs considerable medical treatment, and while the federal Bureau of Prisons professes to be able to provide such care, the provision of high level care needed for someone in Stage 4 Renal Failure as he now is, is extremely costly and could likely be more efficiently provided outside the penal system.
She also said the Probation Office has calculated an advisory guideline range of 41 to 51 months in prison; however, this guideline range fails to take any account of the low risk of recidivism, relies upon a cross-reference to bribery, and is greater than necessary to promote the goals of sentencing in this case.
DEPORTABLE ALIEN STATUS
The defense says Solofa will be in custody for a considerable period of time which may be followed by additional time if he faces deportation proceedings. Peterson said the court can consider his status as a non-citizen as that status will increase both the length and the severity of his confinement.
“Among other things, because Mr. Solofa may be subject to deportation following the sentence imposed by this Court, he will not receive the same benefits or programs within the Federal Bureau of Prisons as other prisoners,” she said.
“In addition, unlike other federal prisoners, he may not be eligible for early release or placement in a halfway house six months prior to his release date, and therefore will have to serve more time than other federal prisoners under the exact same sentence,” she said.
“While Mr. Solofa’s position vis a vis Immigration and Customs Enforcement may be somewhat unclear, one thing is perfectly clear. He will be incarcerated far from his home in American Samoa as there is no federal facility in American Samoa or anywhere within a reasonable distance from American Samoa,” she said.
According to Peterson, this case does not involve restitution and therefore, this factor is not applicable.
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