Monthly News!

October News!

Case, Staff, DREAM, CJA, & Intern News

 

Case News:

 

In the fall of 2018, Mr. C was charged with 4 four counts of aggravated child abuse, each carrying a 30-year mandatory minimum term of imprisonment. When the client refused to plead guilty, the government added a fifth count alleging attempted production of child pornography, which carried a 15-year mandatory sentence. 

The case involved allegations that Mr. C had sexually abused two children on four occasions; something our client adamantly denied.  The client took polygraph tests, including one administered by the FBI, that supported his innocence, yet the government continued to pursue the charges.  After extensive investigation and litigation, the case was ready to proceed to trial when the trial judge previewed evidentiary rulings that he would be obligated to make based on the unjust rules applicable in sexual offenses, which greatly increased the risk of a conviction on all counts. 

Given the risk Mr. C faced of conviction on the sexual abuse counts because of these evidentiary rules, he pleaded guilty pursuant to a heavily negotiated agreement to a 10-year mandatory minimum charge based on inappropriate social media texts and requests.  The sentencing judge included the sexual abuse as relevant conduct in calculating a guideline range well beyond 20 years, but imposed a 12-year sentence. Many people worked for years to achieve this result, including Tacoma investigator Mike Stortini, who traveled far and wide to interview witnesses; Tacoma investigator Stacey Brownstein, who helped organize and interpret voluminous phone and social media evidence; former Seattle paralegals Donna Maxwell, Emily Ziel and Natalya Kim, who prepared all of the evidence to be trial ready; and Charlotte Ponikvar, who oversaw the filing of numerous motions and kept us all on track. 

                                   

Mr. P had spent most of his adult life in prison, including ten years in federal custody on a prior case. In January of 2021, Mr. P was indicted on multiple gun and drug charges, including 15-years worth of mandatory minimums. Mr. P eventually pleaded guilty to charges that resulted in a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and an agreed-upon range of 5 to 8 years in custody. At sentencing, the extreme psychological, emotional and physical abuse Mr. P suffered as a child and teenager was presented to the court as mitigating his conduct. The court took this into consideration and had an extended colloquy with Mr. P, eventually imposing five years and one day in custody. The court suggested that Mr. P read a book entitled “What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing” and encouraged Mr. P to begin addressing and healing from this childhood trauma, particularly while on federal supervision—something our office hopes to support him in once he is released from custody.

                                   

 

Mr. B, represented by Seattle AFD Andy Kennedy with assistance from Seattle paralegal Charlotte Ponikvar, was granted early termination of his supervised release this month.  When he came before the court last year, the judge was proud of his progress on supervised release so far but determined it was just too soon and asked him to come back in a year. Mr. B continued to perform exceptionally on supervised release and, in the order terminating his supervision, the judge recognized his great strides. The court noted that it “has routinely encouraged those on supervised release to perform well” and further observed that “there can be rewards for compliance as well as negative consequences that follow violations of supervised release.” Congratulations to Mr. B and best of luck going forward!

                                   

Paige Thompson was charged in 2019 with a variety of computer related offenses, including access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.   The case involved one of the largest data breaches in the country’s history.  Despite the complexities associated with the case and the difficulties related to the pandemic, the office effectively and successfully defended Ms. Thompson thru trial.  She not only was acquitted of the most serious allegations lodged against her but also received a sentence of probation despite the government’s request for a seven-year sentence and Capital One’s claim that it incurred over $250 million dollars in costs with respect to the breach. In imposing a sentence of probation, the district court acknowledged the reality that a transgender person such as Ms. Thompson cannot be safely housed in the Bureau of Prisons.  Ms. Thompson defense team consisted of Seattle AFDs Nancy Tenney, Mohammad Hamoudi, and Chris Sanders, as well as Seattle paralegals Luz Vargas, Charlotte Ponikvar and Patricia Stordeur. Tacoma investigator Stacey Brownstein and Social Worker Daniel Potter-Engelskirger assisted Ms. Thompson as well.

Finally, Ms. Thompson was also ably assisted by Waymaker, a law office located in Los Angeles, California.

                                   

Our client was charged with defrauding the company he worked for out of over $500,000. After an intervention and re-evaluation, stemming from charges in federal court, our client dedicated himself to therapy, employment, and his family. Recognizing the client’s remorse and desire to make the company whole, the Court sentenced our client to probation with no time in prison.

                                   

Judge Martinez sentenced Ms. P to three years of Probation for her offense of theft of government funds. The non-custodial sentence will allow Ms. P. to continue on a positive path, with stable housing and a supportive family. She is engaged in mental health and substance use disorder and hopeful for her future. She and her family are grateful for the breadth of support and advocacy the Federal Defender Office has provided, from figuring out how to address an outstanding misdemeanor matter to accessing services. 

 

Staff News:

Chief Appellate Attorney Vicki Lai, along with externs Abby Gellman and Ayla Kadah, attended and represented our office at University of Washington Law School’s Pro Bono and Externship Fair on October 25, 2022. Vicki, Abby, and Ayla met with over 30 enthusiastic law students interested in externing at the FPD and/ or future public defense careers

 

DREAM News:

October saw one DREAM participant graduate. Mr. S was in the program for two years, having pled guilty to distribution of a controlled substance for selling drugs online. His time in DREAM was at times difficult, but Mr. S embraced the chance to participate in a three-month-long inpatient treatment program and has achieved great success since. He’s looking forward to running marathons and snowboarding and is studying for his real estate license. We wish him the best of luck!

 

CJA News:

CJA Resource Counsel Jenn Kaplan and CJA Panel attorney Jennifer Horwitz wrote a Criminal Practice Manual for the Western District of Washington. The Manual highlights key information about how to practice in this district. Their hope is that compiling this information, which includes both published information and the inside scoop about procedures, culture, and expectations, will help attorneys avert avoidable errors and do their best work.

Jenn and Jennifer extend their gratitude to Mike Filipovic, Natalie Harmon, Dennis Carroll, Jennifer Wellman, Jerome Kuh, Suzie Strait, Jonah Haseley, James Feldman, and myriad court and government staff for providing valuable assistance and insight for the manual.

 

Intern News:

Please Welcome our New Undergrad Intern!