December News!

Monday, January 3, 2022

Case, Staff & Community/Client News



Case News:


Judge Settle recently gave a 5-year sentence in a child pornography case where the parties agreed to recommend between 6-10 years. Client admitted possessing roughly 50 underage pictures on his cellphone (possession) but denied taking pictures of his girlfriend’s 5-year-old daughter (production). The Government charged defendant with Production (15-year mandatory min) and Possession (10 years max), but dismissed the production count while reserving the right to argue it was “relevant conduct” for USSG scoring purposes. The pre-sentence report (PSR)agreed with the Government and boosted the base offense level from 18 (possession) to 32 (production) as “relevant conduct.” In disputing it, we challenged the facts, relying on FPD Tacoma investigator Stacey Brownstein’s fantastic interview of the victim’s mother which undercut the Government theory, and forensic records of the client’s cellphone showing phone inactivity at the time the offending picture was taken, and upload times (from phone to google photo drive) that differed from those of other harmless pictures taken by client on his phone. Judge Settle rejected the PSR scoring/relevant conduct theory, applying a “clear and convincing” standard of proof to the relevant conduct, and finding too many flaws in the evidence. Judge Settle refused the Government request to allow the mother to give a victim statement, or present restitution evidence, since the production allegations were not “relevant conduct.” Judge Settle said, “this is a guidelines case” and sentenced client within the USSG range and below the parties’ agreed cap. There remains a pending state court case on the dismissed production conduct (we could not reach a global deal). Congrats to CJA panel attorney Phil Brennan and his client on a hard fought case!



Client was originally charged with drug and firearms possession charges that would have carried a ten-year mandatory minimum sentence. Our office successfully argued for his release from custody at his initial appearance. Our office then advised client to keep living his life as if he were not going to go to back to prison, promising that we would do our best to keep him out of prison. By the time of his arrest, client had already turned his life around, but redoubled those efforts throughout his period of pretrial supervision. He obtained a commercial driver’s license and a good paying job. He became a caring father and had provided critical care for two family members as they battled cancer. Client resolved his case with a plea to two drug charges that did not carry any mandatory minimum term. The United States Probation Office and the government recognized that client’s rehabilitation was profound, but still recommended prison terms of 18 and 48 months, respectively. Several members of the community attended the sentencing hearing and spoke on client’s behalf,noting that many hardships that client had to overcome. The Court remarked that client’s rehabilitation was extraordinary and granted a five-year probationary sentence that will allow client to keep his job and keep caring for his family. Amazing dedication and hard work by our client!



Seattle AFDs Greg Murphy and Vanessa Pai-Thompson, along with Seattle paralegal Janet Stanton, secured the dismissal of federal charges against a person accused of robbery in connection with the 2020 Black Lives Matter Protests. Congrats to our client and amazing work by the defense team!


Staff News:

Federal Public Defender Hires New Procurement & Property Administrator!

Mikki Smith joined our office on December 6, 2021 as our new Procurement and Property Administrator. Aside from her procurement and property experience, she has held jobs in accounting, finance and even engineering. Most recently, she was the Finance Technician for the City of Milton. She also worked as a Purchasing Contract Administrator for Boeing, Inventory Control Supervisor for the Home Shopping Network and Accountant for Barghausen Engineering. Prior to these jobs, Mikki studied Journalism at Chapman University before joining the U.S. Navy and eventually working for the Navy as a Chief Diesel Engineer. Please welcome her to our office.


Community/Client News:


December was an exciting month for reentry work at the FPD. Seattle AFD Jennifer Wellman and Social Worker Daniel Potter-Engelskirger toured WELD Seattle, a local non-profit with the mission of supporting individuals reentering the community post-incarceration. WELD Seattle provides an array of services and programs focused on housing, employment, recovery, and basic needs. The building that currently houses WELD Seattle is undergoing a complete renovation during 2022 to expand their service capacity. One highlight will be the new, public-facing coffee shop housed within the building that provide employment opportunities for clients.

To learn more about WELD Seattle and to refer yourself or a client, you can find more information on their website here


Archive Date: 
December, 2021