Tuesday, December 28, 2010

District Court Must ID Statutory Basis for Restitution Order

US v. Leftwich: Leftwich was convicted of mail fraud and making false claims, after participating in a scheme that saw the IRS pay out more than $2 million in false tax refunds. An issue at sentencing was whether the district court would order restitution. At the guilty plea hearing, the district court noted it had the authority to order restitution, but did not indicate the source of that authority. Prior to sentencing, Leftwich filed a memorandum arguing that the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act did not apply in his case and that, while the Victim Witness Protection Act did apply, the statutory factors to be considered under that Act negated an award of restitution. The Government did not respond to that argument at all (leading to a written lashing from the Fourth Circuit). At sentencing, the district court ordered restitution, but did not indicate its statutory basis for doing so.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit vacated the order of restitution. The court held that without the district court identifying on what basis it ordered restitution, the court could not review that order for abuse of discretion. The MVRA and VWPA each have different procedural and substantive nuances which must be taken into account before ordering restitution. The court vacated and remanded to the district court for further proceedings as to the basis for the restitution issue.

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