Sierputowski Case, 4th District – South Carolina
Case Type: Unfair Length of Sentence, Disregard of Plea Agreement, Unethical Relevant Conduct Rule, Judge Bias and Unfit to Hold Position
PHILLIP MATTHEW SIERPUTOWSKI is fighting Judge Mary Lewis Geiger, 4th District Court in South Carolina, of unreasonable length of sentence, disregard of plea agreement, unethical relevant conduct rule, judge bias, and unfit to hold the position.
Why is this Case Important?
Length of Sentence does Not fit the Crime
Mr. Sierputowski did break the law by owning firearms as a convicted felon. However, he did not hurt anyone while owning these guns. But an incompetent judge, swayed by a vindictive FBI agent, decided he should serve 11 years, 3 months for owning a firearm – which is a 2nd Amendment Right.
Plea Agreement Disregarded
The plea agreement between Mr. Sierputowski’s lawyer and the prosecutor was to have him serve 6 years, 6 months. However, the judge decided to disregard this agreement and insert her own sentence to the fullest extent possible.
The Unethical Relevant Conduct Guideline
From Deconstructing the Relevant Conduct Guideline: Challenging the Use of Uncharged and Acquitted Offenses in Sentencing by Amy Baron-Evans* and Jennifer Niles Coffin* on August 11, 2008:
“Under certain portions of the ‘relevant conduct’ guideline and its commentary, judges are required to calculate the guideline range based not only on the crime of conviction, but on separate crimes, comprised of their own elements, of which the defendant was acquitted, with which the defendant was never charged, or which were dismissed.1 The Commission advises judges to find these separate crimes by a preponderance of the “information,” without regard to its admissibility under the rules of evidence, if there is sufficient indicia of reliability to support its “probable accuracy.”2 The guideline range is then increased by the same number of months or years as if the defendant had been charged by indictment and convicted by a jury on proof beyond a reasonable doubt, limited only by the statutory maximum for the offense of conviction. These provisions were a radical departure from past practice in the federal courts and national experience in the states, were not authorized by Congress, and were adopted without empirical support. They have been subject to enduring criticism and calls for reform since their inception, to no avail.” [Emphasis added]
* Amy Baron-Evans and Jennifer Niles Coffin are Sentencing Resource Counsel and Research and Writing Attorney, respectively, for the Federal Public and Community Defenders National Sentencing Resource Project. The authors would like to thank Kevin Schad, a Criminal Justice Act panel attorney practicing in the Southern District of Ohio and the Sixth Circuit, for his contributions to Part III of this paper.
1 USSG § 1B1.3(a)(1) & (a)(2) & comment. (n.3) & comment. (backg’d.).
2 USSG § 6A1.3(a), p.s., & comment. (backg’d).
Mr. Sierputowski understood he pleaded away his drug charges during the plea agreement and agreed to the gun charges. But then the charges were magically brought back through the use of the relevant conduct guideline to add years to his sentence. Relevant conduct is like having your cake and eating too. Or it’s like making an agreement with someone, but it doesn’t count in your mind because you had your fingers crossed. That is how relevant conduct is working across our legal system these days.
Judge Not Qualified
Judge Mary Geiger Lewis was a judge overseeing real estate cases before being confirmed in the U.S. Senate to serve as a federal criminal judge. Her experience in criminal law consisted of 1 day of shadowing another judge.
Judge Lewis also stated in her sentencing process of Mr. Sierputowski that his core problem was his drug use. During his many years of drug usage, his crimes were all charges for drug possession. However, Judge Lewis’s astuteness to Mr. Sierputowski’s core problem did not warrant any sentence for rehabilitation. Instead she gave him a very lengthy sentence. This shows us the true disconnect between the health problem of addiction in the U.S. and how the legal system interferes with treatment options. In fact, throughout his life, the biggest obstacle to appropriate treatment for his addiction was the criminal justice system. Thus the problem never gets solved.
Mr. Sierputowski has gone through the legal appeal process and been denied at every option. Therefore, shining light on the legal system’s unethical and unfair process is his only next step.
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The Honorable Mary Geiger Lewis was appointed a federal district court judge in 2012 in the District of South Carolina by President Barack Obama