New York Federal Criminal Practice Blog
January 8, 2008

EDNY Judge Finds "Exceptional Reasons" Justifying Pre-Sentence Release of Business Owner, Even if he was Convicted of Crimes of Violence

The case of the Long Island couple recently convicted after trial of charges of forced labor and harboring aliens, in a notorious case described by prosecutors as modern-day slavery, has already produced one interesting decision on venue transfer, discussed here.  It has also spawned a notable decision on the issue of remanding a defendant post-conviction and pre-sentence in violent cases - required under 18 U.S.C. ยง 3143(a)(2) unless there is a substantial likelihood that the judge will grant a motion for acquittal or new trial, or there are "exceptional reasons" justifying release. 

In United States v. Sabhnani, 07CR 429 (ADS)(WDW), 2007 WL 4591822 (E.D.N.Y. December 27, 2007), the court found that neither alternative applied to Varsha Sabhnani, whose motion for acquittal had been denied and whose primarily family-related reasons for release were "purely personal" and thus, under Second Circuit precedent, did not rise to the level of exceptional.  The court also rejected the defense argument that the forced labor offenses were not crimes of violence because they did not require the use or threat of physical force for conviction, in light of the fact that the jury had expressly found on special verdict sheets that Varsha had threatened serious harm against the victims. 

The court reached a different conclusion with regard to her husband, however.  Although convicted of the same crimes, the jury did not expressly find that he had personally used or threatened violence towards the victims.  Importantly, the court held that even if Mahender's crimes of conviction were deemed crimes of violence, exceptional circumstances warranted his release pending sentence: "Mahender is solely responsible for operating his business and has various employees who are dependent upon their jobs, salaries and benefits. As such, the Court finds that Mahender should be permitted time to arrange for the affairs of the business, as well as the family's financial affairs, for the benefit of the Sabhnanis' four children."

Notably, this is the second reported case involving crimes of violence in the past month (the first is discussed here) in which a court has made a rare finding of exceptional reasons justifying post-conviction, pre-sentence release.

See Archives for all posts since September 2007.