A 36 year old son of a wealthy jewelry dealer killed two British tourists on Fort Lauderdale Beach in 2009. He was sentenced this week and his sentencing arrangement has many people, including the British, scratching their heads. Basically, his money bought him a more lenient sentence when the victims’ families agreed that they would prefer restitution to jail time.
His sentence could have been much more serious—accused of killing the two tourists, he abandoned his car and continued to lie about the incident for days to come. Florida sentencing guidelines call for 20 to 45 years in prison. But, again, his money allowed him to purchase, or arrange, much nicer accommodations.
The defendant offered to pay the victim’s families an undisclosed amount if they agreed to him serving house arrest. He was sentenced to two years house arrest.
Unlike other people sentenced to home confinement, he won’t be required to wear an ankle monitoring device. And, unlike others, he will be quite comfortable in his “luxury oceanfront condo”, according to the Miami Herald. Finally, he will get his Porsche back.
It’s not a secret that the rich and powerful get treated differently by the criminal justice system. We understand that they get the best lawyers, and are afforded every imaginable opportunity to defend themselves. But in cases like this, and the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case, it is painfully obvious that some people are literally able to buy a better outcome for themselves.
The Miami Herald looked into the defendant and found that he was already on probation at the time of the deadly accident. He was on probation for racing, which is exactly what he was doing the early morning that he ran down the two victims.
His sentence is particularly sweet because of his criminal background. The racing he was on probation for originated in Illinois and actually injured a police officer and two other motorists. He also had traffic violations in Texas and Florida, along with a cocaine possession conviction.
Judges typically use this sort of criminal history to increase the sentence that a defendant will serve. However, this judge was sensitive to the agreement between the victim’s families and the defendant. It’s important to point out that the judge wasn’t required to go along with the agreement and could have sentenced him to prison time regardless.
Plea agreements are typically between the defendant and the prosecutor. However, more often we see victims playing an important role. Because the prosecutor is said to represent the state, they will often turn to the victim to discuss possible plea arrangements and what would be considered as acceptable in the case.
We don’t all have money lying around like this man, where abandoning, let alone driving a Porsche on the side of the road would be an option. However, even without money, favorable plea agreements can often be negotiated.
When you are looking at a lengthy potential sentence and the prosecution has significant evidence against you, sometimes a plea agreement is beneficial to both parties. If you are facing charges and concerned about a potential criminal penalty and the likelihood of avoiding jail time, contact our attorneys for a free consultation.