Connecticut Attorneys get Preferential Treatment from arrest to sentencing….
by Stacey Petro Danbury, CT, December, 2013
On June 16th 2010 I had half a dozen armed FBI agents pound on my door. I was nine months pregnant, which despite their thorough investigation of me, the FBI claimed they did not know. That squad was there to arrest me for 21 counts of fraud related to a mortgage company I owned. I had 14 other co-codefendants, all but 2 were awakened the same way that morning. The two men that were contacted by telephone rather than apprehended in the dramatic way I was were Maurizio Lancia and David Kinney. It is no coincidence that these two codefendants are attorneys here in Connecticut and were afforded the professional courtesy to simply receive a call and surrender themselves to the Marshalls office to be arraigned. At the time I had numerous questions about that obvious prejudice and these questions turned into outrage when those two men were also sentenced to significantly less time and a fraction of the restitution of others in the case. How in a justice system that is supposed to be blind can something like this happen… and with no consequences to those that operated with such blatant prejudice and preferential treatment.
The law profession is ideally one with great integrity, and those who break their code of conduct by being involved in criminal enterprises should not be held to another standard than those who are not in that profession. The preferential treatment is not only unethical, but the substantially lower plea agreements eventually offered to both are a violation of policy in the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which states that prosecutors must not perpetuate unwarranted sentence disparities in pleas that are offered. In my case, despite being offered a substantially higher plea than Lancia who was said by the prosecution to be similarly situated, the government conceded that the sentence they asserted in my plea (41 months) was greater than necessary because the loss overstated my culpability and that I was more in line with Lancia who was offered a 27 month sentence.
The judge, the Honorable Alfred Covello, also violated his judicial duty to avoid unwarranted sentence disparity by ignoring the matter of culpability and handing me down a 41 months sentence. In addition I have $6.3 MILLION dollars in restitution while Lancia has under $200,000 and a 27 month sentence and Kinney under $100,000 and a 24 month sentence. Bear in mind, we were indicted with nearly all the same counts initially, facing the same sentences and restitution. Covello supported his decision by quoting a case that stated District Courts are not compelled to consider intra-conspiracy disparities, only national disparities. What is more shocking is that when you read the case he quoted ( United States v Frias), the statement was made in context of the codefendants NOT being similarly situated. In my case, the prosecutors asserted that Lancia were similarly situated, but they made reference to the fact, yes FACT, that Lancia was MORE involved. They did this while also leaving out significantly more damaging evidence of Lancia’s actual increased involvement, which was well documented. The judge did not dispute the level of my culpability, but rather said he was sticking with my original plea… which if he actually read it, he would have seen that we were not in agreement on a sentence range or loss amount and there were provisions for me to have those determined at a later date – provisions which were ignored. Judge Covello, however rubber stamped the prosecutors FIRST proposed sentence, and he ignored their later letter to probation and the court supporting a lower sentence.
Also, when Judge Covello stated he only had to consider nationwide sentence disparities, he clearly did not because statistics show that I was sentenced 300% higher than males committing comparable offenses.
Why was this allowed to happen? My case is pending appeal, which the prosecutors have been allowed to delay beyond the allowed statutory periods (almost a year since filed!), again with no consequences. Where is justice if the courts simply rubber stamp the whims of prosecutors? The negations in the criminal system can be likened to those in the used car industry. My first criminal attorney, Bruce Koffsky, made me pay the full sticker price, without investigating the quality of the vehicle. Once he did negotiate, after we signed the ‘purchase agreement’, he got a much lower price. The judge proceeded with the original sale… my life for 41 months. Markups are not allowed in numerous industries, so why is it acceptable in our criminal justice system? And more importantly, why did Lancia and Kinney have the preferential treatment in the first place and not be subjected to the adversarial whims of prosecutors? If we can stop such practices and make prosecutors follow policy statements issued in the United States Sentencing Manual, as well as the rules of Federal Court, then we can begin to have real criminal justice reform.
Stacey Petro Reg # 17986-014
Federal Correctional Institution
33 1/2 Pembroke Station
Danbury CT 06811