“Non-victim” statements at sentencing

United States v. Salutric, No. 13-3308 (7th Cir. Jan. 8, 2015).

Steven Salutric, an investment adviser, defrauded a number of his clients. He took the money they had invested in their accounts at Charles Schwab and diverted them to risky investments like car dealerships, real estate developments, and restaurants. Salutric didn’t tell his clients he was doing this—let alone tell them that he had an interest in some of the investments he was diverting their money into. Six of Salutric’s clients ended up losing a lot of money. 

Salutric pleaded guilty to wire fraud. At his sentencing, the district court considered three “victim impact statements.” The daughter of one of Salutric’s defrauded clients submitted one of the three statements. The other two statements weren’t submitted by any of the victims of Salutric’s wire fraud. Instead, the other two statements accused Salutric of misappropriating money when he had worked as a restaurant bookkeeper and a Rotary Club treasurer. The district court considered both of those statements when sentencing Salutric. 

On appeal, Salutric argues that the district court shouldn’t have considered the two “non-victim” statements. There’s some intuitive appeal to an argument that a district court shouldn’t consider statements by non-victims. Suppose a district court, in sentencing a defendant, considered the statements of people who weren’t directly affected by the defendant’s crime but had read about it on the news and become outraged. That might begin to look a little like mob justice. 

But what happened in this case, says the Seventh Circuit, violated nobody’s rights. To begin with, the two statements discussed Salutric’s broader criminal record and history, which is a proper thing to consider under the federal Sentencing Reform Act. Plus, Salutric had an opportunity to challenge the allegations made in the statements—and he never did challenge them as false. So the district court didn’t abuse its discretion in considering the statements, and Salutric’s sentence is affirmed.