After a Houston jury convicted him last year, former Dynegy executive Jamie Olis was eligible for a relatively light sentence of six months in prison for his part in a natural-gas trading scheme. He wound up getting 24 years – the longest sentence in the history of securities fraud – because the judge was required to take into account the amount of shareholder losses, valued at $100 million, reports the Christian Science Monitor. Now an appeals court is considering whether the case should be sent back to Houston for resentencing in light of the recent Supreme Court decision to throw out the guidelines used to calculate Olis’s sentence.
The case is being watched closely by many in the legal community who see it as one of the worst examples of the restrictions placed on federal judges by the now-defunct sentencing guidelines. Whether the case will be remanded could portend the path of hundreds of other cases on appeal. But even if those cases do make it back to trial courts, how will judges determine appropriate sentences? Since the high court’s ruling in January, the federal court system has been reeling from uncertainty. As trial judges wrestle with how to sentence new cases without the help of guidelines, appellate judges are struggling with how to handle the crush of old cases sentenced with guidelines.