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How much time is Mychal Kendricks facing when he is finally sentenced?

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REBOOT: I’m re-posting this article by John from January that speaks on Kendricks’ legal situation ahead. The Seahawks re-signed Kendricks to a one-year, $4 million this week

Yesterday it was noted that the sentencing date for Mychal Kendricks’ case has been pushed back to April 4. Obviously that throws a wrench in both his chances to know what his status is when free agency opens in March, while also lowering the possibility that he might be available to play during the 2019 season.

There has been a lot of speculation on social media and online discussions about how much time he might get, ranging from house arrest to multiple years behind bars, so without delving too much things, let’s just take a look at what the federal sentencing guidelines have to say.

The first thing to look at is the charges to which Kendricks pled guilty. When he pled guilty in court back in September, Kendricks plead to two felonies: conspiracy to commit securities fraud and securities fraud.

Now, before jumping directly to the sentencing guidelines for Kendricks situation, let’s do a bit of reading in the 2018 version of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Manual. Specifically, when it comes to crimes similar in nature to that of those to which Kendricks pled guilty.

Under pre-guidelines sentencing practice, courts sentenced to probation an inappropriately high percentage of offenders guilty of certain economic crimes, such as theft, tax evasion, antitrust offenses, insider trading, fraud, and embezzlement, that in the Commission’s view are “serious.”

The Commission’s solution to this problem has been to write guidelines that classify as serious many offenses for which probation previously was frequently given and provide for at least a short period of imprisonment in such cases. The Commission concluded that the definite prospect of prison, even though the term may be short, will serve as a significant deterrent, particularly when compared with pre-guidelines practice where probation, not prison, was the norm.

So, that is obviously not a good omen, as it specifically names insider trading as one of the crimes for which historical punishments may have been too light. Now, continuing on to the very next paragraph, there is a piece which is pertinent to Kendricks as a first time offender.

More specifically, the guidelines work as follows in respect to a first offender. For offense levels one through eight, the sentencing court may elect to sentence the offender to probation (with or without confinement conditions) or to a prison term. For offense levels nine and ten, the court may substitute probation for a prison term, but the probation must include confinement conditions (community confinement, intermittent confinement, or home detention). For offense levels eleven and twelve, the court must impose at least one-half the minimum confinement sentence in the form of prison confinement, the remainder to be served on supervised release with a condition of community confinement or home detention. The Commission, of course, has not dealt with the single acts of aberrant behavior that still may justify probation at higher offense levels through departures.

To better understand that, basically, the federal sentencing guidelines give a judge some leeway with less serious offenses, and the crimes are categorized by levels. So, as we read there, levels one through eight may get probation, levels nine and ten may get probation instead of a prison term but the probation must include confinement (like house arrest or something similar) and for offenses of levels eleven and twelve, the sentence must at least be half confinement.

So, that being understood, let’s go find out what level of offense insider trading (technically securities fraud) is.

Great, so insider trading has a Base Offense Level of 8. That would mean, as we read above, that he would qualify for potential probation. However, reading just a little further we see the following:

Obviously there are two parts to that. We’ll start with part two, which reads as follows:

In short, if you take the time to read the indictment from back in the fall, Kendricks meets the criteria of this portion of the guidelines, so his sentence is bumped to a lever fourteen offense.

Then, let’s look at part 1.

Now, I know this is where a lot of fans will be opposed to the facts, but these are the facts. Even though many will argue that insider trading is a “victimless crime”, that is irrelevant because that is not the law. The law states that the penalties for insider trading are based on how much money a defendant made trading on that information, and that the penalties for insider trading are no different than for embezzlement, theft or fraud. In short, in the eyes of the federal courts Kendricks might as well have stolen a million dollars, because in the eyes of the court that’s what he did.

Now, some will argue that he paid it all back, and while that’s all fine and dandy, should the embezzler who paid back their employer get a shorter sentence because they paid the money back? Should a financial fraudster running a ponzi scheme get credit for paying the money back? Personally, my feeling is that once you’re caught with your hand red handed in the cookie jar, you can’t simply go out and buy cookies to replace the ones you got caught stealing and get off free because of that.

In any case, as you can see the part 1, because Kendricks made more than $1M from his insider trading scheme, under that table he should have 14 levels added.

Now, I’m not going to ramble on and on about whether how they determine that is fair, it is what it is, and there’s nothing any complaining can do about it. So, here’s the federal sentencing guidelines table with levels on it, with the recommended sentences provided in months.

And to explain the dividers in the chart, basically: Zone A is less serious than Zone B, which is less serious than Zone C, etc. Zone A qualifies for probation. Zone D requires, well, here’s what the sentencing manual says.

In short, since Kendricks conviction falls in Zone D, prison is the recommended sentence, even for first time offenders such as Kendricks.

So, I keep seeing fans reference hopes for house arrest or just probation, but the simple fact of the matter is that the federal sentencing guidelines are a whole lot harsher than they were even ten or fifteen years ago. Thus, we won’t know what Kendricks’ sentence actually is for several more months, but the odds of him avoiding prison are rather slim based on the crimes to which he pled guilty and the sentences associated with those crimes.