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What did we learn about the Mychal Kendricks case last week?

Minnesota Vikings v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Rob Leiter/Getty Images

As the offseason has slowly passed, with each week that gone by it has become more and more likely that linebacker Mychal Kendricks would be available to the team for the 2019 season. Earlier this month I commented on how the rescheduling of co-defendant Damilare Sonoiki’s sentencing to the end of September made it all but impossible that Kendricks would miss the 2019 season, and with the first sentence handed down in a related case, we now have some glimpse into what the feds have asked for in terms of sentences.

The related case was the U.S. v. Hamed Ettu, and while Ettu has no direct connection to Kendricks, he profited off of two trades using inside information from the same individual who provided inside information to Kendricks. Following the pair of trades on which he made over $90,000, Ettu stopped trading on the information that Sonoiki provided. Whether he did so because he realized the illegality of what they were doing or because he had simply made as much as he was looking to make, according to court filings he made only half as many trades on inside information as Kendricks.

In addition, while the evidence that Kendricks was aware of the illegality of the activity he and Sonoiki undertook, the court filings indicate that Ettu may not have been aware of the fact that what he was doing was illegal. The sentencing brief his attorney filed with the court stated that Mr. Ettu accepts responsibility for failing to conduct thorough due diligence on the origins of the stock tips which Sonoiki provided him, while acknowledging that he should have been more aware of the fact that Sonoiki was giving him inside information.

However, even though these differences between Ettu’s case and Kendricks’ case are significant, the fact of the matter is that the feds were still looking for Ettu to serve time. In their sentencing memorandum, the feds asked the court that Ettu serve 10 to 16 months in prison.

Now, the judge decided not to sentence Ettu to prison, instead giving him nine months of house arrest and three years of probation. Obviously, we can’t be certain why the judge decided to assign that sentence, we can at least evaluate the circumstances.

We know Ettu made fewer trades on inside information and profited less (two rather than four and $93,000 rather than $1.2M), that he plead guilty to only one felony compared to the two to which Kendricks plead guilty and that it is the first time either one of them has been in trouble with the law. In addition, there may have been other factors at play as well. As I looked at back in March, the judge in Kendricks’ case, Gene E.K. Pratter, has handed out sentences below the federal guidelines in white collar cases. Specifically, one of the cases I noted in that March piece was that of Sonja McQuillar, a single mother who was given a sentence below the federal guidelines.

Now, whether or not the fact that McQuillar was a single mother had anything to do with the fact that Pratter departed from the sentencing guidelines and provided a more lenient sentence, we may never know. However, it had been the only white collar case I had reviewed of Judge Pratter in which she handed down a sentence below the federal guidelines, at least until the Ettu case. Ettu, while not a single parent, does have two children with his current wife, and two more children with his ex-wife, one of which is still a minor. Thus, it’s a second case of the judge giving a sentence below that of the federal guidelines. That said, Ettu’s attorneys asked for leniency for other reasons, including his eight years of service in the Army Reserves, but how much of an impact any of those other reasons may have had, we again have no true idea.

At the end of the day, though, the sentence handed down to Kendricks has become largely irrelevant to the Seahawks at this point. Specifically, with Sonoiki’s sentencing not currently scheduled until late September and the possibility of yet another sentencing delay, it’s likely that Kendricks will be available for the duration of the 2019 season. Even if there is not a delay in sentencing and Kendricks has a sentence handed down at some point this fall, there is typically a delay between sentencing and reporting to federal prison for white collar criminals. Thus, at this point, barring any further criminal activity by Kendricks, there is zero reason not to expect him to be on the field for the Hawks.

Beyond 2019, his availability appears to likely be irrelevant. With the team reportedly in negotiations with Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright now signed through 2020 and the team having selected two linebackers in the draft this past spring, there may not be much of a need for Kendricks past the upcoming season. Obviously Wright and Wagner are not getting any younger, but with the Hawks using a nickel package nearly 70% of the time on defense, a fifth linebacker may be unnecessary depth once Cody Barton and Ben Burr-Kirven have had a chance to get their feet wet against NFL-level competition.