In 2014, a jury convicted Eric Stevenson, a former member of the New York state assembly for the Bronx, of accepting bribes to promote a proposal in the state legislature about adult daycare centers. The district court sentenced him to 36 months of imprisonment and a forfeiture of $22,000. Today the Second Circuit affirmed the conviction and sentence.
The circuit court disposed of all of Mr. Stevenson’s substantive arguments in a summary order. It found it wasn’t arbitrary for the district court to deny the attorney’s two-week adjournment request because 26 days was enough time to prepare for trial. It rejected the argument that Mr. Stevenson’s cross-examination was limited for a witness who had used a racial epithet. And it found the evidence of guilt sufficient.
The court also completely rejected Mr. Stevenson’s sentencing arguments in a separate published decision. Mr. Stevenson argued that increasing his offense level by two points because he was a “public official” and another two points because he was an “elected public official” was double counting. The court disagreed. It concluded the two enhancements served separate purposes because there was a “greater harm when [a betrayal of public trust is] committed by one who has been elected to office and not simply appointed to a public position.”
The court also rejected Mr. Stevenson’s argument that the jury rather than the judge should have decided the forfeiture amount. Recognizing that the law about what facts must be decided by the jury had changed in the last two decades, the circuit was clear that it would continue to apply a 1995 Supreme Court case (Libretti v. United States) that judges can decide criminal forfeiture amounts.
The only door the court left open? The court did note that Mr. Stevenson could raise his ineffective assistance of counsel claims through a habeas motion.
Mr. Crute had better luck before the circuit today. In his case, the court vacated and remanded his sentence concluding it was plain error for the district court to have sentenced him to five years in prison based on the wrong guideline range.