In United States v. Utsick, No. 16-16505 (Aug. 22, 2022) (Newsom, Marcus, Covington (M.D. Fla.)), the Court affirmed Mr. Utsick’s sentence and order of restitution.
Mr. Utsick was charged with nine counts of mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341 based upon an earlier civil action brought by the SEC regarding securities fraud. Before authorities could arrest him, however, he fled to Brazil. The United States filed an extradition request, which Brazil granted. Mr. Utsick then returned to the United States on the eve of his trial. He entered into a plea agreement–agreeing to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud–and the court sentenced him to 220 months’ imprisonment and ordered him to pay $169,177,338 in restitution. On appeal, he challenged his sentence and order of restitution as violative of the extradition treaty between the United States and Brazil as well as the voluntariness of his guilty plea.
First, Mr. Utsick argued that his sentence and restitution order violated the terms of his extradition order, the extradition treaty between the United States and Brazil, and the international law doctrine known as the “rule of specialty.” He claimed that all three barred the district court from relying on any conduct prior to November 30, 2005 to determine his sentence. The Court was unpersuaded. It noted that when sentencing after extradition, the rule of specialty does not restrict the scope of proof of other crimes that may be considered in the sentencing process and does not control the evidentiary procedural rules of American Courts. While the rule of specialty bars proof of other crimes in order to exact punishment for those other crimes, it does not bar proof of other crimes as a matter germane to the determination of punishment for the extradited crime. The Court also found no plain error in the restitution order.
Second, the Court was also unpersuaded by Mr. Utsick’s argument that he entered his guilty plea without a clear understanding of the parameters of his conviction and without the requisite mental competence to knowingly enter into the plea.