By Alexandra Adler
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is seeking a reconsideration of the sentence of former Saybrook Master Antonio C. Lasaga in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision this January invalidating mandatory sentencing guidelines in federal cases.
Lasaga is currently sentenced to 15 years in prison for the possession and receipt of child pornography in 2003 running concurrently with a 20-year state sentence for the sexual assault of a minor. If the request is granted, the case would be sent back to District Court Judge Alvin W. Thompson, who has previously indicated that he believes Lasaga’s federal sentence is inappropriately short.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of United States v. Booker that sentencing guidelines for criminal offenders used by federal judges are advisory, not mandatory. The decision applies to previous sentences that are being appealed.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has said they will file for limited remand, a process that questions the validity of mandatory sentencing guidelines for criminal offenders.
“We will make a motion in district court saying that ‘if, knowing now that the guidelines were advisory and not mandatory, would you have given the defendant a substantially different sentence?’” U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Tom Carson said.
The motion for limited remand was filed with the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. If the appeal to the 2nd Circuit Court is granted, Carson said, then the case will be brought back to the sentencing judge, Thompson.
If the judge decides that he would have ruled differently on the Lasaga given the United States v. Booker decision, a new proceeding would occur, Carson said. If the judge, however, does not believe the sentence should be changed, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will appeal to the 2nd Circuit Court. Currently, Carson said, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is awaiting a response.
New Haven attorney Diane Polan, who is representing Lasaga in his criminal case, declined to comment.
Lasaga’s 15-year sentence is considerably longer than the federal guidelines for such cases, which specify a 108- to 135-month sentence. Thompson said in Lasaga’s 2003 resentencing hearing that the sentencing guideline seriously underestimates the probability that the defendant will commit similar crimes in the future because of the large amount of pornography in Lasaga’s possession as well as earlier accusations of sexual abuse. Thompson also said that though he once thought a 15-year sentence was sufficient, he now would have given Lasaga a longer sentence, if he had the authority.
While progress is being made in the criminal portion of the Lasaga case, the civil part is at a standstill. In 2004, Lasaga was found liable for $16.5 million in damages to a boy he molested. New Haven attorney Frederick Trotta, who represented the boy molested by Lasaga, said he is still searching for assets from which to collect damages for the boy, but has yet to receive any money.
“The money is still out there,” he said.
The money, Trotta said, may come from royalties from books written by Lasaga and a home located in Cheshire, Conn., which is currently owned by Lasaga’s ex-wife.
Last year, Yale was named a co-defendant in the Lasaga case, but the suit was later withdrawn. Trotta said the University may again become a defendant in the future.
By Alexandra Adler