Federal prosecutors had sought 10 years apiece, but federal judge express concerns about the health of the defendants if given lengthy prison sentences.
The National Law Journal | August 13, 2010
A federal judge sentenced a Beverly Hills, Calif., film producer and his wife to six months in prison and six months home confinement each in the first criminal case involving Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) charges against individuals in the entertainment industry.
Patricia and Gerald Green, whose film credits included Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn, were convicted last fall of paying $1.8 million in bribes to a high-ranking government official in Thailand in exchange for more than $13.5 million in contracts to manage the Bangkok International Film Festival.
“The crimes involved here are serious crimes, but they’re not as serious as other crimes in these types of situations,” U.S. District Judge George Wu in Los Angeles said during a lengthy sentencing hearing on Thursday. “I do not feel, given the defendants’ lack of criminal conduct, that they pose a danger to the public.”
Federal prosecutors were seeking 10 years in prison each, while lawyers for the couple asked for five years’ probation, including some period of house arrest. A pre-sentencing report by the Federal Probation Service recommended a prison sentence of 12 months and one day for each of the Greens.
But Wu, who had postponed sentencing in the case for several months, said he was concerned that Gerald Green, 78, who suffers from emphysema, would face “adverse consequences to his health” if given a lengthy prison sentence.
Wu appeared particularly persuaded by the defendants’ arguments that there was no victim in the case, since the festival was an extraordinary success while the Greens were in charge between 2004 and 2006, contributing substantial revenues to the government and people of Thailand rather than economic losses. Wu distinguished the Greens from individuals who had not completed the work under the contract for which they paid the bribes.
Wu spent most of the 2 1/2-hour hearing grilling Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Searby and Jonathan Lopez, a senior trial attorney in the fraud section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division in Washington.
He seemed unmoved by the government’s argument that there was some consistency in sentencing in FCPA cases against individuals and that defendants who did not plead guilty or cooperate, had been sentenced to longer prison terms than those who had.
Lopez said that the probation office’s recommendation in the Green case represented “a huge departure that no one else has received. It flies in the face of similarities insentencing.”
Neither defendant addressed the court.
Gerald Green’s lawyer, Jerome Mooney, a partner at Weston Garrou & Mooney in Los Angeles, urged Wu to look at each case individually. Patricia Green’s lawyer, Marilyn Bednarski, a partner at Kaye McLane & Bednarski in Pasadena, Calif., said the Greens had been punished enough by the stress and financial damage they had suffered.
“I don’t see a reason or benefit to these people going to prison,” she said.
The Greens are expected to surrender to federal authorities on Nov. 29. Wu also tentatively ordered that each pay $250,000 in restitution.