Monday, December 23, 2013

United States v. Bakker case brief

United States v. Bakker case brief summary
925 F.2d 728 (1991)

Appellant was a well-known televangelist. He was convicted and sentenced by the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina for fraud and conspiracy arising out of his actions to raise money by selling lifetime partnerships to facilities he was constructing. Relatively few of the funds solicited were used to construct the promised facilities. Appellant raised numerous challenges to his conviction and sentence.

Appellant first contended that the district court failed to ensure that an impartial jury, untainted by publicity, heard his case. Second, he argued that the district court, by refusing to grant a continuance during the trial, denied him effective assistance of counsel. Third, appellant challenged two evidentiary rulings made at trial. He also contended that the district court incorrectly instructed the jury with respect to his defense of good faith.


  • The court found those contentions to be without merit and that appellant's trial was free of reversible error. 
  • The district court did not abuse its discretion, and appellant received a fair trial. 
  • In regard to his sentence, appellant contended that his crimes should have been deemed "straddle crimes" covered by the Sentencing Guidelines and that the trial court abused its discretion by taking impermissible considerations into account when sentencing him. 
  • Appellant had no legal right to be sentenced under the Guidelines. 
  • However, the court found that the district court abused its discretion in sentencing appellant because the lengthy prison term may have reflected the court's personal sense of religiosity.

The district court's judgment of conviction was affirmed, but the sentence was vacated and remanded for resentencing.

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