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United States v. Lawrence

Judge Weinstein issued an opinion sentencing a possible gang member who recklessly fired a gun into a pedestrian street, shooting his own companion.  The opinion contains an expanded discussion of the relation of length of sentence to deterrence.  It relies on the opinion of an expert, Professor Jeffrey Fagan of Columbia Law School, that other factors are more important than length.  The sentence is based on the expert’s opinion and other relevant factors. 



Murphy et al v. HeartShare Human Services of New York et al

Plaintiffs were employees of both a school and a residence for students with disabilities. They claim that the two employers are so closely related that they must be considered one for purposes of federal and state overtime law. Alleged are violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the New York State labor law. Defendants had good professional and business reasons for setting up two related separate operations. But those non-pretextual business reasons do not affect workers’ rights to overtime. By treating the two entities as one for compensation purposes, the law leans strongly in favor of protecting workers’ wage rights over employers’ rights to run an efficient business. The employer cannot reduce these worker rights by contract or organization of its operations.
Defendants have moved to dismiss for failure to allege that defendants are joint employers. The motion is denied and the case is set down for trial. 


United States v, Powell, 15-CR-382

In this sentencing opinion, Judge Jack B. Weinstein deals with overcharging.  A five-year minimum sentence must be imposed on a minor drug seller-addict with borderline intelligence and deep psychological problems who has repeatedly tried to commit suicide.

Defendant was charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin.  A statutory minimum custodial sentence of 10 years applies.  After plea negotiations, he agreed to plead guilty to a lesser-included charge of conspiracy to distribute at least 100 grams of heroin, which carries a statutory minimum prison sentence of five years.  The court believed a five-year term was excessive, and that defendant lacked competence to plead.  Nevertheless, it accepted the plea and sentenced defendant to five years in prison, as a practical matter to save him from a 10-year sentence had he gone to trial.