Sunday, March 05, 2000

Supreme Court: Sentence not over

Reverses local decision on supervised release

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Lawyer Kevin Schad's defeat in the U.S. Supreme Court tickled his sense of humor.

        The justices last week reversed a lower court decision reducing the months that client Roy Lee Johnson must spend on supervised release after leaving federal prison.

        “It's more than a strikeout,” the Blue Ash lawyer said Thursday of defeat in his first Supreme Court case. “I managed to get them to agree unanimously that I was wrong.”

        Mr. Johnson's appeal required the Supreme Court to decide whether supervised release begins when a federal inmate physically leaves prison or when the prison sentence legally ends.

        Mr. Johnson was sentenced to 171 months in prison for drug and weapons crimes in Detroit but successful appeals by Mr. Schad pared away two convictions and all but 51 months of prison time.

        However, by the time he was freed, Mr. Johnson had served 81 months and wanted the extra 30 months subtracted from his 36 months of supervised release.

        The trial judge in Detroit said no, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati ruled for him in a split opinion.

        That left him free, with six months to go, but the government put Mr. Johnson's supervised release on hold and appealed.

        It was a decision that would affect every federal prisoner whose appeals shorten his or her sentence to less than time served.

        In their opinion, the justices sided with the government's narrow interpretation of the law, saying, “The ordinary commonsense meaning of "release' is to be freed from confinement.”

        That sent the case back to the 6th Circuit to decide whether to impose the remaining six months of supervised release.


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- Supreme Court: Sentence not over