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Baton Rouge drug trafficker's case to be reassigned to new judge for resentencing

3 years 6 months 5 days ago Tuesday, January 12 2021 Jan 12, 2021 January 12, 2021 6:56 AM January 12, 2021 in News
Source: The Advocate

BATON ROUGE - A federal appeals court has removed Baton Rouge federal district Judge Shelly Dick from the case of a convicted drug trafficker.

The decision was based on three prior sentencing hearings during which Dick, each time, refused to take into consideration the man's "extraordinary cooperation" with the government.

According to The Advocate, Broderick D. Mathes of Baton Rouge had been sentenced to 13 years and four months, a ruling  twice imposed by Judge Dick after Mathes pleaded guilty. But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw the sentencing out last Wednesday (Jan. 6) and ordered Judge Dick to reassign the case to one of her colleagues.

The appellate court stated, "We do not question the good faith or integrity of the sentencing judge. Nonetheless, under these rare and unusual circumstances, we instruct the district court to reassign the case to another judge for resentencing."

Mathes' attorney, Franz Borghardt, expressed respect for the judge, and then added, "We feel the decision speaks for itself and we will prepare for resentencing."

The appellate court noted that Mathes, of Baton Rouge, assisted the federal government for four years by testifying against his brother, Wilbert Mathes, at his 2016 trial; arranging controlled drug purchases; interpreting phone calls; and providing information about homicides and other drug distribution activities in the area.

Apparently, Mathes acted on behalf of the federal government at the risk of his own life. 

The appeals court noted this, writing, "In response, his brother twice threatened to kill him and once claimed he `had put a hit out' on Mathes." 

The 5th Circuit implied that Judge Dick had three opportunities to acknowledge Mathes' "years-long reliable and substantial cooperation with the Government," but she ultimately missed the mark by failing to do so each time. 

"In each of the three sentencing hearings, the district court did not once mention Mathes's cooperation," the appellate court stated. "The district court abused its discretion because the sentence does not take into account Mathes's extraordinary cooperation."

When the 5th Circuit threw out Mathes' 17 1/2-year sentence in 2018, the appeals court cited his "extraordinary cooperation" with the government and the unreasonableness of the sentence, which was more than 10 years above the top end of the applicable guideline range of 70 to 87 months, The Advocate reports.

Dick later sentenced Mathes to 13 years and 4 months in prison. The judge expressed her reasons, explaining that she once again gave him a prison term above the guideline range because his brother is serving a 27-year sentence for essentially the same conduct in the same criminal conspiracy. Dick said she was trying to avoid unwarranted sentencing disparities.

In January of 2021, the 5th Circuit tossed Broderick Mathes' sentence of 13 years and 4 months, which was more than 6 years above the upper end of the guideline range, and returned the case to Judge Dick for another resentencing.

"The transcript of the re-sentencing hearing makes it clear that ... the disparity the court perceived as unwarranted was a major factor in its decision. But that disparity was warranted here — Mathes risked his life by cooperating with the government," the appeals court wrote a year ago.

After this, however Judge Dick doled out the exact same sentence of 13 years and 4 months.

This, despite the fact that at each of Broderick Mathes' sentencings, federal prosecutors noted his substantial cooperation and requested a reduction of his sentencing level.

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