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Change in Statute Definition Does Not Eliminate Existing Sentence

June 10, 2014 | Posted In Appeals, Criminal Law, Recent News

A New Jersey county official’s prison sentence will not be partially vacated, according to a ruling from the federal appeals court, even though the statute used in his conviction would not support a similar conviction today. Law firms in New Jersey say that this ruling supports the continuity of criminal convictions, even as laws change from year to year both in the state and across the country. 

In 2005, Harry G Parkin was sentenced to 7 ½ years in prison for his “honest services” fraud. The jury found Parkin guilty of using his position as chief of staff to the former Mercer County Executive Robert Prunetti to influence the Mercer County Improvement Authority to enter into a $14.5 million contract with Central Jersey Waste and Recycling—a company with whom he had a concealed interest. A judge convicted Parkin under 18 U.S.C. 1346 of attempted extortion and mail fraud, as a “scheme or artifice to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services.”

In the 2010 case Skilling v. U.S., the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that statute 1346 is only applicable in “fraudulent schemes to deprive another of honest services through bribes or kickbacks supplied by a third party who has not been deceived,” with emphasis on the bribes and kickbacks received by the party with influence. In Parkin’s case, the court did not have evidence of bribes or kickbacks that he received from the Waste and Recycling Company. Based on this ruling, Parkin appealed his sentence with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. 

While the Appeals Court agreed that statute 1346 should be used only in bribery and kickback schemes, they refused to vacate Parkin’s prison sentence. Chief Judge Theodore McKee and judges D. Michael Fisher and Dolores Sloviter used the concurrent-sentence doctrine to make their decision. This doctrine gives judges the discretion to “avoid resolution of legal issues affecting less than all counts of an indictment if at least one will survive and sentences on all counts are concurrent.” With this doctrine, Parkin’s conviction for crimes of attempted extortion is enough to keep him in prison, and this crime is not associated with the Skilling case. 

As of now, Parkin has served nearly all of his sentence, and is on supervised leave. However, his conviction cost him his position, a majority of his assets, his reputation, and his marriage. He was also penalized with fines and court fees over $27,000. Lawyers in New Jersey say that the conviction under a changing statute was costly, especially after the Appellate Court’s decision.  

At New Jersey law firm Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, our attorneys keep up-to-date with changes in statutes, laws, and legal definitions that may be relevant to our clients who have been charged and sentenced for specific crimes. HCK attorneys have experience in appellate courts and criminal defense, and will provide legal advice and representation to anyone who feels a change in statute can affect their current sentence. Contact an HCK attorney for a consultation today.


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