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United States v. Molnar

United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
590 F.3d 912 (2010)


Facts

The federal government (plaintiff) successfully prosecuted Miklos Molnar (defendant) for embezzlement. Based on the sentencing factors listed in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), Molnar's conviction was likely to result in no more than a 16-month prison sentence. The trial evidence established that Molnar was an officer in the Van Buren, Arkansas, police drug-enforcement unit. Molnar had access to the evidence room where seized drug funds were held. Molnar took almost $51,000 of that money and converted it to his own use. Molnar's attempts to restore the payments soon sputtered out. When the local prosecutor ordered the refund of $19,000 to a party from whom the prosecutor determined the money was seized unlawfully, Molnar could not find enough money in the evidence room to make up that amount. As a result, Molnar was forced to confess his crime. At the sentencing hearing, the judge asked the police chief if any of the $51,000 could have been used for undercover drug buys. The chief answered that the police could not have used the money for drug buys, because drug buys were controlled by the prosecutor's office. Pressed by the judge, the chief conceded that the funds might have been used to finance future drug buys. Molnar also conceded that the prosecutor could order the police to turn over seized drug funds for drug buys. The judge sentenced Molnar to 60 months' imprisonment, a 257-percent increase over § 3553(a)'s guidelines, plus two years' supervised release, on the grounds that Molnar's crime promoted disrespect for the law and, by reducing the funds available for drug buys, significantly impaired the police department's ability to conduct its drug-prevention work. Molnar challenged the enhanced sentence for the first time on appeal, so the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals could review the sentence only for plain error.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Beam, J.)

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