Government contests Fingerhut’s bid for early release |

Government contests Fingerhut’s bid for early release

ASPEN – The U.S. government has filed court papers contesting Bert Fingerhut’s petition to have his three-year supervised release cut short, and has asked a judge to reconsider the request in one year.

In a three-page document dated Saturday, July 10, U.S. attorneys said that if Judge James Ware terminates Fingerhut’s supervised release, it “might result in a sentencing disparity as compared to similarly situated defendants in other cases.”

The government’s position comes after Fingerhut, 66, wrote a four-page letter asking Judge Ware to shorten the sentence so that Fingerhut can obtain an EMT certification to work for such organizations as Mountain Rescue Aspen.

Fingerhut has served 14 of the 36 months of supervised-release term, which is an alternative to parole or probation. It includes Fingerhut regularly reporting to two U.S. court officers who monitor his behavior. He also faces random drug tests and must get permission to leave his home in Palo Alto, Calif.

An 18-year volunteer for Mountain Rescue and an Aspen homeowner, Fingerhut recently joined the board of Ecoflight, an Aspen environmental nonprofit.

In May 2007 he pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges stemming from a decade-long securities plot. Prosecutors said that by illegally buying stock in mutual banks that were poised to go public, Fingerhut cheated investors out of $12 million. As part of a civil lawsuit settlement with the government, he agreed to forfeit $11 million in illegal profits.

His two-year sentence began in November 2007, but he was let out early – May 8, 2009 – because of good behavior.

Meanwhile, U.S. attorneys asked Judge Ware to not consider terminating Fingerhut’s early release for another 12 months.

“According to government investigators, Mr. Fingerhut’s securities fraud affected thousands of investors. As part of his guilty plea, he paid a total of $11 million in forfeiture representing his own illegal profits from his fraud scheme,” federal attorneys wrote. “Based on the representations made in Mr. Fingerhut’s motion, the government has no concerns with the defendant’s compliance with his sentence and supervision. The government, however, is particularly mindful of the statutory mandates to deter criminal conduct, and to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities.”

On Tuesday, Fingerhut responded to the government’s position, writing that the sooner his supervised release ends, the more he can contribute to society.

“I also note that my desire to become an emergency medical technician is stronger than ever and I cannot proceed down that road until my supervised release has ended,” he wrote.

The government, however, notes in its opposition that Fingerhut “has not been prevented from contributing to society in other ways despite being on supervision. He is a leader in environmental organizations and recently led a nine-day backpacking trip to the Grand Canyon for the Sierra Club.”

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