The U.S. Sentencing Commission
Annual Report 1998
Year in Review
- In January 1998, the Sentencing Commission published for comment a number
of proposed amendments, including broad changes in the theft, fraud, and other
economic crimes guidelines; issues on telemarketing fraud and other
congressional initiatives; and proposals to address a number of circuit
conflicts. Subsequently, the Commission held (1) a public hearing in
Washington, DC, that focused on the telemarketing fraud issue, (2) a hearing in
San Francisco to receive comment on the proposed amendments to the theft,
fraud, and tax guidelines, and (3) its annual, March public hearing covering
all the proposed guideline amendments.
- In the fall of 1997, the Commission initiated a project to assess its
organizational goals, structures, and processes in order to best serve the
judiciary, other court professionals, and the public generally. In 1998,
Commission staff teams designed plans to implement concrete improvements in the
following areas: (1) policy development; (2) data, statistics, and research;
(3) human resource development and financial management; and (4) the
orientation of new commissioners. In late 1998, the Commission began a gradual
implementation of these improvements.
- Subsequently, on May 1, 1998, the Sentencing Commission sent to Congress
11 amendments to the federal sentencing guidelines. Most notably, the
Commission adopted an amendment that provides (1) a sentence increase for fraud
that involves mass marketing and (2) an additional sentence increase for fraud
that is committed substantially outside the U.S., involves relocating to
another jurisdiction to evade law enforcement, or otherwise involves
sophisticated concealment. These 11 amendments took effect November 1, 1998.
- In May 1998, the Commission again co-sponsored the National Sentencing
Guidelines Seminar, held in Clearwater Beach, Florida. This program was
attended by approximately 150 federal probation officers and 100 defense
attorneys from across the country.
- During the summer of 1998, the Commission and the Criminal Law Committee
of the Judicial Conference field-tested a proposed revision of the definition
of loss as used in theft and fraud cases. In September, many of the
judges and probation officers who had participated in the test exercise
traveled to Washington, DC, for a day-long debriefing session. In October,
Commission staff issued a report summarizing the principal recommendations from
the debriefing session.
- The Sentencing Commission is working with the Federal Judicial Center in
the development of programming for the Federal Judicial Television Network
(FJTN). In the summer of 1998, former Commission chair, Judge Richard P.
Conaboy, was the featured guest in the networks first edition of
Perspectives, a news magazine show for probation and pretrial services
- In August, the Commission named Timothy B. McGrath as its interim staff
director, succeeding Dr. John H. Kramer, who returned in the fall to the
Pennsylvania State University where he is a tenured professor of sociology and
criminal justice. Mr. McGrath first joined the Commission upon the appointment
of Judge Conaboy as chair, and has supervised the daily operations of the
Chairs Office since 1995.
- In response to the Telemarketing Fraud Prevention Act of 1998, the
Commission in September adopted additional amendments to the sentencing
guidelines. These emergency amendments further increase penalties
for sophisticated fraudulent schemes, including telemarketing schemes, that
impact large numbers of vulnerable victims. These amendments also took effect
November 1, 1998.
- In September, the Commission convened a staff Policy Development Team to
further advise the Commission on issues raised by the No Electronic Theft Act
of 1997 (the NET Act). In the NET Act, Congress directed the
Commission to ensure that the guideline penalties for a defendant convicted of
a crime against intellectual property are sufficiently stringent to deter such
a crime and that the guidelines provide for consideration of the value and
quantity of infringed upon items.
- The U.S. Sentencing Commission announced in late August the resignation of
its chair, Judge Richard P. Conaboy, effective October 31, 1998. The
chairs decision allows for the appointment of a new, full slate of
commissioners to the seven-member panel. The holdover status of Commissioners
Michael S. Gelacak, Michael Goldsmith, and Judge Deanell R. Tacha expired with
the adjournment of the 105th Congress on October 21, 1998. The other three
commissioner positions have been vacant for more than two years.
- In advancing the Commissions research and information dissemination
agenda, Commission staff in the fall presented a number of papers at the Annual
Meeting of the American Society of Criminology. Topics included computer
offense conduct, immigration offenses, methamphetamine offenses, and sentencing
guidelines for juveniles.
- In 1998, the Commission received documentation on approximately 51,000
cases sentenced under the guidelines. The Commission coded and assimilated the
information from these sentencings into its comprehensive, computerized data
- The HelpLine provided guideline application assistance to
approximately 200 calls a month.
- The Commissions training staff continued to provide guideline
application and sentencing- related training to judges, probation officers,
prosecutors, defense attorneys, and others. During 1998, Commission staff
trained more than 2,500 individuals at 47 training sessions, including ongoing
programs sponsored by the Federal Judicial Center and the Department of
- During 1998, Commission staff also received and responded to numerous
information requests from Congress, attorneys, government agencies,
researchers, inmates and their families, and the public.