X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s voice sounded heavy with disappointment. Just one month after a man fulfilled Walker’s unique sentence for mail theft by carrying a scarlet letter-type sign for eight hours outside a San Francisco post office, he committed yet another mail-related crime. And so, when it came to his latest sentencing Tuesday, Walker did not get creative. After defendant Shawn Gementera admitted violating his supervised release in four different ways � three involving drugs and another, mail-related theft � Walker sentenced him to a year in prison. “I do think, Mr. Gementera, what forbearance and patience the court may have had for you in the past has obviously not put you on the right track,” Walker said sadly. And “when you start stealing mail, you directly hurt other people,” the judge added. “And that cannot be tolerated. So I think the time has come when [you need to] go back to custody.” Federal advisory guidelines suggested 12 to 18 months in prison for Gementera, said prosecutor Blake Stamm, who suggested the former. “Clearly, the lessons the court wished the defendant to learn � that the theft of mail is not a victimless crime � clearly that lesson has not taken,” the assistant U.S. attorney argued. That was one point it seemed both lawyers � and the judge � could agree upon, and Walker seemed genuinely distressed by the outcome. “He just doesn’t seem to get it. So, what should I do?” he asked Gementera’s attorney, San Francisco criminal defense lawyer Arthur Wachtel. “The reason that he doesn’t get it is, nobody on drugs gets it,” Wachtel argued. Wachtel did his best to argue his client’s drug problem is at the root of his crimes and all but begged for a residential treatment program instead of prison. Back in 2003, Gementera’s original sentence for stealing mail included two months’ imprisonment, plus an order to stand outside a post office with a sign announcing, “I stole mail. This is my punishment.” That sparked headlines and prompted debate in academic circles about the appropriateness of so-called “shaming” punishments. Wachtel also argued up to the Ninth Circuit that the judge didn’t have the legal discretion to issue a sandwich board sentence. The appeals court, though, upheld Walker in a split decision, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case. Before Gementera had carried out his punishment, a subsequent mail-theft arrest lengthened his incarceration to two years. So it wasn’t until this past February that Gementera logged his time outside a San Francisco post office, carrying the sign. On Tuesday, though, Wachtel wasn’t focused on the pros and cons of the scarlet letter sentence anymore. “I don’t think what occurred today really had anything to do with [that] legal issue,” he said. The circumstances Tuesday were unfortunate, he added, “and we can understand why the judge did what he did.” Gementera had a piece of mail in his possession � specifically, an approved credit card � about a month after the sandwich board punishment, he admitted Tuesday. While it did have his address on it, the name on the mail and the card inside were not his, according to Walker’s statements in court Tuesday. Gementera’s possession of that mail amounted to one violation of his supervised release, he admitted Tuesday. He also admitted to missing scheduled drug tests, testing positive for methamphetamine and possessing drug paraphernalia, including a glass bong. The judge had no edge in his voice as he sentenced Gementera to prison, just, it seemed, disappointment. “You’re going to have to sit and think how you’re going to have to straighten out your life,” he told Gementera. “It’s all going to be up to you.”

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.