A federal appellate court ruled Friday that the five-year, probationary sentence given to HealthSouth executive Malcolm E. McVay was too extreme a reduction from prosecutors’ recommended sentence of 65 months of prison time.

The three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta said that U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon in Birmingham, Ala., gave the reduced sentence “virtually without explanation, and on a wholly improper basis.” Federal judges are bound to consult the federal criminal sentencing guidelines, though they are not obliged to follow them since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year.

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