If you want to understand the power of mitigation factors at a federal sentencing hearing, look no further than the sentencing of Rajat Gupta before Judge Rakoff in the SDNY.
Mr. Gupta, a former Goldman Sachs board member, was convicted of 3 counts of securities fraud and 1 count of conspiracy for passing inside information (regarding Warren Buffet's involvement with Goldman). Prior to sentencing, federal prosecutors submitted memoranda that requested that the court sentence Mr. Gupta to a sentence within the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. In Mr. Gupta's case that was roughly 8-10 years.
But, Mr. Gupta's federal defense attorneys provided the court with a long history of Mr. Gupta's charity and philanthropy and otherwise very productive life. In fact, Microsoft founder Bill Gates drafted a letter in support of Mr. Gupta for his work in helping the world's most neediest people.
Ultimately, Judge Rakoff sentenced Mr. Gupta 2 years, which was a sharp deviation from advisory 8-10 year guideline sentence. The sentence underscored the power of one's mitigation and how it can counter the potential punishment from illegal behavior. The sentence also is a shining example of how much of a role an advisory sentencing guidelines can play in someone's life. For Mr. Gupta, it was the difference of 6 years.