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An uppercase example of outer-limits federal criminal sentencing

Even federal prosecutors and other principals who have long worked in the criminal justice system and have candidly seen a thing or two expressed sentiments bordering on shock in the wake of sentencing recently imposed by one court.

We duly note on a relevant page of our website at the Knoxville criminal defense firm of Hindman & Lanzon that federal charges "tend to be extremely serious and come with the potential of severe consequences."

Yet even with a disclaimer, it is hard to fathom the outcome of a Medicare health fraud case that recently concluded in a Texas federal court.

The verdict: a 75-year-term for the defendant.

If that seems outsized to readers, rest assured it is. In fact, it is the lengthiest sentence ever handed down in the United States following a fraud-related health care trial.

What perplexes many case commentators -- remarks range from "makes no sense at all" to "never had a sentence approaching anywhere near this" -- is that government prosecutors had pushed for a 35-year prison term in the case, which was widely considered to already be a notably harsh recommendation.

And the judge more than doubled that, notwithstanding that the 50-year term marking the longest-ever fraud case outcome prior to last month's sentencing applied to a fraud that was reportedly about 16 times larger.

And then there was the defendant herself, namely, a mother of adolescent twins and riddled by a virulent form of breast cancer that is reportedly spreading throughout her body.

Critics point out, too, that federal sentencing guidelines have been advisory -- not mandatory dictates -- for many years, with judges having discretion to allow for singular case circumstances.

Arguably, the above-cited case could hardly be more singular. The unprecedented outcome will certainly be noted in the national press for some time to come.

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