Like I’ve said before, “street crimes” don’t often get prosecuted in federal court, even though they technically can. Which is why this announcement from last week is surprising: an Indianapolis man has been sentenced to 22 years in prison for robbing a Steak ‘n Shake and brandishing a firearm while doing so. (Source) According to WIBC, US Attorney Tim Morrison, the man was tried in federal court because the Hobbs Act allows it.
This, again, is technically true. Codified at 18 U.S.C. § 1951 et seq., the law states that it is a federal crime for a person to interfere with commerce by extortion or robbery. The potential punishment for doing so is imprisonment up to 20 years, a fine, or both. How, then, did he receive 22 years? It’s a good question. Most likely, there are a few other components to the case that haven’t been publicly disclosed, such as other charges, and it is entirely possible that the sentencing judge enhanced the sentence based on a variety of factors, including the individual’s criminal history record: “If reliable information indicates that the defendant’s criminal history category substantially under-represents the seriousness of the defendant’s criminal history or the likelihood that the defendant will commit other crimes, an upward departure may be warranted.” (Source) If the court does depart upward, however, it must do so on the record.
Interesting case, though, and it does raise an eyebrow or two.