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United States of America v. Scott L. Rendelman

June 28, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert District Judge


This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Scott Rendelman's ("Rendelman") Motion for Evaluation (Doc. 95) and Motion to Appoint (Doc. 97), to which the Government filed a Response (Doc. 101). This matter also comes before the Court on Rendelman's Motion for Subpoena (Doc. 99). The Court will address each of Rendelman's motions in kind.

I. Motion for Evaluation

First, Rendelman asks to be psychologically evaluated by Dr. Kevin Miller ("Dr. Miller") for purposes of sentencing. Rendelman believes that Dr. Miller will issue favorable opinions on his dangerousness and diminished capacity, thereby warranting a downward departure and/or downward variance from his sentencing range under the United States Sentencing Guidelines ("U.S.S.G.").

A. Dangerousness

Rendelman's motion makes clear that he has been evaluated for dangerousness no less than five times over the last twenty years. His most recent evaluation occurred in 2007. All of the evaluators - all of whom were medical or mental health professionals - opined that Rendelman presented little to no dangerousness. And, in this case, Dr. Miller previously opined that Rendelman does not and has never been a risk of physical harm to others. The Court agrees with the Government that another evaluation would not only prove unnecessary but cumulative. Further, as discussed infra, the defense may question Dr. Miller as to Rendelman's dangerousness at sentencing. Accordingly, the Court finds an evaluation for purposes of determining dangerousness to be wholly unwarranted.

B. Diminished Capacity

In hopes of requesting a downward departure via U.S.S.G. § 5K2.13, Rendelman also moves to be evaluated by Dr. Miller for diminished capacity. Section 5K2.13 states, in pertinent part, as follows: "A downward departure may be warranted if (1) the defendant committed the offense while suffering from a significantly reduced mental capacity; and (2) the significantly reduced mental capacity contributed substantially to the commission of the offense." The corresponding commentary note further explains that "significantly reduced mental capacity" applies to a defendant who "has a significantly impaired ability to (A) understand the wrongfulness of the behavior comprising the offense or to exercise the power of reason; or (B) control behavior that the defendant knows is wrongful." U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 5K2.13 cmt. n.1 (2009). It has been held that a defendant must establish an inability "to process information or to reason" if he is to meet this definition. United States v. Goossens, 84 F.3d 697, 701 (4th Cir. 1996); see United States v. Johnson, 979 F.2d 396, 401 (6th Cir. 1992). When considering a defendant's request for a downward departure at sentencing, a district court should consider "not whether [the defendant] suffers from a defined disorder, but whether he was impaired in his ability to control his actions." United States v. Lange, 445 F.3d 983, 986 (7th Cir. 2006) (affirming district court's denial of downward departure request in light of syndrome akin to Asperger's Syndrome).

Diminished capacity only applies to crimes where specific intent is an element of the offense. United States v. Ricketts, 146 F.3d 492, 498 ("Diminished capacity, applying as it does only to specific intent crimes, is an extremely limited defense. Intent to commit a crime is almost always a question of fact for the jury to decide based on the life experiences and common sense of its members.") (guilt phase). See United States v. Rinaldi, 461 F.3d 922, 927-28 (7th Cir. 2006) (sentencing phase). As such, in the case at bar, Rendelman would only be eligible for a downward departure on the charges of the Superseding Indictment (Doc. 45) that required a finding of specific intent, namely Count I (criminal contempt of court), see United States v. Patrick, 542 F.2d 381, 389 (7th Cir. 1976), and Counts II-IV (retaliating against a federal official), see United States v. Watkins, 151 F.3d 1034, at *3 (7th Cir. 1998). As will be seen, however, there are at least three reasons why another evaluation by Dr. Miller is unnecessary.

1. Rendelman's Testimony at Trial

During his cross-examination at trial, when asked whether he knew what he was doing when penning the underlying letters, Rendelman indicated that he knew what he was doing and was doing so knowingly. While he could choose not to write the letters, Rendelman testified that a powerful sense of obligation created by his conscience compels him to continue doing so. In fact, Rendelman made clear that his conscience compels him to write progressively horrible things. At trial, Rendelman promised that his letter writing campaign would continue, and the content of his letters would only get worse. Rendelman stated on the record that he could sometimes stop writing to particular persons, although he could not stop altogether. Curiously, upon his release from prison in 2001 and during his subsequent term of supervised release, Rendelman stopped authoring threatening letters entirely.

Here, in light of Rendelman's relevant testimony at trial and his general defense throughout this prosecution, it is obvious that another evaluation by Dr. Miller is unnecessary. While an immense compulsion or duty of conscience may drive Rendelman to write threatening letters, the Court does not believe that he is impaired in his ability to control writing them. Rendelman has quit writing to specific individuals in the past, and he quit writing letters entirely upon his release from prison in 2001 and throughout his term of supervised release. Any argument as to "pure" compulsion is undermined by this curious selectivity.

Rendelman's "burglar" analogy, which he discussed at trial in an effort to explain how he feels when he writes the letters, does not appear to help him either. One may feel as though they "must" or "have to" protect their family from a burglar with homicidal intentions, but that pang of conscience does not typically remove control over the situation from the individual. Not only that, but Rendelman acknowledged control over his actions to the extent that he is able to withhold writing the most heinous and depraved things possible until he deems them fit for mailing. In other words, the broad, contemplative intent that underscore's Rendelman's letter-writing campaign is a far cry from the mental state of a father who discovers a maniac standing over his sleeping daughter.

Finally, even though Rendelman has exhibited a great deal of stubbornness throughout his letter-writing campaign, he has not displayed an inability to process information when he puts pen to paper. Rather, Rendelman testified under oath that ...

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