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United States v. Farmer

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

June 23, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
WALBERT KEITH FARMER, Defendant-Appellant

 Argued May 28, 2014

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, New Albany Division. No. 4:12-cr-00026-TWP-MGN-1 -- Tanya Walton Pratt, Judge.

For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee: Sharon M. Jackson, Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Indianapolis, IN.

For WALBERT K. FARMER, Defendant - Appellant: Peter W. Henderson, Attorney, John C. Taylor, Attorney, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Urbana, IL.

Before FLAUM, MANION, and TINDER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 850

Tinder, Circuit Judge

Defendant-Appellant Walbert Keith Farmer appeals the district court's imposition of two special conditions for his three-year term of supervised release: one prohibiting him from self-employment, and the other requiring him to submit to the search of his person, vehicle, office, residence, and property at the request of his probation officer, even without a warrant or reasonable suspicion. Because we conclude that the special conditions do not bear a reasonably direct relationship to Farmer's underlying crimes, we vacate the special conditions in question and remand for further consideration.

I

In 2012, Farmer received information from a golfing and gambling companion that a man named Walter Allen, an employee at the Horseshoe Casino in Elizabeth, Indiana, had used a company credit card without authorization. Armed with this information, Farmer, utilizing the alias

Page 851

" Jim Taylor," contacted Allen via cellular phone from North Carolina and threatened to reveal the information to the Casino's management unless Allen paid him off. Farmer even reeled in an associate, a female acquaintance who he met in West Virginia and traveled with to Indiana so that she could collect the extortion money from Allen. The scheme unraveled after Allen contacted law enforcement, which apprehended Farmer's female associate and foiled the scheme. Farmer was arrested and indicted. Under a plea agreement, Farmer ultimately petitioned to plead guilty to two counts, violations of 18 U.S.C. § § 1952(a)(3) and 875(d), for attempting to extort Allen and using interstate communications in the execution of his plot.

The district court scheduled a single hearing for the acceptance of the plea and sentencing. A presentence investigation report (" PSR" ) was prepared prior to the hearing, and detailed Farmer's background and criminal history. The report stated in general terms that Farmer had been self-employed since 2002 and had sold sports schedules and related marketing products. How financially successful Farmer was at this endeavor was unclear: he reported earning approximately $500-$700 a month, but had reported only $1,203 of income to the government for the period between 2002 and 2012. Farmer's criminal history was more clear: he had five prior felony convictions, including a 2003 conviction for using interstate communications to transmit extortionate threats, three convictions for obtaining property by false pretenses (apparently filed by disgruntled customers of his sports-schedule business), and one conviction for larceny relating to the fraudulent purchase of a golf cart. Neither the PSR nor any document disclosed to the parties included information about the conditions of supervised release that the Probation Service intended to recommend to the district court.

Farmer was sentenced to incarceration for 22 months, to be followed by three years of supervised release. As part of the sentencing, the district court announced the conditions of supervised release, recommended by the probation ...


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