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United States v. Stile

United States District Court, D. Maine

November 20, 2017




         The Court rejects a defendant's objections to the restitution order set forth in its criminal judgment. In view of the fact that the victim has been partially reimbursed for the loss caused by the defendant's criminal act, the Court will order restitution payments to the victim first and the insurer next.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Early in the evening of September 12, 2011, James Stile entered the E.W. Moore & Son Pharmacy in Bingham, Maine. United States v. Stile, 845 F.3d 425, 427 (1st Cir. 2017). He wore a baseball cap, sunglasses, a dust mask, and purple rubber gloves. Id. As he entered the store, he pulled a sawed-off shotgun from his pants. Id. He walked to the pharmacy counter at the back of the store and ordered three employees to lie on their stomachs. Id. When a customer walked in, Mr. Stile forced him behind the pharmacy counter with the employees. Id. Mr. Stile handed the owner of the pharmacy a black duffel bag and ordered him to fill it with drugs. Id. Mr. Stile tied the hands and feet of the owner, the customer, and the employees with zip ties. Id. He then departed the store, taking $12, 889.93 worth of drugs[1] and $417 in cash. Id.

         On October 20, 2011, a federal grand jury indicted Mr. Stile for committing this pharmacy robbery. Indictment (ECF No. 8). On October 30, 2014, Mr. Stile pleaded guilty to this charge. Min. Entry (ECF No. 541). The Court sentenced Mr. Stile on May 29, 2015. J. (ECF No. 579). The Court ordered Mr. Stile incarcerated for 120 months; it placed him on supervised release for five years following his prison sentence; and, critical to this motion, it found that Mr. Stile owed $13, 306.93 to E.W. Moore & Son, the pharmacy, and it ordered Mr. Stile to pay restitution in full “due immediately . . . .” Id. It also ordered him to pay a $100 special assessment. Id.

         During the sentencing hearing, the Court made its guideline calculations and found that restitution was mandatory in the amount of $13, 306.93. Sentencing Tr. 185:24. Mr. Stile did not object to this finding. Id. 186:5-7. In pronouncing the sentencing judgment, the Court stated:

The Court imposes a criminal monetary penalty on Count 1 in the amount of $100. The Court finds the defendant does not have the ability to pay a fine, and the court will waive the fine in this case. Restitution is mandatory in the amount of $13, 306.93. The defendant shall make restitution to the E.W. Moore & Son Pharmacy at 337 Main Street, Bingham, Maine 04920, in the amount of $13, 306.93. The Court finds the defendant does not have the ability to pay interest on the restitution, and it is ordered that the interest requirement is waived.
Payment shall be applied in the following order: One, to the assessment; and two, to the restitution. Payment of the total fine and other criminal monetary penalties shall be due in full immediately. Any amount the defendant is unable to pay now is due and payable during the term of incarceration. Upon release from incarceration, any remaining balance shall be paid in monthly installments to be initially determined in amount by the supervising officer. Said payments are to be made during the period of supervised release, subject always to review by the sentencing judge on request by either the defendant or the government.

Id. 211:10-212:4. These orders are reflected in the judgment the Court issued following the imposition of sentence. J. at 5-6.


         A. James Stile's Motion

         On July 28, 2017, Mr. Stile filed a motion for this Court to set his restitution amount. Mot. for Sentencing Ct. to Set Restitution Payment Amount (ECF No. 651) (Def.'s Mot.). Mr. Stile contends that he is being “punished by the Federal Bureau of Prisons for his failure to meet a payment schedule amount that is unreasonable and impossible for the Defendant to meet.” Id. at 1. He states that on July 13, 2015, he was “compelled to sign a ‘Inmate Financial Plan”, which was “a coercive instrument that[']s designed to threaten the inmate into a payment plan regardless if he or she can comply or not.” Id. at 2. Mr. Stile writes that on June 21, 2017, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) “presented to the Defendant a notice that due to an inability to pay the minimum payment established by the [BOP] and not the Court ($25.00 14 'ly) the Defendant was being placed on FRP Refuse status.” Id. He complains that BOP has sanctioned him in various ways for his refusal to participate in the payment program. Id. at 3.

         Mr. Stile claims that the Court “should have investigated the Defendant[']s financial circumstances at time of or prior to sentencing and should have set a payment schedule that the Court determined the Defendant could comply with and not delegated to [BOP] to do such as was done.” Id. at 4.

         Citing Ward v. Chavez, 678 F.3d 1042 (9th Cir. 2012) and United States v. Leftwich, 628 F.3d 665 (4th Cir. 2010), Mr. Stile argues that the BOP “lacked authority to collect restitution payments from inmate”, the restitution order was not valid “because order was issued without regard to inmate's financial circumstances”, and the Court failed “to specify it was imposing restitution under [the Victim and Witness Protection Act] Title 18 U.S.C. § 3663 or the [Mandatory Victims Restitution Act] 18 U.S.C. § 3663A.” Id. at 5.

         Citing United States v. Gunning, 339 F.3d 948, 949 (9th Cir. 2003), United States v. Gunning II, 401 F.3d 1145, 1149 (9th Cir. 2005), United States v. Merric, 166 F.3d 406 (1st Cir. 1999), and United States v. Corley, 500 F.3d 210 (3rd Cir. 2007), Mr. Stile asserts that “where a defendant has insufficient financial resources to make immediate payment, a District Court - - not BOP, not U.S. Probation Office - - must set a repayment schedule in the judgment of the conviction in order to discharge its responsibilities under MVRA of 1996.” Id. Mr. Stile says that the Court “failed in all respects in its Judgment that, ‘any amount Defendant is unable to pay now is due and payable during the term of incarceration.'” Id. at 5-6.

         Citing United States v. Mitchell, 893 F.2d 935 (8th Cir. 1989) and United States v. Bailey, 975 F.2d 1028 (4th Cir. 1992), Mr. Stile asserts that these courts hold that a district court abuses “its discretion in ordering restitution without an informed determination of Defendant's ability to pay.” Id. at 6. Mr. Stile insists that he has no financial ability to pay while he is incarcerated. Id. He relates that while incarcerated, everything he owned was stolen and that the town of Sangerville foreclosed on his real estate for only $989 in back taxes. Id. at 6-7. In short, he was “robbed of all that he owned.” Id. at 7. He complains that because of the Court's “failure to set a payment schedule after a fair assessment of the Defendant[']s assets, which none exists, [he] now is going to be subject to the sanction of leaving prison without a dollar in his pocket . . . .” Id.

         Mr. Stile next objects to the Court's failure to give any consideration “to the possibility that the fruits of the crime were insured and a third party insurance company reimbursed the victim minus a deduct[i]ble like in the range of $200.00 to $500.00 . . . .” Id. at 7. Mr. Stile implies that he would not be required to pay restitution to the insurance company because it is not a direct loss to the victim. Id.

         Finally, Mr. Stile informs the Court about “its Article III responsibilities, which also entail setting a payment schedule of restitution realistically based upon what the Defendant can afford.” Id.

         Mr. Stile asks the Court to order the Government to determine whether there were any third-party insurance payments to the victim and, if so, to adjust the restitution accordingly. Id. He requests the Court to set his payment amount and to suspend his current obligation to pay while incarcerated. Id.

         B. The Government's Response

         The Government objects to Mr. Stile's motion. First, it points out that in the initial and amended plea agreements in this case, Mr. Stile expressly agreed that “[i]n addition to the other penalties provided by law, the Court must also order Defendant to pay restitution to the victim or victims of the offense pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3663 or § 3663A.” Opp'n by U.S. of Am. in Resp. to Def.'s Mot. Concerning Payment of Restitution at 1-2 (ECF No. 663) (citing ECF No. 540 at 2, and ECF No. 543 at 2) (Gov't's Opp'n). Furthermore, the Government observes that Mr. Stile withdrew his objection to the restitution amount of $13, 306.93 before his sentencing hearing. Id. at 2. In addition, the Government states that even though Mr. Stile's sentencing hearing was lengthy, neither he nor his counsel objected to the restitution amount at the time of his sentencing hearing. Id. at 2-3. The Government also says that contrary to Mr. Stile's assertions, the Court did consider his financial circumstances at the time of his sentencing. Id. at 9.

         The Government recites Mr. Stile's payment history while in prison, noting that he initially voluntarily participated in the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program (IFRP) of the BOP, agreeing to make $25 payments each quarter toward his $100 special assessment and his $13, 306.93 restitution obligation. Id. at 5. The Government reports that Mr. Stile actually made four $25 payments, after missing one payment, and thereby paid off his $100 special assessment. Id. Mr. Stile made only one more $25 payment, which went toward restitution, leaving $13, 281.93 outstanding on his restitution obligation. Id. He then was placed in “Refuse Status.” Id. at 6.

         The Government also states that even though Mr. Stile had only $2.46 in his prisoner account when he filed his motion, on July 31, 2017, $200 was deposited into his account, and by August 14, 2017, he had withdrawn $120 from his account for telephone and other costs, leaving a balance of $82.71, which should have been available for restitution. Id.

         The Government disputes Mr. Stile's reading of the applicable law. Observing that the Court ordered Mr. Stile to pay the full amount of the restitution immediately, the Government cites Bramson v. Winn, 136 Fed.Appx. 380, 381 (1st Cir. 2005) among other cases for the proposition that when the trial court orders the payment due immediately, there is no improper delegation when the BOP uses the IFRP to collect court-ordered payments. Id. at 7. Also, the Government contends that if Mr. Stile wishes to challenge the conditions of his incarceration brought about by the restrictions imposed due to his failure to comply with the IFRP, he must bring a habeas corpus petition in the district where he is housed, not in Maine. Id. at 8. The Government also argues that if the Court could reassess Mr. Stile's financial circumstances under 18 U.S.C. § 3664(k), he would have the burden of demonstrating a material change in his financial circumstances, and it contends that he has failed to do so. Id. at 9-11.

         Finally, the Government informed the Court that E.W. Moore has in fact been reimbursed for $12, 306.91 under its insurance policy with Hanover Insurance Company. Id. at 11-13. Accordingly, the Government requests that the restitution order be amended to reflect the fact that E.W. Moore sustained a direct loss of $1, 000.02 and that Hanover Insurance Company as E.W. Moore's insurer paid $12, 306.91, placing E.W. Moore first in terms of priority and Hanover second. Id.

         C. James ...

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