Now this is a sentence that most of my clients would relish. Pittsburgh contractor William G. Tomko Jr. was convicted of using his $5 million mansion as part of a tax evasion scheme where he avoided $228,000 in taxes by having work on the mansion disguised as payments for work done at five area schools. U.S. District Judge Gary L. Lancaster sentenced Tomko to have to live in the mansion as his punishment under a sentence of three years’ probation with one year to be spent on house arrest. Tomko’s cell will be a 8,000-square-foot mansion on eight acres and with $1.8 million in furnishings and $81,000 in fine art. I hope that he can hold up under the pressure of living in this particular cellblock. A divided court of appeals panel has upheld the sentence.
Under Lancaster’s sentence, Tomko will have to pay a $250,000 fine, serve 250 hours of community service and undergo alcohol treatment. Tomko could have received 12 to 18 months in prison,
The Third Circuit divided 2-1 in 2007 over the questionable sentence and now the full court has upheld the sentence. Eight votes to uphold the sentence while five dissented In his dissent, Circuit Judge D. Michael Fischer wrote that “The perverse irony of this gilded cage confinement was not lost on the government, it is not lost on us, and it would not be lost on any reasonable public observer of these proceedings, including those would-be offenders who may be contemplating the risks associated with willful tax evasion.”
In support of the judges in the majority, such decisions are generally left to the discretion of the trial judge. It was Lancaster who erred in his judgment, but the judges clearly did not want to reduce the discretion of judges over this one bad call. Judge D. Brooks Smith wrote that “[a]lthough we agree with the government that the sort of ‘gilded cage’ confinement imposed here has a certain unseemliness to it, we do not believe that this condition of sentence, by itself, constitutes an abuse of discretion.”
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