Several readers have asked how it is possible that former Gov. Don Siegelman (D-AL) might go to prison for 32 charges when he was acquitted
on 25 of them.
I asked Nora V. Demleiter, who wrote the case book Sentencing Law and Policy
and is the managing editor of the Federal Sentencing Reporter
, about the legality of the judge's decision to consider all 32 charges. She said that in fact federal judges can consider those charges during sentencing thanks to the Supreme Court's 1997 decision in United States v. Watts
. In that case, the Supreme Court held that as long as the government shows that the acquitted charges pass a "preponderance of evidence" standard, they can still be entered as evidence in a sentencing hearing. (This is clearly a lower hurdle to clear than the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard necessary for a criminal conviction.)
So even though Siegelman was acquitted on 25 charges, that alleged conduct can still be reviewed for sentencing.