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Home / Case Digests / 01-1597 U.S. v. Peterson

01-1597 U.S. v. Peterson

“Nothing in sec.3663A(a)(3) prescribes how a defendant may exercise the option to make restitution to persons other than the victims of the crimes of conviction. Peterson believes that this open-endedness, combined with the Rule of Lenity, equals a requirement that the victims and amounts be written into the plea agreement. This seems backward. Why would the lack of detail in the statute lead to the conclusion that only one means of giving assent is lawful? It makes more sense to infer from the lack of detail in the statute that any means acceptable to the defendant is proper. It is the defendant’s choice, after all. A defendant may volunteer details, or agree with the prosecutor on a formula, or delegate the power to the judge.

“Defendants are free to waive both statutory and constitutional rights in the course of criminal prosecutions. … Even if sec.3663A(a)(3) favored full details in the plea agreement (which it does not), a defendant could waive that entitlement and choose a different method. Peterson did just this: he agreed to make restitution to all victims of his entire course of conduct, and agreed further that the district judge could make decisions that proved necessary to implement this choice. The district court did no more than Peterson had agreed it could. He has no basis for complaint.”


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, Crabb, J., Easterbrook, J.

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