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United States v. Little Star

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Central Division

August 1, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSEPH ANTHONY LITTLE STAR, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER DENYING GOVERNMENT'S REQUEST FOR RESTITUTION

ROBERTO A. LANGE, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This Court held a sentencing hearing on March 3, 2014, at which it left open the Government's request for restitution and asked the parties for supplemental briefing. This Court now denies the Government's request for restitution.

II. BACKGROUND

Defendant Joseph Anthony Little Star (Little Star) pleaded guilt.), to Assault Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 113(a)(6) for assaulting a minor with the initials G.B.Y.C. on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation. Doc. 30 at 2; Doc. 32. Because of his injuries from the assault, G.B.Y.C. was transferred by air ambulance from a local emergency room to Rapid City Regional Hospital in Rapid City, South Dakota. Doc. 32 at 2; Pre-Sentence Investigation Report (PSR) at Irff 14-15. From Rapid City, G.B.Y.C. was transferred to a facility in Billings, Montana, and finally to a long term rehabilitation facility in Omaha, Nebraska. Doc. 50 at 1-2; PSR at ¶¶ 14, 15.

Restitution was mandatory under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act (MVRA), 18 U.S.C. § 3663A. The Government did not request restitution for G.B.Y.C.'s medical bills, which are covered through Medicaid, and did not request restitution for G.B.Y.C. otherwise. The Government instead requested restitution for G.B.Y.C.'s mother, Michelle Wolf (Wolf). Doc. 50 at 1. The Government seeks reimbursement for Wolf for different types of expenses: (1) the income lost by Wolf when she traveled to visit her son in the various health care facilities; and (2) the cost of Wolf's mileage, food, and lodging for those trips. Doc. 50 at 1-2.

After the sentencing hearing, the parties submitted additional briefing. Does. 50, 51. After the parties' briefing concluded, the National Crime Victim Law Institute (NCVLRI) filed a brief amicus curiae, Doc. 52, requesting that this Court sua sponte raise the issue of restitution for G.B.Y.C.'s lost past income and lost future income.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Restitution Under the MVRA

Federal courts have no inherent authority to order restitution. United States v. Balentine , 569 F.3d 801, 802 (8th Cir. 2009). This Court therefore "may order restitution only when explicitly empowered to do so by statute." United States v. Doering, No. 13-2564, 2014 WL 3456802, (8th Cir. July 16, 2014) (quoting United States v. Yielding , 657 F.3d 688, 718 (8th Cir. 2011)). The MVRA provides that "when sentencing a defendant convicted of an offense described in subsection©, the court shall order that the defendant make restitution to the victim of the offense or, if the victim is deceased, to the victim's estate." 18 U.S.C. § 3663A(a)(1). Subsection © includes any offense deemed a "crime of violence[.]" 18 U.S.C. § 3663A(c)(1)(A)(I). A "victim" under the MVRA is defined as "a person directly and proximately harmed as a result of the commission of an offense for which restitution may be ordered." United States v. Schmidt , 675 F.3d 1164, 1167 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting 18 U.S.C. § 3663A(a)(2)). Little Star does not deny that his assault on G.B.Y.C. amounts to a "crime of violence" for MVRA purposes.

Congress granted federal courts the ability to order restitution to reimburse a person for only the expenses enumerated in section 3663A(b). United States v. Maynard , 743 F.3d 374, 378-79 (2d Cir. 2014) ("The decisive issue on this appeal is whether expenses other than those enumerated in § 3663A(b) are compensable under the MVRA. We conclude they are not."); see also United States v. Abdelbary , 746 F.3d 570, 575 (4th Cir. 2014) ("Section 3663A(b)... specifically identifies the types of losses includable in a restitution award under the MVRA."). Thus, when the offense involves bodily injury to a victim, the court can order the defendant to

(A) pay an amount equal to the cost of necessary medical and related professional services and devices relating to physical, psychiatric, and psychological care, including nonmedical care and treatment rendered in accordance with a method of healing recognized by the law of the place of treatment;
(B) pay an amount equal to the cost of necessary physical and occupational therapy and rehabilitation; and © reimburse the victim for income lost by such victim as a result of such offense.

18 U.S.C. § 3663A(b)(2)(A-C); see also United States v. Wilfong , 551 F.3d 1182, 1183 (10th Cir. 2008) ("In cases where there is bodily injury to a victim, the statute allows for restitution for the costs of medical care, occupational therapy, and for income lost by such victim as a result of such offense."); United States v. Oslund , 453 F.3d 1048, 1062 (8th Cir. 2006) ("When an offense causes bodily harm to a victim, restitution must be ordered for medical or psychological treatment, costs of therapy and rehabilitation, and income lost by such victim as a result of such offense.") (internal quotation marks omitted). In addition to these categories of expenses, the court "in any case" can "reimburse the victim for lost income and necessary child ...


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