An investment advisor who was sentenced to 16-years in prison for a $3.5 million fraud, won resentencing Friday because the trial judge allowed victims to testify during sentencing without the defendant’s lawyer present.
Steven Yamashiro, of Pasadena, will get a new sentencing hearing before a new judge after U.S. District Judge Otis Wright allowed the first victim to make a statement that was “highly significant” in the judge’s sentencing, the 9th U.S. Circuit court of Appeals ruled.
The panel held that the error denied Yamashiro his Six Amendment right to a fair trial.
Between 2005 and 2007, Yamashiro defrauded 10 people and was charged with fraud, money laundering. He agreed to plead guilty on two counts of fraud and one of money laundering.
Prior to his sentencing Yamashiro brought in a new lawyer. On the day of sentencing his new lawyer had not arrived but Wright decided to proceed with victim statements. He ordered Yamashiro’s previously dismissed attorney to sit in until the new attorney arrived. And told the lawyer he “did not have to do anything.”
The first victim, Glenn Hale, testified that Yamashiro’s conduct had “devastating consequences” on his life and asked for the maximum penalty.
By the time Hale finished, Yamashiro’s new lawyer arrived and the remainder of the victims testified.
Although the probation officer recommended a 63-month term for Yamashiro, Wright sentenced him to 63-months on each of the three counts, to run consecutively, a total sentence of 15-years, nine-months. Wright also imposed $3.9 million in restitution.
“Yamashiro’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel was violated by the court’s decision to proceed with victim allocution in the absence of trial counsel during a portion of Yamashiro’s critical sentencing stage,” wrote visiting Judge Robert Bell of Michigan.
The panel rejected Yamashiro’s request to withdraw his guilty plea and start over.
Joining in the opinion were Judges Barry Silverman and Carlos Bea.
The Securities and Exchange Commission also barred him from the securities industry.
Case: U.S. v. Yamashiro, No. 12-50608