Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Goldman: District Court Failed to Explain or Support Restitution Award for a Cultural Artifact

In United States v. Goldman, No. 19-11135 (Mar. 25, 2020) (Rosenbaum, Tjoflat, Hull), the Court affirmed the term of imprisonment but vacated the restitution award.

As for the term of imprisonment, the defendant objected to the district court’s valuation of a stolen gold bar for purposes of the guideline governing  theft of cultural artifacts in USSG 2B1.5.  The Court found it unnecessary to address the defendant’s argument because the district court stated that, regardless of the  guideline calculation, it would have imposed the same sentence, and that 40-month sentence was not substantively unreasonable.  Therefore, any guideline calculation error was harmless.

As for restitution, the Court clarified that the fair market value of a unique item lacking actual cash value is determined by its replacement cost.  In this case, however, the district court failed to meaningfully explain how it arrived at its valuation figure, and the underlying evidence was unsubstantiated.  Accordingly, the Court remanded for the district court to ascertain the amount of restitution consistent with its opinion.