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Early-Release Petition Will Get a Second Look

(CN) - A man who helped run an international lottery scam deserves reconsideration of his petition to end his supervised release early, the 9th Circuit ruled Thursday.

Dennis Emmett pleaded guilty in 2008 to mail fraud after being extradited from Costa Rican custody. Prosecutors said he participated in a worldwide scam that sold bogus "positions" in sweepstakes and lotteries that were supposed to increase a buyer's chances of winning big. The scam netted some $14 million to $20 million from tens of thousands of victims.

Emmett's plea deal sent him to prison for just over four years, followed by three years of supervised probation.

Two years after Emmett got out, he requested an early termination of his supervised release, calling it a waste of resources that was not beneficial to him.

U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson denied the request in a quick and curt ruling in Los Angeles, finding that Emmett had failed to demonstrate undue hardship.

An appellate panel vacated, 2-1, on Thursday, finding that the trial court had neglected to "adequately explain its reasons for rejecting Emmett's arguments in favor of early termination."

Noting that Pregerson had denied Emmett's motion "five days after it was filed, and did so without holding a hearing or receiving a response from the government or the probation office," Judge Dorothy Nelson wrote for the majority that "Emmett did not argue that he faced undue hardship, and without further explanation, we cannot discern why the district court believed that the absence of undue hardship was an adequate basis for rejecting the nonfrivolous arguments that Emmett did present."

Judge Jacqueline Nguyen argued in dissent that the ruling gave "short shrift to the 'wide latitude' accorded to district courts in sentencing matters, and needlessly extends our case law in a manner that elevates form over substance."

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