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Exceptional Good Works of a Personal Nature Equal Downward Departure

In United States v. Cooper, 2005 WL 17968 (3d Cir. 1/5/05), the Third Circuit held that "good works," i.e., charitable contributions, though a discouraged factor under the federal sentencing guidelines, can be a valid justification for a downward departure at sentencing. Consequently, the Court affirmed a district court’s decision to downwardly depart four offense levels in a securities fraud and tax evasion case based upon defendant’s exceptional good works where defendant not only donated money to charity, but also made contributions of a personal nature, such as mentoring an underprivileged young man and aiding other young men in gaining an education. The majority opinion also addressed and applied the de novo standard of review under the PROTECT Act.

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Sloviter criticized the majority's application of the new standard of review. Judge Sloviter believed that a fair de novo review required reversal because the PROTECT Act was sought, in part, to discontinue the trend of leniency toward white collar criminals.

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