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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

U.S. v. Victor Gordon: Prison Term Imposed in Ivory Smuggling Case

A federal judge sitting in the Eastern District of New York has sentenced convicted ivory smuggler Victor Gordon to 30 months in prison, two years supervised release, a fine of $7500 and forfeiture of $150,000 plus one ton of elephant ivory.

Gordon pleaded guilty to a smuggling charge in 2012 after U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seized hundreds of illegal ivory carvings from Victor Gordon Enterprises in downtown Philadelphia in 2009. The sentencing took place almost two years later after having been rescheduled several times.

Today’s sentencing hearing was preceded by an evidentiary hearing conducted last week before Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto where defense lawyer Daniel-Paul Alva presented character witnesses testifying in support of Gordon.

Ivory seized in U.S. Victor Gordon. USFW
Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) Darren LaVerne, meanwhile, filed a memorandum with the court urging the imposition of a sentence of 30-37 months’ incarceration. 

“This case, in particular, presents one of the most egregious examples of an individual flouting the laws against ivory trafficking that has been prosecuted in the United States,” the prosecutor wrote.

Attorney Alva argued in a separate memorandum “why [Gordon] is a poor choice for a poster child’ in the ‘war’ against the illegal elephant ivory trade,” explaining that “Mr. Gordon is an otherwise law abiding and eccentric elderly man with an exceedingly peculiar psychological makeup who accepted responsibility for his wrongs and who has already been greatly punished by the prosecution in this matter.”

Seeking a more lenient sentence outside the 30-37 month range recommended by the federal sentencing guidelines, Alva explained that “Mr. Gordon admitted to his involvement in the obtaining, possession, and trade of a large amount of unlawful ivory….”  He offered three other points of consideration in his court memorandum:
First, Mr. Gordon will point out to this Court that the Government has overstated the centrality of ivory to Mr. Gordon's life, business dealings, and proposed real estate sales. Second, Mr. Gordon will remind this Court that advanced age in itself can be a reason for mitigation, especially when in conjunction with health issues of the sort that Mr. Gordon deals with on a daily basis. Finally, Mr. Gordon will rebut the Government's argument to sentence Mr. Gordon to as much incarceration as defendants in other ivory smuggling cases, including related cases.
AUSA LaVerne disagreed with these arguments, expressing in the prosecution's memorandum,
An appropriate sentence must reflect, in particular, (i) the seriousness of this offense, which is increasingly the focus of national and global law enforcement and policy efforts; (ii) the importance of general deterrence, which courts have recognized has special relevance in this context; (iii) the unusually large amount of illegal ivory involved in this case; (iv) the duration of the crime, which stretched for nearly a decade; (v) the manner in which the crime was committed, including the fact that the defendant, on multiple occasions, paid a coconspirator to obtain ivory directly from Africa and smuggle it into the United States; and (vi) the defendant’s significantly greater culpability  relative to the six defendants previously sentenced by the Court in a related case, United States v. Sylla, et al.
The court sided with LaVerne.

U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch remarked that “preventing the flow of illegal ivory through and within our borders” is an important American commitment. “This prosecution–which resulted in the seizure and forfeiture of one of the largest known caches of illegal elephant ivory in the United States and the imprisonment of the person who acquired and attempted to profit from it – is emblematic of that commitment.”

By Rick St. Hilaire Text copyrighted 2010-2014 by Ricardo A. St. Hilaire, Attorney & Counselor at Law, PLLC. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post is prohibited. CONTACT INFORMATION: www.culturalheritagelawyer.com