Before he became a wildly successful Verizon franchisee in Southern California, Michael Scott Grayson was a crook.
We know this because in 2008 the FBI arrested Grayson for his role in a 2004-2005 conspiracy that used false statements and fake documents to steal enormous amounts of money in an equipment-leasing scam, and he eventually signed a guilty plea.
The relatively simple case is puzzling–and not just because U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney allowed it to linger unresolved for a whopping 1,630 days.
During a sentencing hearing this week inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana, Carney refused to send Grayson to prison even for one day**–though the defendant stole more than $1 million, according to a Department of Justice memo.
The punishment? One year of probation.
Every day in Orange County, poor residents who've, say, shoplifted from a 7-Eleven get punished more severely.
Consider, for example, the results of a few recently litigated Orange County cases:
~Beatrice Gutierrez concocted a scheme to defraud elderly citizens of $100,000 and got a prison term of five years and eight months.
~Anthony Nunez stole $3,940 and got 120 days of incarceration.
~Carol Anna Corral wrote four bad checks and won 68 months in prison.
~JoAnna Chambers embezzled $100,000 and received six years in prison.
~Karl Ivan Avetoom allegedly stole a motorcycle and got locked up for two years.
Even Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer L. Waier–the prosecutor on Grayson's case and a person not known for advocating tough punishments if she can reach a quick plea bargain that saves her from trial work–argued in her sentencing brief that the interests of justice required that the businessman's huge theft demanded at least a "low end" guideline punishment of 30 months in a federal prison.
Never mind federal sentencing guidelines; in Carney's mind, the "low end" punishment was zero time.
So what is so special about Grayson, who was born in 1972?
Could it have been his pre-sentencing generosity to a Southern California police union?
Or a remorseful April 10, 2013, letter Grayson sent Carney, a former UCLA football star, that mentioned he attends UCLA sporting events with his cheerleading daughters?
Or because Grayson is a convicted, white-collar criminal and relatively wealthy businessman who owns more than 12 Verizon stores in the Los Angeles area?
The answer isn't known because the judge, appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush, did not note in the written court record why he was so generous to this particular defendant.
[**Note: Carney officially sentenced Grayson to one day in prison, and then immediately considered it served.]