Court in Louisiana orders new judge as drug case requires 4th sentencing

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(AP) – A federal appeals court in Louisiana removed a judge from the case of a convicted cocaine trafficker whose sentence has been overturned three times, saying the sentencing judge failed to consider the defendant’s “extraordinary cooperation” with authorities.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that a new judge be assigned for the fourth sentencing for Broderick D. Mathes, who pleaded guilty to cocaine possession with intent to distribute and other federal charges after being indicted along with his brother in 2014.

At his first sentencing in 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Shelly Dick sentenced Mathes to 17 1/2 years in prison. After that punishment was thrown out on appeal, the same judge sentenced him to 13 years and four months, which was also overturned. Regardless, Dick gave Mathes the exact same sentence when the case returned to her a third time.

“We do not question the good faith or integrity of the sentencing judge,” the appeals court said in its latest order Wednesday. “Nonetheless, under these rare and unusual circumstances, we instruct the district court to reassign the case to another judge for resentencing.”

It noted that ordering a new judge to take over a case is a power that should “rarely be invoked,” The Advocate reported.

The appeals court noted in its latest ruling that Mathes cooperated for four years with federal authorities and testified against his brother, Wilbert Mathes, at his 2016 trial.

Wilbert Mathes, the court said, had threatened to kill his brother. In rejecting Broderick Mathes’ second sentence a year ago, the appellate judges wrote that he had “risked his life by cooperating with the government.”

Dick had explained during one of Mathes’ prior sentencings that she had given him prison terms above the federal guideline range because his brother is serving a 27-year sentence for essentially the same crimes. Dick said she was trying to avoid unwarranted disparities in the brothers’ sentences.

Dick told the newspaper it would be inappropriate for her to comment on an appeals court ruling.

Mathes’ attorney, Franz Borghardt, said Dick is consistently fair and just.

“We feel the decision speaks for itself and we will prepare for resentencing,” Borghardt said.

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