No Compelling Reason to Release Convicted Arsonist and Murderer
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A person with no compassion for his many victims, with an expression that defines chutzpah, sought compassionate release from his 110 year sentence in United States Of America v. John T Veysey III, No. 99 CR 00381-1, United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division (March 2, 2023). John T. Veysey III, while currently serving a 110-year sentence for wire fraud, arson, and felony by fire, moved the USDC for compassionate release because he was fat, had high blood pressure and was afraid of the Covid pandemic.
Throughout the 1990s, Veysey devised various deadly schemes to cause losses and collect insurance proceeds. Among other offenses, Veysey fraudulently obtained $959,849.47 in insurance proceeds from a car “accident” involving his first wife, from the death of his first wife, and from arson-for-profit fires to three of his residences. He tried to obtain an additional $1.3 million in insurance proceeds by attempting to kill his second wife and then-infant son in a house fire, and he schemed to fake the deaths of another woman and her sons.
On March 6, 2001, following a six-week trial, a jury found Veysey guilty on 18 counts. Consistent with the then-binding Sentencing Guidelines, the USDC sentenced Veysey to the statutory maximum of 110 years’ imprisonment.
Veysey argued that several factors justify a sentence reduction, including his health conditions, ongoing risks associated with COVID-19 in the federal prison system, alleged sentencing disparities between him and other offenders, his purported rehabilitation, and his preparations for reintegrating into the community. On July 6, 2022, Veysey submitted an updated motion in which he discusses COVID-19 risks, his ongoing health concerns, and his recidivism risk level.
As a general matter, a federal court may not modify a term of imprisonment once it has been imposed. The court may reduce a sentence if “extraordinary and compelling reasons” justify release.
Extraordinary and Compelling Reason
The kind of extraordinary and compelling circumstances contemplated by the statute include some new fact about an inmate’s health or family status, or an equivalent post-conviction development, not a purely legal contention for which statutes specify other avenues of relief. Legal arguments that an initial sentence was made in error do not qualify.
Veysey first points to his health conditions-including hypertension, atrial fibrillation, and obesity-as circumstances justifying a sentence reduction. Veysey may not use a motion for compassionate release to argue that the court’s original sentencing decision was incorrect.
In addition, Veysey offered evidence of his rehabilitation while in prison. But rehabilitation alone is not an extraordinary and compelling reason for release, nor can rehabilitation render otherwise ordinary circumstances extraordinary.
Also, the fact that Veysey has now spent several years in prison and has made efforts to prepare for life outside of prison does not qualify as an extraordinary and compelling reason that could justify his release.
Even if Mr. Veysey were to present an extraordinary and compelling reason for compassionate release, the court would still deny his motion under the § 3553(a) factors. “Consideration of even one § 3553(a) factor may show that the others do not matter.”
The first § 3553(a) factor, which addresses the “nature and circumstances” of a defendant’s offenses and personal circumstances, strongly militates against a sentence reduction. His crimes were shocking:
- Veysey killed his first wife,
- tried to kill his second wife and then-toddler son,
- torched multiple houses, and
- purchased life insurance coverage on another woman shortly before he was arrested-all to collect insurance money.
Veysey carried out these extraordinarily serious offenses over several years, destroyed numerous lives, and caused enormous emotional and physical pain and monetary damage.
Even if Veysey had presented the court with an extraordinary and compelling reason for his release, consideration of § 3553(a)(1) alone would provide a sufficient basis for denying his motion.
Veysey is proof that insurance fraud is a violent crime. He managed to murder and commit arson-for-profit and insurance fraud for years before he was arrested, tried, convicted and jailed for 110 years. Like the person who murdered his parents and sought empathy because he was an orphan, Veysey defined the Yiddish term “chutzah” by asking to be released because, in prison he became obese, had high blood pressure and AFIB. The USDC, wisely, refused his request since his condition was neither extraordinary nor compelling reasons for release but the opposite, a compelling reason existed to keep him in prison forever.
(c) 2023 Barry Zalma & ClaimSchool, Inc.
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Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims handling lawyer and more than 54 years in the insurance business. He is available at http://www.zalma.com and email@example.com
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