12/4/14 Gone Fishin’

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In 2007, a Florida fish and wildlife agent inspected the boat of commercial fisherman John Yates.  Out of more than 3,000 red grouper, the agent found 72 he claimed measured 19 to 19-1/2 inches in length.  Under the 20-inch minimum.

The agent crated the fish and ordered Yates to return to port to receive a citation.  Instead, Yates chucked the fish overboard and replaced them with others.

Instead of a standard $500 fine, Yates was charged under a provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley law. 

Sarbanes-Oxley was passed in 2002 following the collapse of energy giant, Enron.  Reportedly, Enron executives shredded documents and destroyed computers. 

Section 1519 of the law criminalized the act of shredding documents to obstruct an investigation.

Yates was charged under this “anti-shredding” provision.  Exposing him to a possible 20-year criminal sentence.

Yates was found guilty in federal court and sentenced to 30 days in prison. And three years supervised release.  An appeals court upheld the conviction.

Last month, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case. 

The heart of Yates’ appeal is overreach by the federal government.  It misapplied the “anti-shredding” provision of Sarbanes-Oxley. 

In simple terms, we believe a possible 20-year sentence for fish an inch under the minimum is a bit harsh.

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