A Federal Grand Jury has indicted Juliana James England for Mail Fraud. Ms. England is the sister of Sandra Bullock’s infamous ex-husband Jesse James. Ms. England was arraigned in Federal Court in Santa Ana, California this week after being arrested at her home in Arkansas. She made her initial appearance in Federal Court in Arkansas where she was released on her own recognizance.

Ms. England allegedly defrauded her former employer, Callan Western Sales in Los Alamitos, California out of approximately $400,000. Ms. England had access to the company’s checks, credit cards and online checking account. Ms. England allegedly wrote checks to herself and used the company credit cards without authorization. The fraud was discovered after the business closed due to financial difficulties and the owners received credit card statements with charges unrelated to the business.

Why is she charged with mail fraud you may ask? Because Ms. England allegedly had the credit card statements mailed to a post office box which she specifically opened to hide the transactions from her employer. Any time the mail is used during the commission of a crime involving fraud, it can be charged as mail fraud.

Here’s where it gets silly; news articles and press releases, even one by the FBI itself, state that Ms. England is facing 60 years in Federal Prison. Let’s get this straight. There is a huge difference between someone’s statutory maximum sentence, which may be 60 years in this case, and what they will actually be sentenced to IF convicted. First, we have to pressume that Ms. England is innocent. If the U.S. attorney’s office can prove that she is guilty of each element of the offenses for which she is charged beyond a reasonable doubt, or if she enteres a guilty plea, then and only then will she be sentenced. Sentencing in Federal Court is quite complex but basically it is based on a set of guidelines. Under the sentencing guidelines, assuming Ms. England has no prior criminal convictions, and assuming she pleads guilty to the charges, she is facing approximately 21 months in federal prison, of which she will serve around a year and a half.

If I were Ms. England’s attorney, after reviewing the evidence and helping her decide how she should proceed with her case I would spend time with Ms. England determining whether there were any mitigating factors to present to the court which might persuade a judge not to send her to prison at all. An experienced federal criminal attorney will know what issues a court would find extraordinary and what factors are important to the court. I have worked with the assistant United States attorney who is handling this case and the Judge who is assigned to this case many times. I have a great deal of respect for both of them. I’m sure they will do the right thing for all of the parties involved in this case.