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United States v. Bergman

Citation. 416 F. Supp. 496,1976 U.S. Dist..
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Brief Fact Summary.

Defendant, who was highly praised in the community, was charged with fraud.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

General Deterrence is a legitimate justification for imprisonment.


Defendant Bergman, a doctor of divinity and an ordained rabbi was acclaimed by people around the world for his works of public philanthropy, private charity, and leadership in educational enterprises. In addition to his good works, Defendant amassed considerable wealth in the ownership and operation of nursing homes, real estate ventures, and other investments.
As result of investigations of nursing homes making fraudulent claims for Medicaid funds, defendant was indicted in both Federal and State Court. These indictments concerned Defendant’s knowing and willful participation in a scheme to defraud the United States in various ways, including the presentation of wrongfully padded claims for payments under the Medicaid program to defendant’s nursing home. Defense counsel argued against imprisonment urging that no licit purpose could be served by Defendant’s incarceration.


Is Defendant’s incarceration legally justified?


Yes, defendant sentenced to a term of four months in prison.
The Court agrees with defense counsel that one should not be imprisoned for rehabilitative purposes alone. Though the Court notes that if someone is imprisoned for other valid reasons, they should seek to make rehabilitation resources available.

The Court also agrees with defense counsel that Defendant should not be confined to incapacitate him, for Defendant is not dangerous and thus specific deterrence is not needed.

The Court finds that general deterrence is a legitimate justification for imprisoning Defendant. The Court supports this by mentioning the existence of reasonably “scientific” evidence for the efficacy of criminal sanctions as deterrents.

The Court refuses as a substitute for imprisonment the defense counsel’s proposals that Defendant run a program of Jewish vocational and religious high school training, take charge of a committee on Holocaust Studies, or volunteer in some established agency.

The Court resorts to individualized sentences, taking into consideration the criminal behavior, Defendant’s illustrious public life and works, the trend of other cited sentences, and the age and wellness of the defendant.

The Court refuses to consider the fact of notoriety in passing its judgment upon Defendant.


General deterrence is a legitimate purpose of imprisonment. The aim of general deterrence is to discourage similar wrongdoing by others through a reminder that the law’s warnings are real that the grim consequence of imprisonment is likely to follow from crimes of deception for gain like those Defendant committed. There is also a concern that a lesser penalty would depreciate the seriousness of the Defendant’s crime.
The defense’s proposal that Defendant engage in philanthropic and community service oriented “sanctions” cannot be conceived as punishments at all considering the honorable nature of Defendant’s past services.
In passing sentence, the Court will consider the criminal behavior and any suggestions of necessary circumstances. It will also consider Defendant’s past works and public life. Other cited sentences are considered but are by no means precedent. The Court, however, must utterly discount the fact of notori

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