Court of appeals rules on conviction, sentencing of Escanaba man

Courtesy: MGN Online
Courtesy: MGN Online(KNOE)
Published: Jun. 17, 2016 at 12:16 PM EDT
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The State of Michigan Court of Appeals has affirmed the conviction of an Escanaba man, though he may be entitled to a resentencing.

Douglas Vero Sedenquist was convicted by a jury for one count of extortion and one count of using a computer to commit a crime. The jury also acquitted him of a charge of aggravated stalking. He was sentenced to concurrent terms of three to 20 years in prison.

The conviction arose from his threat to accuse Carmen LaBute, his ex-wife and a registered nurse, of violating the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) if she did not agree to changes in the couple's judgement of divorce.

According to Sedenquist, he was suffering from depression and contemplated suicide during the time LaBute filed for divorce. Three days before his final divorce hearing, Sedenquist drove to Green Bay where LaBute worked in an attempt to get her to call off the divorce. He said intended to commit suicide if she did not. Sedenquist engaged in a standoff with police that resulted in his confinement to a psychiatric hospital in Green Bay and his arrest while in the hospital.

The final hearing in the divorce case was held in his absence. The judgement did not give Sedenquist parenting time with his minor son or spousal support. LaBute received the couple's property in Alger County and $9,484.20 from Sedenquist's Roth IRA. Her attorney, Russell Hall, drew up an order to transfer the money to LaBute.

According to Hall, Sedenquist told him that LaBute had violated HIPAA numerous times by conveying to him patients' private health information and that spousal privilege no longer prevented him from reporting it. He claimed to have written letters to families whose medical information LaBute had shared and stated that he gave these letters to a third party. Sedenquist wanted LaBute to renounce all claims to the money from his IRA, to pay him $1,000 a month in spousal support, to change custody of their son to joint custody and to give him first right of refusal to purchase the camp property if she decided to sell it.

Hall and LaBute contacted the police, believing Sedenquist's action to be extortion. As instructed by Anthony LaPlant of the Escanaba Public Safety Department, Hall emailed the Sedenquist. After several emails back and forth, LaPlant obtained and executed a search warrant for Sedenquist's cell phone and computer, leading to his arrest.

Sedenquist challenged his conviction on several points. He argued that the evidence presented was insufficient to convict him of the crimes. He also argued that the trial court abused its discretion by admitted the inadmissible opinion of Hall that Sedenquist was "kind of a bully" and LaPlant's statement that "extortion was just one more thing in a laundry list of offenses that we were looking at." He also challenged his conviction by raising concerns about the ineffectiveness of his council. The court of appeals determined none of these factors were sufficient to overturn his conviction.

The appeals court did agree with Sedenquist's assertion that he is entitled to a remand under People v Lockridge. Under this case, he could be entitled to a resentencing if the trial court determines that his OV level was calculated in correctly based on the evidence provided.

To read the full Court of Appeals opinion, see the document in our related links section.