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The former business manager who admitted to embezzling millions from singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette and other clients will spend six years behind bars, a California federal judge has ruled.
Jonathan Schwartz pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and filing a false tax return in January. He had requested a sentence of one year and one day behind bars, followed by another year of house arrest and 2,000 hours of community service.
“This case demonstrates in a compelling way why the Supreme Court rejected mandatory application of the Sentencing Guidelines and returned discretion to the district court ‘to consider every convicted person as an individual and every case as a unique study in human failings that sometimes mitigate, sometimes magnify, the crime and the punishment to ensue,” wrote his attorney Nathan Hochman in a filing.
Morissette testified during the Wednesday evening hearing and told the court her ability to trust “has been shaken to the core” because of Schwartz?, who admitted to stealing nearly $5 million from her over the course of seven years.
Schwartz penned an open letter in The Hollywood Reporter last month, in which he promised to make amends to his community and clients and explained that his behavior was driven by a gambling addiction.
Hochman asked the court to keep that addiction in mind — as well as the fact that Schwartz has received treatment and is now nearly a year sober.
“A sentence of 12 months and a day of prison, 12 months home detention and 2,000 hours of community service coupled with a restitution of over $8.7 million — in addition to the punishments of losing one’s family, job, clients, assets, reputation, and professional license — will manifestly deter anyone thinking of committing Mr. Schwartz’s crimes that the ramifications of doing so are extremely dire. A lengthy prison sentence is not necessary to achieve this additional deterrence,” wrote Hochman.
The U.S. Attorney’s office disagreed — in fact, in its reply, it went as far as to say Schwartz didn’t prove he spent any of the money on gambling. “Even if defendant gambled, he could have stopped gambling if he had chosen to do so,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Renee Katzenstein. “Defendant was sophisticated and highly intelligent.”
Prosecutors were also not sympathetic to the collateral damage Schwartz has experienced, calling it the “natural consequence” of his actions.
Morissette and Schwartz’s former partner at GSO Bernard Gudvi each took the stand to testify about the impact of those actions on them. “It’s important for our industry to know you can’t take money out of people’s accounts,” said Gudvi, who compared the situation to robbing a bank and noted, in that scenario, a gambling addiction wouldn’t be an appropriate defense.
During her testimony, Morissette told the court that trusting Schwartz to handle her finances allowed her to focus on being an artist — but, eventually, he started keeping her in the dark and when she pressed him for details he’d tell her she was being disrespectful. She felt Schwartz “had an alibi set up from the start” and asked the court to issue “a sentence? that sends a crystal-clear message.”
Schwartz got emotional while taking the stand. “I lied repeatedly to the people who mattered most to me,” he said through tears. “I alone am responsible for the devastation I have caused. Regardless of how long I spend in prison, I will serve a lifetime sentence of shame.”
Katzenstein had recommended a sentence of 63 months, and the maximum advisory guideline from the U.S. probation office based on Schwartz’s crimes was 78 months.
U.S. District? Judge Dolly Gee said while she typically views sentencing guildelines as “draconian,” this situation was “one of those rare occasions where I think the guidelines are not harsh enough.”
Gee sentenced Schwartz to 72 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release that will involve outpatient addiction? treatment, regular drug testing and mental health counseling. He also has to pay $8.6 million in restitution.
Schwartz is due to surrender? into custody on July 11.
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