MARQUETTE - A federal appellate court has denied a request by two Marquette residents convicted of trying to extort $680,000 from actor John Stamos to be released from prison while their case is on appeal.
Scott Edward Sippola, 31, is being held at the Federal Prison Camp on the former Duluth Air Force Base in Duluth, Minn., and Allison Lenore Coss, 24, is incarcerated at a satellite camp of the Federal Correctional Institute, located about 180 miles southwest of Chicago in Pekin, Ill.
Sippola and Coss, who are serving four-year prison terms, had hoped to be freed from those minimum-security facilities through an appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati.
An order from judges in the case issued this week denied the request stating: "In their motions for release, the defendants have not overcome the presumption against release pending appeal because they have not shown that their appeals will raise a substantial question of law or fact likely to result in reversal, a new trial, or a shorter term of imprisonment," as required by federal law.
That same reasoning was argued to the court by federal attorneys against releasing the couple.
Attorney Sarah Henderson of Marquette, who represented Sippola in his U.S. District Court case in Marquette last July, is representing both Sippola and Coss in their appellate court bid.
In a brief, Henderson had argued the three charges Coss and Sippola were convicted of - one count of conspiracy to extort money by use of interstate communications and two counts of transmitting a threat to injure the reputation of another with intent to extort money - were nonviolent offenses.
Henderson said no drugs or weapons were involved and no public safety or national security issues in any way associated with the offenses. The convictions aside, Henderson said Coss and Sippola are of good standing and character in their community, with histories of college education, gainful employment and no drug or alcohol abuse.
Henderson said neither defendant poses any flight risk, nor are they a danger to their community. She said the U.S. District Court denied bond pending appeal because the court could not find that the defendants were raising a substantial question of law on appeal.
The appellate court judges agreed that "it does not appear that the release of the defendants would pose a danger to others or a risk of flight."
Henderson said Coss and Sippola intend to question the sufficiency of the indictment under which they were charged. Government attorneys said the nine-page indictment described the defendants' "elaborate plot" to extort $680,000 from Stamos using "wrongful threats to sell compromising photos of him to the tabloids."
Henderson said that while admitting all of the conduct attributed to them in the indictment, Coss and Sippola contend that their conduct, "while very unseemly," did not constitute a violation of the federal statutes under which they were charged.
The defendants also contest the sentencing scoring guidelines, believing they are entitled to downward point departures for admitting to all of the factual allegations contained in the indictment before and during trial. Henderson said Coss and Sippola only proceeded to trial to order to preserve the issue for appeal.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.