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8th Circuit decides N.D. case Friday, January 19, 2024

Valentino Bagola, serving a life sentence for two counts of first-degree murder, was required to pay $9,000 in restitution through monthly installment payments during his incarceration. When Bagola received funds as part of a federal COVID-related stimulus payment, the government filed a motion to release these funds to apply towards his restitution obligations. Bagola objected, arguing that the funds were not garnishable. However, the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota ruled in favor of the government, ordering the turnover of $924.60 from Bagola's trust account towards his restitution obligations. The court concluded that the funds were not exempt under 18 U.S.C. § 3613(a)(1) and there was a valid lien against these funds. Bagola appealed the decision.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld the district court's decision. The appellate court found that the district court did not err in determining that the stimulus funds constituted "substantial resources" under § 3664(n). Bagola’s contention that applying stimulus funds to restitution was improper and threatened prison security by negatively impacting inmate morale was raised for the first time on appeal and did not meet the plain error standard for review. The court also found that the amount of the funds, over $900, could be considered substantial relative to Bagola's usual monthly installment amounts. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's judgment, ruling that the stimulus payment funds were subject to turnover towards Bagola's restitution obligations.

Read the court's opinion: