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Woman may face more time in prison

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A former federal court clerk who has been in a Salt Lake City halfway house preparing for her release could return to prison instead.

An appeals court ruled Wednesday that Shari Lewis Lang had been given too short a sentence for her role in tipping off a heroin ring to a federal investigation.

Lang was sentenced two years ago to 46 months in prison for removing a courthouse copy of a confidential document detailing an undercover investigation into a Salt Lake drug trafficking organization. Using information from the document, her husband, Johnny Lang, telephoned leaders of the heroin ring and tipped them off to the ongoing federal probe.

Shari Lang, 42, served most of her sentence in a federal facility in Dublin, Calif. She received time off for completing an intensive drug-treatment program and was transferred to Utah in early February to complete a six-month stint at the halfway house prior to her expected release in July, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

She now faces another four to six years behind bars in light of the recent ruling from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court determined U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell improperly reduced her sentence by that amount of time.

She originally faced between eight and 10 years in prison, but at her April 2002 sentencing Campbell departed significantly from federal sentencing guidelines to reach the nearly four-year term. The judge found that Shari Lang's involvement as an accessory was brief, and that her behavior was aberrant given her education and employment history.

In June 2002, Campbell sentenced Johnny Lang to the same amount of time as his wife, also giving him credit for his brief involvement as an accessory to the drug organization.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah appealed the departures. Wednesday the 10th Circuit ruled in prosecutors' favor.

"Compared to that in other accessory cases, the Langs' involvement, which ranged from a couple of hours to a day, was not exceptionally short," the opinion states. "Individuals often act as accessories for a much shorter period."

The court also found that Shari Lang's education and employment history were not eligible factors for a reduction based on aberrant behavior.

Johnny Lang, 54, is serving his time in a federal prison in Terminal Island, Calif. The Bureau of Prisons had previously set his projected release date for Oct. 15.

Both will now be required to return to Campbell's Salt Lake courtroom for resentencing under the previously calculated guidelines — 97 to 121 months for Shari Lang and 78 to 97 months for Johnny Lang. Unless Campbell arrives at additional reasons to again reduce the time, it is expected that the new sentences will fall somewhere in that range, said Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah.

Shari and Johnny Lang had each appealed separate issues from their trial and sentences. In a divided opinion, the court on Wednesday rejected those arguments.


E-mail: awelling@desnews.com