Former Elkhart doctor loses appeal of felony nonsupport sentence

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the Indiana Supreme Court's decision on former doctor case.
Posted on Jan. 22, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

ELKHART — The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld Judge David Bonfiglio’s decision to sentence former Elkhart physicist Amir Sanjari to 10 years in prison last week.

According to the Court of Appeals’ written opinion, Sanjari argued his sentence violates prohibitions against double jeopardy, that it violates prohibitions against vindictive sentencing and that the sentence is inappropriately harsh.

The court concluded in its opinion that “in light of the severity of Sanjari’s offenses and his appalling character ... The 10-year executed sentence is not inappropriate.”

Sanjari’s criminal case goes back to October 2006, when he was convicted of four counts of nonsupport of a dependent child, two Class C felonies and two Class D felonies.

Following Amir Sanjari’s divorce with his then-wife Alison Gratzol in 2000, Sanjari was ordered to pay child support. However, he failed in his payments, his arrearage eventually exceeding $56,000.

According to court documents, Sanjari had a history of “voluntary unemployment, despite holding a position in nuclear physics,” and “an undisputed ability to earn between $60,000 and $80,000.”

Sanjari held positions at the State University of New York, University of Notre Dame, Wayne State University and Goshen Hospital as a medical physicist.

He moved to three different states to avoid extradition on an arrest warrant for felony nonsupport of a dependent child, but he was found in California and extradited to Indiana.

While in jail Sanjari went on a hunger strike and demanded to represent himself, rejecting standby counsel.

Sanjari was convicted at trial after he failed to appear. According to court documents, he had refused to leave his cell.

At sentencing the court merged the two Class D felonies with the two Class C felonies and sentenced Sanjari to two consecutive five-year-terms.

Following his sentencing by the trial court, Sanjari appealed, where the Court of Appeals vacated one of his Class C felony convictions on one of the counts.

Last year, some of the aggravating circumstances Bonfiglio found during Sanjari’s sentencing hearing were that the harm done was far more than necessary to satisfy the elements of the crimes, that Sanjari had refused to maintain gainful employment, the high likelihood that Sanjari would continue refusing to support his children and his veiled threat of violence directed at Gratzol. Sanjari was sentenced to eight years in prison for the Class C felony and two years in prison for the class D felony, to be served in prison consecutively.

The Court of Appeals said in its written opinion that Sanjari’s accusations toward the divorce judge, five subsequent special judges, the judges of the Court of Appeals and the Justices of the Supreme Court of fraud were used as excuses not to satisfy his support obligations.

“Sanjari’s character is illustrated thorough his defiance, his abuse of the legal system in order to punish Gratzol, and his utter refusal to satisfy his legal obligations to his children,” wrote the court.

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