In this case, the defendant suffered from extensive health issues so that he was medically unable to attend in front of the District Court. The District Court set up a video conference with the Defendant’s consent and then conducted a plea and sentencing hearing from the courtroom where the defendant was never physically present.
After receiving a prison sentence, the defendant chose to appeal. He claimed on appeal that Rule 43 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure did not authorize a plea and sentencing hearing through video conference.
The Seventh Circuit agreed and held that a video conference where the defendant is not physically present is per se error.
The case is United States v. Gregory Bethea, 17-3468.