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February 3, 2007

A notable federal banishment sentence

A helpful reader sent me this news article about a new banishment sentence from New Hampshire.  The article is entitled, "N.H. man banished from state for 3 years; Threat to judge prompts sentence," and here are the interesting details highlights:

Jeffrey Phillips had lived half his life in New Hampshire, but this week he was given a few hours by authorities to gather his belongings and then was sent across the border and told not to return for three years.  Phillips, 56, was banished from the Granite State for threatening the judge assigned to his divorce case. Tempers often flare in such cases, but prosecutors said yesterday that Phillips's threat to shoot the judge in the head, scribbled in a note, was an attack on "the very fabric of the constitutional system."

So, like Napoleon Bonaparte and other enemies of the state sent into exile before him, Phillips left his home in Kingston, N.H., journeying to Massachusetts on Thursday....

Civil liberties lawyers said the sentence was unusual, and the prosecutor in the case agreed. "This is an unusual condition of supervised release, but I think it was an  appropriate condition, given the fact that the victim of the offense is a district court judge in New Hampshire," said Assistant US attorney Robert Kinsella.... "I imagine the judge did it because he wanted to keep him away from the victim of this crime," he said. "The condition seems logical."

Phillips, an electronics engineer, said he is not a violent man. Anguished by his divorce, he said he had a momentary lapse in judgment.  While his divorce case was pending last June, Phillips mailed a note to  Brentwood Family Court Judge Peter Hurd saying that he would be shot in the  head if he failed to confess to some unspecified offenses, according to prosecutors....

In November, Phillips pleaded guilty to mailing a threat and was sentenced to the four months he spent behind bars awaiting trial.  On Thursday, US Judge Steven J. McAuliffe sentenced him to three years of supervised release with the condition that he stay out of New Hampshire, though he can make periodic trips there with approval by his probation officer.  "They used the term banished ; I don't really understand it," said Phillips. 

Boston defense lawyer Harvey Silverglate, a longtime member of the American  Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, said that while the sentencing is  constitutional, it does not make much sense.  "It is not that uncommon to have a geographical restriction in probation  conditions," Silverglate said, citing spousal abuse defendants being kept away from victims and pedophiles restricted from school zones. "But if this fellow got into a homicidal rage and decided he's going to go after somebody  in New Hampshire, you don't think he's going to ask permission from his probation officers do you?"

February 3, 2007 at 12:23 PM | Permalink

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