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February 10, 2007

Senator Feinstein jumps into border agent case

The border agent case (background here and here) — which I am following because it highlights many of the problems inherent in mandatory minimum sentencing — continues to make headlines.  Today, San Francisco Chronicle reports here on the involvement of a notable Democrat:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein intervened Friday in the cases of two Border Patrol agents who are imprisoned for shooting an alleged Mexican drug smuggler and who have become a cause celebre for anti-illegal immigration GOP politicians, conservative media and activists.  The California Democrat, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote letters to three top administration officials -- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff and Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Harley Lappin -- asking for specific information about their agencies' involvement in the case.

Feinstein is the first prominent Democrat to become involved in the case of the border agents, and her office said she has secured the agreement of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy to conduct a committee investigation. She said Leahy is open to a hearing on the matter....

Feinstein told Gonzales in her letter that she strongly believes the agents' sentences are too extreme, given that the victim resisted arrest and was smuggling large quantities of drugs. Further, she wrote, the agents had to her knowledge no prior convictions or aggravating circumstances to warrant such long terms.

The U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case, Johnny Sutton, has maintained that Congress determined the penalty, setting a mandatory minimum 10-year sentence for discharging a firearm during a crime of violence.

Feinstein said she found it even more disturbing that Ramos was beaten in prison. "It is not hard to predict that two federal agents would be targeted in a prison population and that special precautions should have been employed to ensure their safety," Feinstein wrote.

For reasons detailed in some of the posts below, I am very pleased an encouraged to see some Democratic senators showing interest in this cases as an example of over-punishment.

February 10, 2007 at 08:46 AM | Permalink

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Comments

I don't understand why the victim's character for lawlessness has any bearing on the level of guilt or seriousness of the crime the border agents committed. During my last murder trial, it didn't matter that the victim had stolen $50,000 from my client, who later shot him in broad day light in front of 5 horrified witnesses. The victim was a thief. So what? Murder is murder. Same with the border agents. This may come as a dissapointing surprise to most pimply-faced 19 year olds in first-year police academy, but being a cop is not a license to shoot and kill "bad guys" no matter what crime they've apparently committed. I think deep down inside the congresspersons who are saying these border guards got railroaded are only trying to reassure the pimply faced rednecks who want to become cops that they should not be scared out of police work due to this incident... lest our country face a shortage of police officers. They know 80 percent of cops became cops solely out of the desire to be able to legally shoot people. If it becomes public knowledge that cops who shot and killed a "bad guy" were charged with murder over it... our police force will shrink by 80%. We at least need to keep up the IMAGE that we support cops poppin a cap in the back of a bad guy (especially one with dark skin). After all, if we didn't have millions of cops, who would protect our precious children from the billions of evil predators lurking in the shadows and on dateline? Certainly not the parents who hatched them. No, watching over children is a job for the state, principally delegated to the local police.

Posted by: bruce | Feb 11, 2007 1:33:40 AM

The previous comment post is upsetting. It's not that I disagree with the supposition that the character of the victim shouldn't matter in the sentencing of the criminal (except perhaps in those rare cases when it can be demonstrated that the actions of the victim had a profound affect on the psychological state of the criminal, such as in the case of a severely abused spouse, etc...). I get it. But the fallacious logical devices, fabricated statistics, and unabashed bias against law enforcement employed and expressed in this post are appalling! Is this man REALLY an attorney? I wouldn't want to allow this man on a JURY let alone hire him to represent my case in front of one.

Bruce, tell me:

"80 percent of cops became cops solely out of the desire to be able to legally shoot people." Care to back this up? Care to even suggest how such a survey of people's motivations could be conducted with any degree of accuracy?

Building on your dubious statistics, you state that "If it becomes public knowledge that cops who shot and killed a "bad guy" were charged with murder over it... our police force will shrink by 80%" Even if your initial statistic had any merit, your conclusion doesn't. Whether its better described as slippery slope or appeal to probability, one thing is certain: Your arguments are so sloppy and ill-conceived that I don't even know how to classify their myriad errors. You've built fallacies on top of fallacies on top of figures that are uncorroborated at best and fabricated at worst. To top it all off, your whole rant culminates into one enormous straw man.

I'm not a lawyer. I don't even have a four year degree (I just stumbled across this blog while trying to find out a little about this case), but I recognize flagrant stupidity when I see it. By the way, if you actually ARE an attorney, are your clients aware that you seem to have no qualms about trash talking them on the internet?

Posted by: Darien | Jul 17, 2007 8:45:07 PM

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