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September 11, 2007

Sentence of two dozen years in terror case

A high-profile terror sentencing took place yesterday in California.  This Sacramento Bee article provides these details:

Hamid Hayat, a 25-year-old cherry packer from Lodi with a seventh-grade education, was sentenced Monday in Sacramento federal court to 24 years in prison for providing material support to terrorists and making false statements to hide his conduct.

On April 25, 2006, a jury found Hayat, who was born in Stockton but has lived nearly half his life with relatives in Pakistan, guilty of undergoing terrorist training in Pakistan and returning to Lodi prepared to wage violent jihad -- or holy war -- against fellow U.S. citizens. He also was found guilty of lying to conceal the training and his terrorist intent when initially questioned by FBI agents....

The prison term is 11 years less than the 35 sought by the government and recommended by a probation officer. On the other hand, it is nine years more than the defense's request for 15, the statutory maximum for the material-support count.

September 11, 2007 at 08:13 AM | Permalink


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My God, 24 years. Don't know anything about the case, and I'm sure it's completely defensible under the law, but when are we going to get sick of all this punishment and ourselves?

Posted by: Anonymous | Sep 11, 2007 10:51:08 AM

>>Don't know anything about the case,

Thanks for your comment.

Posted by: S.cotus | Sep 11, 2007 11:13:51 AM

Full disclosure, S.cotus. But I can say with confidence, though again only an opinion, that the sentencing guidelines are over the top. Human emotion, and compassion, has to re-enter the equation. That's been lost.

Posted by: Anonymous | Sep 11, 2007 11:38:16 AM

And human emotion isn't involved in formulating the guidelines? Human emotion isn't involved in weighing the § 3553 factors ?

Posted by: S.cotus | Sep 11, 2007 12:13:35 PM

I’d like to think that the emotion that has driven the sentencing guidelines into the stratosphere is aberrational, perhaps that of a few politicians cynically satisfying a relatively small portion of their easily emoted constituency. And the emotion behind the weighing of factors, that perhaps is the emotion of an extremely non-representative group of law enforcement specialists. How else explain away all of the vast difference in the incarceration rate here and those in all other developed nations? But, then, perhaps this country has found the perfect sentencing balance based upon the perfect emotion. I don’t, however, want to believe that, instead believing we can't afford not to become a more compassionate country.

Posted by: Anonymous | Sep 11, 2007 1:23:29 PM

Anonymous, First of all, it is a bit of a stretch to say that, as a general matter, the FSGs are “in the stratosphere.” Even guideline sentences are between statutory parameters, and while some of them are high, some thought and study went into each of them. Secondly, the guidelines are not written by elected politicians (in fact, I don’t think most people even know about the USSC, nevermind who is on it), so your argument that it does what it does to placate politicians is problematic. Third, you have not identified a single guideline that you find to be unjust or based purely on emotion. (Heck, you have not even identified a guideline that you disagree with as a policy matter.) It may well be that the *application* of the guidelines produces unjust results, but that is the topic of the Booker/Rita discussion.

Next, your argument that “How else explain away all of the vast difference in the incarceration rate here and those in all other developed nations? “ is somewhat curious. First of all, the guidelines don’t apply to state prosecutions, which account for most of the incarcerated population. Secondly, it may well be that some populations of Americans are just worse than foreigners. For instance, Texans are probably just born bad. Finally, it may well be that the US has a different penal policy than other countries, and we figure that the good of the state is better served by incarceration.

Posted by: S.cotus | Sep 11, 2007 1:56:44 PM

Great, we're going to have a committed terrorist released after 24 years in the pokey. He should have been maxed out.

Posted by: federalist | Sep 11, 2007 2:35:32 PM

Relax, federalist. Before his 24 years are up, because the war on terror still rages on, he will likely face another trial for dangerousness and be executed.

Posted by: George | Sep 11, 2007 3:00:11 PM

Besides, in 24 years, the war on terror will be over, and we will be back to fighting a war on a horror so unspeakable that I can't mention it in public. But, our public servants are working hard to defeat it as we speak. Rest assured, it will require considerable sacrifices of the liberty of random people, but absolutely no sacrifices from Americans as a whole.

And come on, it isn't as if this guy really could have hurt anyone alone, anyway. He was a small player.

Posted by: S.cotus | Sep 11, 2007 3:15:54 PM

With regard to the reasonableness of sentences, I would welcome your thoughts on the following:

1. Testimony of Justice Anthony Kennedy before the Senate Judiciary Committee February 14, 2007 in response to Senator Whitehouse (“Our sentences are too long, our sentences are too severe, our sentences are too harsh... [and because there are so few pardons] there is no compassion in the system. There’s no mercy in the system.”), video link accessible at Professor Berman’s Sentencing Law and Policy Blog of Feb. 15, 2007)

2. July 9, 2006 Speech of Justice Anthony Kennedy at the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference (“I think the guidelines are far too severe...The fact that the prison guards’ association lobbies for higher penalties is sick,”)(found at http://talkleft.com/new_archives/015288.html)

3. August 9, 2003 Speech of Justice Kennedy at the ABA Annual Meeting (available at http://www.abanews.org/kencomm/amkspeech03.html) (“Our resources are misspent, our punishments too severe; our sentences too long... the sentencing guidelines are responsible in part for the increased terms....[and they] should be revised downward.”)

4. “The US rate of incarceration is the highest in the world.” Fact Sheet, National Council on Crime and Delinquency (November, 2006), found at http://www.nccd-crc.org/nccd/pubs/2006nov_factsheet_incarceration.pdf;

5. Glenn C. Loury “Why are so many Americans in Prison”(Boston Review 2007)(found at http://bostonreview.net/BR32.4/loury.html) (“The current American prison system, is a leviathan unmatched in human history.... with five percent of the world’s population—[it] houses 25 percent of the world’s inmates... Never before has a supposedly free country denied basic liberty to so many of its citizens....We have become progressively more punitive... Despite a sharp national decline in crime, American criminal justice has become crueler and less caring than it has been at any other time in our modern history)

6. James Q. Whitman, Harsh Justice (Oxford Press 2003) paperback ed. at 223 n. 72 (“the makers of sentencing guidelines succeeded only in contributing to the making of a law of punishment that shows obstinately little concern for the personhood of offenders...a law that tends to treat offenders as something closer to animals than humans, and that has correspondingly sought, more and more frequently, simply to lock them away”); id at page 19 (“American punishment is comparatively harsh, comparatively degrading, comparatively slow to show mercy”).

7. Michael Tonry, The Handbook of Crime And Punishment (Oxford Press 1998) paperback ed. at page 3 (“Contemporary policies concerning crime and punishment are the harshest in American history and of any Western country.”)

Posted by: Michael Levine | Sep 11, 2007 6:41:49 PM

Hot damm, them ol' Texans. Gotta give 'em credit for fillin' up them jails so mean like!

Posted by: Anonymous | Sep 12, 2007 12:53:29 AM

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