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December 2, 2010

Georgia federal prosecutor endorses resentencing of defendants sentenced by disgraced federal judge Jack Camp

This new AP story out of Atlanta provides heartening reminder that federal prosecutors will sometimes take proactively steps to ensure justice is served (especially when a federal judge goes bad).  Here are some of the details:

Federal prosecutors in Georgia are disclosing allegations that a federal judge in Atlanta, already convicted of drug possession, may have shown racial bias when sentencing defendants earlier this year.

U.S. Attorney Sally Yates says a woman who developed a personal relationship with former U.S. Senior Judge Jack Camp in May has told prosecutors he said he had a difficult time sentencing black men because they reminded him of someone he didn't like.

Yates says her office will comply with requests from defendants who want a review of their cases before Camp. For those sentenced by Camp from May through September, Yates says prosecutors will not oppose requests for re-sentencing.

The full statement today made by US Attorney Yates can be found in this link.  The statement is remarkable in various respects, and here are some legnthy excerpts:

The United States Attorney's Office has one responsibility -- to seek justice. To fulfill that responsibility, we are today disclosing information that we have recently discovered to the public as well as to defendants who may be affected by this information.

On November 19, 2010, former Senior District Judge Jack T. Camp ("Camp") pleaded guilty to aiding a felon in possessing illegal drugs, possessing illegal drugs, and converting government property to private use. Our office is recused from the prosecution of Camp, which is being handled by the Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice....

We have since reviewed the information provided by Public Integrity and interviewed individuals with close connections to the criminal allegations, including Camp.  We believe that the prompt disclosure of any arguably significant information is critical to our mission of fair and impartial justice.  Consequently, we are providing information beyond that which we are legally required to disclose [and] we have identified the following information that we believe should be disclosed immediately: ...

According to witnesses and Camp, from approximately May, 2010 until the end of September, 2010, on a roughly biweekly basis, Camp engaged in the illegal use of controlled substances.  During this approximately four-month period, Camp consumed marijuana, powder cocaine, Xanax, Roxicontin, and other unknown prescription painkillers....

A second area of inquiry pertains to witnesses' statements relating to potential racial bias. Witness 1, who became acquainted with and developed a personal relationship with Camp in approximately May of 2010, stated that Camp disliked a particular individual ("Individual A"), who was African-American and who also had a personal relationship with Witness 1.  According to Witness 1, Camp told her that when African-American men appeared before him, he had a difficult time adjudicating their cases and specifically determining their sentences because he could not differentiate them from Individual A in light of his feelings about Individual A....

Finally, Witness 1 said that Camp described a case where a female defendant reminded Camp of Witness 1, so he gave her a 12-month sentence instead of the suggested 60-month sentence.  We identified a case during this period where Camp sentenced a white female defendant to a 15-month prison term instead of the 30-37 months recommended by the Sentencing Guidelines.  There is also evidence that confirms that Camp consulted with Witness 1 during the relevant period regarding the sentences that he imposed....

When our office confronted Camp with the above allegations, he said that he did not make the statements attributed to him by either Witness 1 or Witness 2.  He further denied ever taking any judicial action based on racial bias....

Our only interest in any case that we have prosecuted before Camp is ensuring that justice is served. To that end, given these disturbing facts and allegations, this office will evaluate any criminal case adjudicated by Camp for impairment or bias that a defendant requests that we review.  Furthermore, from May of 2010 forward, there is evidence that Camp's judicial decision-making process may have been impacted by bias and/or impairment and it has been established that he was involved in criminal conduct during this period. Therefore, we will not object to a defendant's request for a resentencing in any case in which the defendant was sentenced during this time.

In addition to wondering how many defendants Judge Camp sentenced since May 2010, I am also wondering whether and how this information might come to impact Judge Camp's own upcoming sentencing.  I have suggested in prior posts that Judge Camp seemed to get a pretty sweet plea deal in light of his offense conduct, and now I am even more troubled by what this bad judge was doing. I think evidence of his perversion of a fair justice system he swore to uphold ought to be an aggravating factor in his ultimate sentencign pursuant to the purpose provisions set forth in 18 USC 3553(a)(2).

Related prior posts (which generated lots of notable comments):

December 2, 2010 at 06:26 PM | Permalink

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Comments

fertile grounds for upward variance or departure if true!

Posted by: william | Dec 3, 2010 9:36:15 AM

He should get the max allowed under whatever sweet deal he got.

Posted by: lawyer | Dec 3, 2010 10:30:46 AM

A "heartening reminder" that prosecutors "sometimes" take steps to proactively ensure that justice is served? Tell us how you really feel about us prosecutors professor. I don't merely "sometimes" seek a just outcome; it's my ethical obligation to always seek a just outcome - even if that does not contemplate a conviction or the harshest possible sentence.
- Robert Brady, AUSA and Moritz Class of '97.

Posted by: Robert Brady | Dec 3, 2010 11:53:08 AM

Just because you do, it doesn't mean that others do also. See, e.g., the blog post above this one.

Posted by: Buffalo Bill | Dec 3, 2010 2:00:50 PM

@ Bill: I am painfully aware that not all prosecutors are the same on this score. I only dispute the professor's not-so-subtle claim that AUSAs infrequently endeavor to seek a just outcome. DOJ took a black eye (perhaps deservedly so) on the Stevens case and other recent prosecutions. Yet, to lump all AUSAs together as hacks who rarely consider what would be just or fair (or worse - indifferent to constitutional violations) is not only itself unfair, but is also fallacious reasoning.

Posted by: Robert Brady | Dec 3, 2010 3:01:38 PM

Robert, I understand you getting your hackles up, but don't take it out on Doug. Advocate in your own community. Good, within-the-rules prosecutors like yourselves have to take on both the specific "bad apples" and the corrosive cultures of some offices that give you all a bad name. Otherwise, don't complain when the public, or parts of it, bases its impressions on its most memorable impressions of prosecutors (i.e., abuse of power, arrogance, etc.).

In a similar vein, I don't have an undue amount of sympathy when cops complain that citizens resent them, because I've seen them close ranks too many times around ***hole colleagues whom they privately despise. I understand why they do it -- I wouldn't want to be Serpico either! -- but they also need to understand that individually and as a group, they are making choices, and those choices come with costs (both to themselves and the public). You can't have these things both ways. No man is an island, and you either have to make other folks' conduct your business, or be prepared to be splattered with mud when they wallow in it.

Posted by: Anon | Dec 3, 2010 4:23:36 PM

STATEMENT REGARDING DECEMBER 2, 2010 LETTER FROM
U.S. ATTORNEY SALLY QUILLIAN YATES
CONCERNING FORMER U.S. JUDGE JACK CAMP

For over 20 years Jack Camp served as a Federal judge and presided over hundreds of cases with fair, unbiased attention to the law. Fairness was the cornerstone of his career on the bench, and his record remains clear in this regard.
Jack Camp has fully cooperated with Federal authorities regarding the unfortunate circumstances of his life that led to his recent retirement from the bench, and his decision to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges and one count of aiding and abetting another’s drug possession.
Mr. Camp has fully cooperated with the government’s request that he be examined and tested for drug use. That test was negative. Mr. Camp was also tested by a private professional clinic; that test also returned negative for presence of controlled substances.
Jack Camp will defend any decision he has rendered where a defendant may assert any sort of impairment or bias. While Mr. Camp understands the government must take appropriate steps to ensure our judicial system is free of bias, none occurred in Judge Camp’s courtroom. Again, Jack Camp has assisted the government in this review to the fullest degree possible.
Mr. Camp is taking responsibility for his actions, and continues to cooperate with authorities with regard to the wrongful nature of his behavior.
Mr. Camp agrees with Ms. Yates’ affirmation that our system of justice depends upon a defendants’ right to a fair, impartial, and an unimpaired jurist to administer justice. He agrees with the decision by the U.S. Attorney to take a broad view in this matter, and welcomes the opportunity to further cooperate with the government, and resolve this unfortunate chapter in his life.

Posted by: swilliams | Dec 4, 2010 12:00:08 PM

Robert, Read what Doug wrote carefully.

I am not looking at the word "sometimes" but rather "proactive." I think we both agree that there are only *rare* occasions where justice requires that someone be re-sentenced because of the characteristics of the judge.

Most of the time, a prosecutor need only follow the normal course of criminal procedure to ensure that justice is done. After all, our rules of criminal procedure (and the constitution) aim to do that.

There are, however, SOME rare times when the normal course of the rules would be unjust. It is these rare times (sometimes called "sometimes") when a prosecutor must be "proactive" and request relief other than what is would naturally flow from adherence to the rules. That is precisely what happened here.

But, now that your hackles are up, I should note that there is a good PRACTICAL matter, to do what they did. NOT doing what they did would generate a lot more work. Since most of the pre-sentence work has already been done, it would simply be a matter of re-presenting the arguments to a different judge. If the sentences stand, however, they would ALL be vulnerable to collateral attack, and those attacks would EACH have to be defended. That takes time. That takes money. Eventually, the defendant would probably get the same relief, anyway.

Posted by: S.cotus | Dec 4, 2010 9:45:23 PM

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