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March 14, 2011

Fascinating backstory for why former judge Jack Camp does not even have a felony conviction

Thanks to this lengthy piece by Robin McDonald at The Daily Report legal paper, which is headlined "Camp sentence: 30 days in prison; Prosecutors object to visiting judge converting Camp's felony plea to a misdemeanor," I have learned that former federal judge Jack Camp did not even get saddled with a felony conviction as a result of a surprise development during his federal sentencnig last Friday.  Here is the remarkable backstory:

A visiting federal judge from Washington on Friday sentenced former U.S. District Senior Judge Jack T. Camp to 30 days in prison and 10 weeks of community service on drug and theft charges.

In a surprising move, U.S. District Senior Judge Thomas F. Hogan reduced the sole felony to which Camp had pleaded guilty last fall to a misdemeanor.  Camp's defense team — in what federal prosecutors claimed was a breach of Camp's plea deal last year — had raised legal issues while seeking probation for Camp that led to Hogan's action.

Hogan issued the sentence after a two-hour hearing during which Camp, his son, a former law partner, a former law clerk, the former district court clerk and the former chairman of Georgia's Republican Party made personal pleas for leniency and a probated sentence that would allow Camp to avoid incarceration....

In converting Camp's felony to a misdemeanor, Hogan has allowed the former judge to avoid the loss of a host of privileges that go with a felony, such as the right to vote, the right to hold public office, the right to secure a business license and the right to carry a gun....

Camp pleaded guilty last November, a little more than a month after he was arrested by the FBI following an illegal drug buy that he and the dancer made from an undercover agent.   Camp pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors — illegally possessing cocaine, marijuana and the painkiller Roxicodone (a synthetic form of heroin) and the misdemeanor theft of a government-issued laptop computer that Camp had given to the stripper.  But Camp also pleaded guilty to felony aiding and abetting a person he knew to be a drug felon in the unlawful possession of illegal drugs. The stripper, an FBI informant, had been convicted of using telephone communications while trafficking in methamphetamine, according to federal prosecutors.  Camp resigned from the bench and has also surrendered his law license.

The felony charge carried a maximum two-year sentence and a $100,000 fine. Both misdemeanor offenses carry maximum one-year sentences and $100,000 fines.  Hogan said that the pre-sentence report conducted by the federal probation officer assigned to Hogan's court recommended a sentence from 15 days to six months.

But last week Camp's lawyers filed a sentencing memorandum claiming the confidential pre-sentence report, which is not available to the public, was in error. They asserted that Camp should not be subject to any mandatory minimum prison term and that his sentence should not be influenced by the prior criminal history of the dancer for whom he had helped to acquire illegal drugs for their joint use....

That argument prompted Hogan to convert the felony charge to a misdemeanor, a move he discussed in chambers with Camp's lawyers and lawyers from the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section.  The meeting delayed the start of the sentencing hearing by 35 minutes, which Hogan explained when he took the bench.... Hogan said his interpretation of case law is that Camp's sentence could not be enhanced by the prior criminal record of the dancer with whom he had purchased and used illegal drugs, and, as such, his felony plea converted to a misdemeanor.

Prior to Hogan's ruling, DOJ attorney Deborah Sue Mayer asked the judge to release the government from the terms of its plea agreement with Camp, which she said would give the Justice Department the option of bringing additional criminal charges against Camp. But Hogan said that he did not believe the issues that led him to toss the felony count constituted a breach of Camp's plea.

Later in the hearing, Mayer reiterated her position that Camp's plea agreement was breached.  In asking for an unspecified prison term that she said reflected the seriousness of Camp's offenses, she noted that Hogan ought to consider the entirety of Camp's actions, not just the charges to which he entered guilty pleas. "He engaged in repeated criminal conduct over a period of four months," she said. "It was not just a one-time thing.  It was not just an exercise in poor judgment."

That conduct included asking a federal marshal to run a criminal background check for personal reasons, which is a misdemeanor, Mayer said. It also included the "repeated" possession and use of illegal drugs including cocaine and synthetic heroin that she said Camp "snorted like a street drug," and the lie he told in order to secure a new laptop so that he could give a government-issued computer to the stripper from whom he sought sexual favors. Camp, she said, also knew "full well" that the stripper had been convicted of a drug trafficking crime, which Mayer said the former judge attempted to minimize in an effort to help her find new employment.... 

Mayer added, Camp brought two guns to a drug deal, one of which he had in his pocket while the dancer was by his side buying illegal drugs from the undercover agent.  When Camp was arrested, one of the guns was visible in the front passenger seat of his car, with the trigger cocked and a chambered round, but Mayer said the government did not charge Camp with a federal firearm offense because it was not linked to a crime of violence or a drug trafficking offense."

Based on this description of events, it sounds like Camp may have been able to raise an Apprendi/Blakely issue in order to avoid a felony conviction.  If that's right, it provides yet another remarkable facet to a remarkable case that, in my view, does not reflect very well on how this ugly matter was handled by the local federal prosecutors. [UPDATE: A commentor rightly noted that the local USA's office recused itself in this case, so its the feds from Main Justice brought in to prosecute who seem to have the egg on their face in light of how poorly this case appears to have been handled].

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

March 14, 2011 at 07:11 PM | Permalink

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I don't know where to begin...He didn't charge Camp with the gun charge because it wasnot linked to a crime of violence or drug trafficking....Really, buying drugs with a loaded gun and a round in the chamber, and the guy ran off with a government laptop, OUCHOLA...

Well in the part of USA where I come from that a 5 yr charge, mandatory minimum...

..Bill.... I'll let you give the stupendous dissertation, your a government boy....Hop to it....You'll be in your glory.....

Posted by: Josh | Mar 14, 2011 9:31:20 PM

The prosecutors on this case are a joke. Absolute. Joke. Is this par for the course with this particular U.S. Attorney's Office?

Posted by: anon | Mar 14, 2011 11:42:42 PM

had to love this part! considering the 100's of THOUSANDS of plea agreements the govt itself has breached BEFORE, DURING and AFTER they were agreed to. Sounds kind of two-faced to me!

"In a surprising move, U.S. District Senior Judge Thomas F. Hogan reduced the sole felony to which Camp had pleaded guilty last fall to a misdemeanor. Camp's defense team — in what federal prosecutors claimed was a breach of Camp's plea deal last year — had raised legal issues while seeking probation for Camp that led to Hogan's action."

At least the defense is doing it based on law that existed BEFORE THE AGREEMENT!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 14, 2011 11:56:28 PM

This is a Democrat witch hunt of a Republican judge who engaged mala prohibita. When the Republicans retake the White House, it should be returned in kind. To deter.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 15, 2011 12:05:01 AM

The prosecutor was from main justice in DC. The U.S. Attorney for the Nothern District of Georgia recused her office from the case very soon after Camp was arrested.

Posted by: anon | Mar 15, 2011 3:42:14 PM

It will be interesting to see what effect this case has on Camp's past rulings, especially given the revelation that he may suffer from some type of mental disorder.

Posted by: RS | Mar 25, 2011 5:06:58 PM

What a mess. I wonder if the DOJ will appeal. Sounds like some of those rulings could be questionable (especially in Georgia/CTA11 -- this ain't D.C. Circuit rules, Judge Hogan!)

Posted by: Anon | Mar 28, 2011 1:35:57 PM

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