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February 7, 2013

Are tough sentences sought in Amish beard-cutting case part of a DOJ "war on religion"?

The provocative question in the title of this post is prompted by this recent post by Bill Otis over at Crime & Consequences under the provocative heading "DOJ Goes Stark Raving Mad." Here are excerpts of Bill's perspective on a high-profile federal sentencing case:

Regular readers know that I'm no fan of wimpy sentencing, and that I've had it with the every-excuse-in-the-book style of defense lawyering.  But there are limits.  DOJ went well beyond them when it sought a life sentence for an Amish bishop convicted of conspiracy to forcibly cut beards....

Bishop Samuel Mullett is not Mr. Nicey, according to the government's sentencing memo. The story reports that, in addition to leading the beard-cutting conspiracy for which he was convicted, prosecutors "characterized Mullet as an iron-fisted bishop who exerted total control over his flock: He censored his followers' mail, had sex with married women under the guise of marital counseling, endorsed bizarre punishments such as confinement in chicken coops and spankings, and laughed at the attacks, which were driven by a crusade to punish those who spurned his teachings."

Those are bad things, and if they are true, they are properly taken into account in federal sentencing....  But life? Is this guy Ted Kaczynski?  Zacarias Moussaoui?  Not exactly.  How does DOJ wind up recommending life for the ring leader in a beard-cutting conspiracy? They might just be smoking weed, but I suspect something else, less groovy and more ominous, is at work.

This seems to be a part of the present administration's snarling hostility to religion. And one must admit the defendant makes a politically apt target.  This "bishop" sounds like a first-class thug, and he heads a splinter group in what is itself a very small, conservative, insular religion that must seem to Eric Holder to be ripe for the pickin'.  But this is taking liberal detestation of religion to an absurd extreme.  What happened to government neutrality?  Could a sentencing recommendation this far off the wall possibly have come about without at least an element of anti-religious bigotry?

What we have here is a 67 year-old man with no prior record (so far as I know or is reported in the story) who organized, and then (apparently) laughed at, beard cuttings.  It's only when viewed in the funhouse mirror of Holder's Very Politically Correct DOJ that this could be seen as an LWOP offense.

Does the "bishop" deserve jailtime?  You bet, and I hope he gets it.  But life in the slammer? DOJ's action would be a joke if, on account of its menacing, if only shadowy, political and cultural motivations, it weren't so dangerous.

I find Bill's perspective here quite stunning (and telling) given Bill's oft-stated affinity for making the federal guidelines mandatory again and his advocacy for long-terms of incarceration to incapacitate dangerous offenders.  Let me explain (using some of Bill's own words):

1. Bill asks "How does DOJ wind up recommending life for the ring leader in a beard-cutting conspiracy?"; he asserts that only "in the funhouse mirror of Holder's Very Politically Correct DOJ that this could be seen as an LWOP offense." Actually, DOJ is only recommending a within-guideline sentence for Samuel Mullet Sr. (and it is recommending well-below guideline sentences for all the other Amish defendants).  In other words, it is only the crazy "funhouse mirror" of unduly severe federal sentencing guidelines (and the continued affinity for these guidelines stressed by folks like Bill) which makes this crime appear to be an LWOP offense.

2. As referenced in the government's sentencing memo, many other members of the Amish community have written to prosecutors to stress that Samuel Mullet Sr. is a religious terrorist comparable to other violent zealots quick and eager to do great harm to anyone who does not follow his edicts or share his views.   My own disaffinity for severe sentences was tempered as I read these letters from members of the Amish community; I came to think that showing real respect for the Amish religion may require a severe sentencing term for Mullet and his most radical followers.

3. The government's sentencing memo and related materials certainly indicate (a) that the Amish community has been much safer since Mullet's arrest, and (b) that Mullet has shown no remorse and may well return to his terrorizing ways if and whenever released from custody.  Though I am not a big fan of using vague concerns about recidivism to justify longer terms of imprisonment, in this case the risk of recidivism seems quite significant and the future crimes would surely be directed toward the very Amish community whom Bill thinks DOJ is here disrespecting.

I could go on and on, but I want to give Bill and chance to respond in the comments and also allow others to share their perspectives on this fascinating case.  (I should note that I share the view that an LWOP sentence here is overkill, though I see this as an overkill prompted by dysfunctional federal sentencing guidelines, not a religion-hating DOJ.  And though Bill never indicates what kind of prison term would be fitting in his eyes, I think something in the neighborhood to 10 years may be about right to achieve all the diverse and challenging federal sentencing purposes implicated in this case.)

Whatever else one thinks about these issues, this Amish beard-cutting case surely provides yet another example of the many ways in which difficult sentencing cases can starkly reveal (a) how problematic any rigid system of sentencing guidelines can often be, and (b) what values are at the core of various persons' diverse sentencing perspectives.

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Comments

I agree with much of what Doug has said, but I will add this: to come to the conclusion that this administration has a "snarling hostility to religion," one would hope that Bill could provide more than one example. Good arguments, whether by lawyers or scientists, have evidence to back them up. Where is the evidence here except for this single instance? One point does not make a line.

Posted by: Michael J.Z. Mannheimer | Feb 7, 2013 11:55:46 AM

Michael, Bill's evidence is that is what Fox News told him to think :P

To expect more evidence than that you must be one of those liberal elitists ;)

And Bill's nonsensical and malicious personal attack on the President and Attorney Genereal of the United States should not be dignified with a response let alone a post.

Posted by: Erika | Feb 7, 2013 12:29:51 PM

Regular readers know that Bill Otis has a certain, with respect, schtick,* and the good professor, who knows him personally (I even saw Youtube footage of them together) knows this too. Come on. How 'stunning' is this selective attack on Obama? Next up, it's 'stunning' how he attacks defense attorneys.

Given I asked on the thread myself what a reasonable sentence is given the factors involved (a bit more serious than "omg beard cutting!" type comments warrant), I appreciate the discussion of the OP and the ballpark figure.

But, the professor has taken the Mr. Polite method here. Whatever works.

[* we all have our own, but he has honed one more than some]

Posted by: Joe | Feb 7, 2013 12:39:42 PM

There is no reason to believe that the sentence sought in this case has anything to do with the president or the attorney general's supposed beliefs about religion. This is example number 3,000,921 of an unreasonable guidelines sentence. These unreasonable guideline sentences continue to happen because people like Bill Otis continue to support them in almost every other instance, and continue to play the demogogue any time anyone suggests progressive criminal justice reform. I'm really not interested in hearing Bill's complaints about this particular case.

Posted by: Ryan from Las Vegas | Feb 7, 2013 12:41:26 PM


Ha! I guess the first thing to say is that I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't. For the most part, I support stern sentencing, because (1) people ought to be responsible for what they do, rather than make the circus of allocution excuses I heard for years while in the USAO, and (2) stern sentencing works, as shown by the stunning reduction in crime over the last generation. (This is something Doug would rather have a root canal than admit).

I have made some exceptions, of course. One was when I supported a sentence commutation for Scooter Libby. In that case, as in this one, I got howls of condemnation, some from people who just thought Libby should be strung up because he was a Republican who supported the Iraq war, but most from people accusing me of hypocrisy. Their own hypocrisy in relentlessly wanting leniency but suddenly, in that one instance, drooling for Libby's pound of flesh, never even occurred to them.

Now we have the same thing. The ususal cast who think every meth pusher, swindler, rapist and strong-arm in sight should get anything -- ANYTHING -- but stern treatment (can't add to "incarceration nation"!) are outraged about my condemnation of DOJ's sentencing recommendation in this case.

Outraged, that is, while ever-so-quietly agreeing with me, as Doug does in this sentence buried deep, deep within his long post: "I should note that I share the view that an LWOP sentence here is overkill, though I see this as an overkill prompted by dysfunctional federal sentencing guidelines, not a religion-hating DOJ."

Oh, OK, so I'm correct in my conclusion, but Doug (and others) disagree with me about why DOJ has gone very, very far off the deep end here (conspicuously without offering any suggestion about what the reason might be). One might think there would be some curiosity about that, but noooooooooo, not an ounce. The problem is (suddenly) not with abuse of power by the present administration; the problem is with someone who CRITICIZES that abuse of power (this notwithstanding that Doug has relentlessly criticized the same Administration for abusing, by not employing, the pardon power). (Apparently accusing the Administration of being hostile and callous toward prisoners is to be preferrred to accusing the Administration of being hostile and callous toward religion).

There is more going on here than appears on the surface. I barely know where to begin. So I'll just take it from the top.

1. Commenters who piously oppose the death penalty no matter what the facts, including for some of these grotesque child torture/murders, murder-for-hire, etc. (as some of my critics above do) are in no position to criticize SOMEONE ELSE'S supposedly being off the reservation in their thinking about sentencing.

2. Much of the ire directed at me is simply from those enraptured with the Obama Administration and who resent any criticism of the President or his appointees. Commenter "Joe" comes to mind. Therefore the emphasis has to be shifted away from this bizzare sentencing recommendation and onto me, as being, as Erika says, merely a shill for Fox News. (Has Fox News even covered this? I wouldn't know).

3. Some of the other ire directed at me is from those who, like this Administration, ALSO have no use for religion, and are thus happy to see a bishop get sent away for as long as possible, simply because he's a bishop. If some guy in a mere meth gang (instead of an Amish sect) had gotten the same LWOP recommendation from DOJ -- for BEARD CUTTING -- they'd be besides themselves.

4. I might add that the same turning-on-a-dime would also show up if the defendant here were an imam instead of a bishop (some religions being better than others, in the Administration's view). If an imam imposed "discipline" on some of the faithful by beard-cutting (or beard requirements), and DOJ recommended a life sentence, the Left would explode in outrage about racism (plus the other usual suspects).

Of course DOJ isn't about to go after an imam for anything like this, and never has. Indeed, and in a laughable coincidence, Obama's executive branch was recently turning itself into a pretzel trying to protect the beard belonging to Maj. Hasan (the Jihadist Ft. Hood mass killer). Indeed, it acquiesced in months of delay in an extremely serious and unarguably properly federal case (unlike this one) for ridiculous litigation about Hasan's beard.

Hey, well, look, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's just that the Administration has something about beards. I mean SOMETHING out of left field has to account for these two harebrained episodes, dontcha think?

5. As to Prof. Mannheimer's view: The main item in Obama's hostility toward religion is his spinning the Catholic Church on who must provide, and who must pay for, contraception under the ACA, a subject that has provoked a firestorm of contoversy and no little (and ongoing) litigation. If you want to know about Obama's hostility toward religion, the Catholic Conference of Bishops is a better source than I. This case is peanuts by comparison. (I'm not Catholic, BTW).

I'll have more to say later. Other tasks beckon at the moment.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 7, 2013 2:13:58 PM

Just a few more quickies for now. Today is turning out to be busier than I thought.

1. The title of Doug's post is: "Are tough sentences sought in Amish beard-cutting case part of a DOJ 'war on religion'"? But I never referred to a "war on religion," and I am not the source of that phrase. Hostility is not the same, indeed it is not remotely the same, as war. I guess sticking in some incendiary words I refrained from using makes my remarks easier to criticize.

2. I'm flattered that Doug would think an entry of mine on C&C worthy of an entire post of his own (that is not sarcastic). I must wonder, though, why other C&C entries Kent and I have put up, about the crime surge in some cities in California post-Plata, are not regarded as equally worthy. My suspicion is that they don't get re-posted here because they undermine the very, very important notion in the minds of Plata supporters that releasing thousands of prisoners will not affect the incidence of crime.

In fact, it was certain to have that effect, but the evidence that the uptick is happening seems to be less important to highlight than my views about DOJ's off-the-wall recommendation in the beard-cutting case.

3. In the post immediately before this one, Doug quotes, with obvious approval, the remarks of Prof. Todd Haugh about DOJ's sentencing recommendation in another case. Prof. Hough lambastes, as he puts it, "the crime master narrative of 'all white collar offenders should be given life sentences because they are greedy and evil.'"

Of course there is no such narrative. I have never heard a single person say that all white collar offenders should be given life sentences because they are greedy and evil (or for any other reason).

So while Doug has problems with my attributing to Obama's DOJ a hostility to religion -- indeed he views that attribution as a little nuts -- he has no such problems with Prof. Haugh's attributing to "crime masters" (I guess this means conservatives) the alleged but actually non-existent notion that "all white collar offenders should be given life sentences because they are greedy and evil."

Well my goodness!! Could this be the infamous double standard?? At the least, it does indeed make one wonder, as Doug has said, "what values are at the core of various persons' diverse sentencing perspectives."

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 7, 2013 3:45:36 PM

I honestly don't see any evidence whatsoever that the DOJ's decision is based on hostility to religion. I don't seen how that is even plausible. Do you really think the AG, or any of the AAGs, or the local USA, actually thought, "gee, this man is Amish, and that's a religion (sort of), so let's throw the book at him?" Come on.

I agree with Doug. To the extent this sentence is crazy, it is crazy because of the Guidelines (which are known in a number of cases to produce crazy results). Taking a single prosecution, and coupling it with a longstanding, non-DOJ position on contraceptives, and deducing from that a holtility to religion... I just don't see the connection. I really don't, and I'm trying hard. This sounds more like conspiracy theory. Indeed, as Doug mentioned, there is plenty of evidence that the DOJ is acting to protect the vast majority of the relevant Amish community.

AO

Posted by: AnonymousOne | Feb 7, 2013 4:11:26 PM

Bill, I think it important that you respond to all of the points and evidence mustered in Doug's post. How do you get a hostility to religion from the fact that by locking this guy up, they are helping all these other amish people? How does one case show some hostility to religion? Have you even read the sentencing memo? you may think it nuts, but that is different form hostility to religion. it just doesn't square with any actual evidence.

Posted by: EnrapturedFemale | Feb 7, 2013 4:14:03 PM

I think "Ted" has a point that must be reckoned with. I personally think this sentence to be unnecessarily harsh, as I do of many other sentences. I blame the Guidelines, Congress (which meddles for purely political reasons and without much though pushes aside the Commission), and the DOJ's slavish adherence to the Guidelines. However, Ted argued, at least plausibly, that this defendant is a repeat rapist and betterer who has repeatedly abused his position of trust to commit these crimes, infringed on the rights of dozens of Amish to freely practice their own religion, and shows absolutely no signs of remorse or any indication that, if released, he would do otherwise.

Bill, perhaps your willingness to call a life sentence outrageous for a unrepentant and repeat rapist, batterer, and abuser of power is your own extreme deference to religion. Would you feel the same if this were an atheist leading a cult of personality in the woods?

BHC

Posted by: BleedingHeartCondition | Feb 7, 2013 4:17:11 PM

Doug:

FWIW I think it best to keep Bill below the fold of the paper, if you know what I mean. Attention by detraction is still attention.

Posted by: Daniel | Feb 7, 2013 5:14:36 PM

Professor Berman, why feed the troll? This is a great blog, full of interesting and useful information. It would be great if this blog had a useful, interesting comment section. But it doesn't. A large percentage of the comments are made by people who aren't interested in being productive. Bill is obviously one of those people. I know you know who the others are. So why feed the trolls? I would genuinely like to know. It's one thing to stomach Bill posting here. If I were you, I'd shut people like him down. But it's your blog and you can obviously do what you like. That being said, I really don't understand why you encourage and facilitate him. Thoughts?

Posted by: Anon | Feb 7, 2013 5:16:58 PM

Anon,

I respectfully disagree, though I do understand how one can be frustrated by some posts on this blog by a number of different posters.

While I disagree with Bill on almost every point discussed on this blog, and even if I may believe some points to be baseless, his thoughts are a counterpoint and I do want to hear them. I don't think it fair or responsible to shut people out unless the content is inane, unfairly offensive, or irrelevant to the subject. I'd expect the same courtesy from Bill if he ran a blog, and I suspect he'd give it to me.

I think Doug is doing the right thing in keeping the posting open.

AO

Posted by: AnonymousOne | Feb 7, 2013 5:34:24 PM

Of course none of the alleged rapes were charged and I suspect would be federal crimes, making an interesting parallel to the 2d Cir case that failed to go en banc (over Chief Judge Jacobs' vigorous objections) described in a post a few days ago. If life was within-guidelines, I suppose that means the bottom end of the guidelines range (has anything been posted that actually works through the math to see how you get to the guidelines range, esp. if this guy is crim hist category I?) would be 360 months? Since that's a de facto life sentence for a 67 year old, it is even more puzzling why DOJ didn't say look, we're not piling on here, we're happy for him to get the bottom of the range.

The idea that hostility to religion (or certain sorts of religion) might be part of the current Administration's worldview does not strike me as inherently far-fetched, but this does not strike me as a credible example of that impulse in practice, given that the victims were equally religious and, indeed, you need to get fairly deep into the victims' non-mainstream worldview in order to comprehend why the seemingly trivial/comical act of beard-cutting was such a big deal. We don't have too many Amish in the NYC area, but we do have Hasidim, who have various internal factional disputes that are generally opaque to outsiders. Sometimes those disputes spill over into violence, and vigorous-but-proportionate secular prosecution (without taking sides as to which faction is right from a theological perspective) is, IMHO, the appropriate response. See, e.g., http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/06/nyregion/in-hasidic-village-attempted-murder-arrest-is-linked-to-schism.html?_r=0.

Religious-conservative commentary on the situation (quoting Doug Berman AND Bill Otis) can be found here: http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/02/07/doj-seeks-life-for-beard-shearing-mullet/.

Posted by: JWB | Feb 7, 2013 5:35:11 PM

Sorry, editing glitch lost the point that the alleged uncharged rapes would presumably NOT have been federal crimes.

Posted by: JWB | Feb 7, 2013 5:36:29 PM

BHC --

"Bill, perhaps your willingness to call a life sentence outrageous for a unrepentant and repeat rapist, batterer, and abuser of power is your own extreme deference to religion."

Would you mind quoting any post of mine evincing extreme, or any, deference to religion? The truth is the opposite. I have repeatedly said that relgion may be relevant, but is not to be followed, in matters of secular law. This comes up most frequently when the abolitionists here invoke some bunch of clergymen protesting against the DP, and they try to bully retentionists by pretending that only abolitionists speak for God.

I'll wait for your quotation.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 7, 2013 5:58:41 PM

Enratured Female --

"Bill, I think it important that you respond to all of the points and evidence mustered in Doug's post. How do you get a hostility to religion from the fact that by locking this guy up, they are helping all these other amish people?"

I said the Administration is hostile; I didn't say it was stupid. This Administration is the best I have ever seen at finding good political cover, and seizing on the Amish victims here is a masterstroke, I readily concede.

It has more than a little in common with a post Doug put up recently about an adorable autistic boy who was helped (so his parents plausibly claimed) by some marijana abstract. The genius of this approach is that it exploits a sympathetic, but vastly unusual, case in the service of a much broader agenda (recreational pot legalization) that has next to nothing to do with the case used for an allustration.

The same sort of thinking is going on here. If you're hostile to religion, the JUICIEST CASE for you to go after is one in which the victims are religious. It's great cover. My hat is off to them for it.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 7, 2013 6:09:12 PM

"Bill, perhaps your willingness to call a life sentence outrageous for a unrepentant and repeat rapist, batterer, and abuser of power is your own extreme deference to religion. Would you feel the same if this were an atheist leading a cult of personality in the woods?"

That was what I said. No quote from you. Only that it was bizarre, given your views, that you would argue that LWOP was not justified for an "unrepentant and repeat rapist, batterer, and abuser of power," and the the only difference here seems to be that this is a religious man purporting to commit his heinous crimes in the name of religion--and, importantly, not a muslim religion.

Your responses here and in a prior post have skirted around "Ted"'s question. This is not just some man cutting beards. We all agree a life sentence for that alone is silly, but similarly silly is the characterization of this case as such. Again, this is an "unrepentant and repeat rapist, batterer, and abuser of power." He is widely known and feared in a religious community gripped by his terror. Moreover, given his remorse, ideological commitment to this criminal activity and position of power, it is very likely that if released, he will return to such behavior or its promotion. So how is LWOP such a gross punishment?

It matters not to me that others may have misplaced sympathy for Muslims who commit crime. They would be wrong. Here, however, I question your own consistency.

BHC

Posted by: BleedingHeartCondition | Feb 7, 2013 6:16:14 PM

AnonymousOne --

"I don't think it fair or responsible to shut people out unless the content is inane, unfairly offensive, or irrelevant to the subject. I'd expect the same courtesy from Bill if he ran a blog, and I suspect he'd give it to me."

Yes, I would.

Just so you'll know, while I don't run a blog, I am an invited contributor on Crime & Consequences. Not infrequently, I will post something from this blog, and will also write about a story this blog has brought to my attention.

Doug has commented in the comments section of C&C, although nowhere near as frequently as I have commented here.

One of Doug's virtues, which I am happy to see you share, is that he believes in hearing and taking on the other side. Indeed, although I have frequently offered to debate one poster or another on this blog (Erika being one), he is the only one who has actually done it (as Joe alluded to).

Thank you for speaking up against 21st Century McCarthyism.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 7, 2013 6:19:18 PM

Bill,

You have not dealt with any of Doug's specific evidence. Have you read the sentencing memo?

I think AO put it best. How do you get from a single prosecution against an Amish person (and, as Doug pointed out, reasonable deals/sentences for others involved), and the protection of dozens of religious victims of religious persecution, to a DOJ hostility to religion? Is that even a remotely plausible interpretation? The high sentence alone won't do it--this is an unprecedented case, and the DOJ regularly advocated extremely harsh Guidelines sentences.

You can only twist these facts into evidence for hostility by claiming--far-fetched conspiratorial rhetoric--that this is the perfect way to demonstrate hostility to religion, as there are religious victims. Bill, do you seriously think DOJ was waiting for years to prosecute some Christians and jumped when they finally found the perfect case with religious victims to provide cover? Do you realize how ridiculous and bizarrely conspiratorial that sounds?

It is an argument, based on "evidence", worthy of a pro se petitioner in a habeas case. I've seen many like it. Perhaps you've seen too many as well.

Enraptured Female

Posted by: EnrapturedFemale | Feb 7, 2013 6:28:01 PM

So the evidence that seems inconsistent with the thesis that this particular prosecution is driven by hostility to religion is simply part of the cover-up, because that's just how diabolically clever this Administration is? Only a guilty man would have such a plausible alibi? The trouble with conspiracy-theory thinking is not so much that there never are any conspiracies, it's that once you accept the rhetorical ploy of dismissing inconsistent evidence as simply confirmatory of the cover-up, the original claim as to the existence of the particular conspiracy becomes unfalsifiable and therefore untestable.

Posted by: JWB | Feb 7, 2013 6:29:47 PM

Ryan from Las Vegas --

"These unreasonable guideline sentences continue to happen because people like Bill Otis continue to support them in almost every other instance, and continue to play the demogogue any time anyone suggests progressive criminal justice reform. I'm really not interested in hearing Bill's complaints about this particular case."

I was previously unaware that anyone was forcing you to listen to them.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 7, 2013 6:31:03 PM

I don’t know if there is a conscious war, but the policies of the Obama Administration clearly
1). prefer liberalism in Christianity over conservatism, and
2). feature hyper-sensitivity to Islam coupled hypocritically with copious criticism & opposition to traditional Christian values.

1). Liberal or radical Christianity is better than conservative, to the President:

-- “You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest…
it’s not surprising they get bitter, they cling to Guns or *Religion or Antipathy to people who
aren’t like them or Anti-immigrant sentiment…~~Sen. Obama, 4/08

-- "Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation…"~~Pres. Obama, 6/06
-- "And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from
the United States of America…[w]hich passages of *Scripture should guide our public policy?
Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is abomination?"
~~Sen. Obama, 6/06

-- "I've got two daughters, 9-yrs-old and 6-yrs old. I am going to teach them first of all
about values and morals. But if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby."
~~Sen. Obama, 3/28/09
[1st Executive order was for tax-payers to fund "performing or promoting abortion services"]:

-- [In support of homosexual unions:] “If people find that controversial then I would just refer
them to the Sermon on the Mount.”~~Pres. Obama, 3/2/08

-- [In support of homosexual & transvestiite adoptions:] "As your President, I will use the bully
pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws."
~~Pres. Obama, 2/28/08

-- “I am not willing to have the state deny American citizens…because the people they love are
of the same sex—nor am I willing to accept a reading of the Bible" consistent with such denial.”
~~"The Audacity of Hope"

-- [re: Rev. Wright] "He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children….
I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community."~~3/18/08

---- ----- A bit about Wright: “Twenty-two church members who did not like the direction in which
Wright was taking Trinity lodged a complaint with the UCC, then left the church. Wright attacked
them as Uncle Toms “running to ‘massa’ to tell a white man what they thought was happening to
their Negro church.” He had nothing but contempt for these middle-class blacks. They were, he
noted, “bourgeois Negroes who wanted to be white.” Wright considered himself a “new Black
who is not ashamed of his Blackness.”~~ spectator.org/archives/2011/12/09/the-gospel-according-to-wright

-- "We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation."~~Pres. Obama in Turkey, 4/6/09

Posted by: Adamakis | Feb 7, 2013 6:49:10 PM

JWB --

You are one smart dude and should post more often.

I see your point, which is wonderfully made, but I would ask that you see mine. I'll give you an illustration.

After years of refusing to have a Crime Victims Advisory Group -- the better to white out opposition to its pro-defense proposals -- the Sentencing Commission was finally shamed onto allowing such a group.

But they got the last say. They put on it some people who were serious crime victimization, sure. But they also put on there the Victims for Reconciliation (or whatever the name is) -- a group of crime victims or relatives who, for whatever ideological or Stockholm Syndrome reasons -- just cannot have enough "compassion" for criminals.

Finding and enlisting the Amish victims here is, as I said, a masterstoke of similar clever thinking. You use the Victims for Reconciliation as the camel's nose for pro-crime proposals; you use the autistic boy helped by marijuana extract as the camel's nose of recreational use; and you use a case in which there are religtious victims as the camel's nose for hostility toward religion.

It's not that I'm a conspiracy theorist. It's that the other side is really, really good at disguise.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 7, 2013 6:50:02 PM

AO: "I don't think it fair or responsible to shut people out unless the content is inane, unfairly offensive, or irrelevant to the subject."

me: sorry, but i do not see how anyone can possibly read bill's screeds here without concluding that all of the above applies. Bill is doing nothing but levying ludicrous - and internally contradictory since apparently according to Bill President Obama is both hostile to religion and favors Islam which last time i checked is a religion - personal attacks against public officials lifted directly from right wing media who do not let little things like facts* get in the way of constant goal to attack President Obama in every circumstance no matter ho internally inconsistent or contradictory to what they were saying even a couple of hours before hand which would be more at home on a right wing conspiracy nut blog than on what is a presumably serious legal website.

Yes, Bill often has intelligent things to say about the law, but this isn't one of those times. This is nothing but a partisan attack.

Erika :)

* the vast majority of U.S. Catholics oppose the birth control ban, for example, as do most Protestant denominations who see absolutely no contradiction at all between birth control and Christianity - and allowing a small minority group within one religion to dictate U.S. policy for everyone including the majority of believers in that religion is a pretty good working definition of tyranny. In fact, the ultimate goal of the small group of ultra right wing Catholic Bishops and their allies in the SBC, Assemblies of God and other Christian Right (better not tell those Bishops about how many of their allies in the Protestant and Charismatic Christian Right believe what Jack T. Chick tells them about Catholics) is to ban birth control for everyone. The attempt to ban birth control for everyone is nothing but a way for right wing mysognists to attack and discriminate against women. In fact, Fox News only cooked up this phony "War on Religion" after it was clear that the geniune War Against Women and attacks on birth control access was hurting the Republicans.

Posted by: Erika | Feb 7, 2013 6:52:02 PM

"But they also put on there the Victims for Reconciliation (or whatever the name is) -- a group of crime victims or relatives who, for whatever ideological or Stockholm Syndrome reasons -- just cannot have enough "compassion" for criminals."

Well, I suppose I need some therapy for my own condition. I preached forgiveness, not just vengeance. I was unaware at that early time that revenge is healthy, but forgiveness, redemption, and second chances pathological.

Very truly yours,

Jesus H. Christ

Posted by: JesusChrist | Feb 7, 2013 7:38:29 PM

Jesus H. Christ --

Will all respect, sir, and with due deference to your teachings, you and your followers do not dictate secular law. Thus, for example, your followers' campaign to abolish the DP by trying to bully retentionists with religion is unworthy. It's also a flop, BTW.

P.S. You might want to talk to BHC, who is very much against giving this defendant the "second chance" you're urging.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 7, 2013 8:14:29 PM

Erika --

You likewise occasionally have intelligent things to say. You make a good point today: That I was insufficiently precise in saying the the Obama Administration is hostile to religion. As you correctly note, it is not hostile to Islam. Indeed, didn't it just send a whole batch of F-16's to President Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood's Mr. Nicey of the Mideast?

So you're right. Thank you. Thanks also for going three consecutive posts (I think it's three, anyway) without suggesting that someone get castrated.

This is not a world in which progress is inevitable, but it's still occasionally possible.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 7, 2013 8:23:34 PM

Adamakis --

You are a great researcher, way better than I am. I appreciate it and I thank you. I also note that no one has taken on the results of your research.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 7, 2013 8:26:27 PM

After all the huffing and puffing about how I have to be nuts to see hostility to religion in DOJ's action here, NOT A SINGLE ONE of my critics has offered any even marginally plausible reason to explain why (1) DOJ reaches out to make a federal case of what is obviously a local matter (as a number of people have conceded),* then (2) filed a screed of a sentencing recommendation that virtually the entire board agrees is over the top.

Did DOJ just have a bad day? Assign only inexperienced and slightly loony AUSA's? Did this just happen at random?

* Some have said the local Amish people asked DOJ. I will assume this is true, but it's no explanation. DOJ is asked thousands of times a year by disgruntled or legitimately frightened groups or individuals to take a given case, and these requests are almost always denied, as anyone who ever worked at DOJ would know.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 7, 2013 8:55:25 PM

"With all respect, sir, and with due deference to your teachings, you and your followers do not dictate secular law."

Sometimes I get confused, with all the din about how this nation is built on Judeo-Christian values. If only I could have designed a system in which forgiveness and redemption, among my favorite virtues, would endure with the same popularity as gay-bashing.

Oy! How did a young Jewish boy like me get into this whole mess?

Jesus H. Christ

P.S. Don't tell your friends we spoke. They will think you are crazy.

Posted by: JesusChrist | Feb 7, 2013 9:33:42 PM

Jesus H. Christ --

They already think I'm crazy.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 7, 2013 10:20:25 PM

On the subject of this Administration's hostility to religion (Christianity, in this instance):

A friend just jogged my memory about an incident maybe two and a half years ago in which some (admittedly fruitcake) Christian minister, Rev. Terry Jones, was threatening to publicly burn a Koran.

Q: Now what would an Administration dedicated to the First Amendment and the right both to dissent to the free display of religious beliefs do about that?

A: Probably nothing, since it is no business of the government whether a citizen engages in peaceful protest. But if it were going to say something, it would probably be (and should be) along the lines that, in this country, we have freedom both of speech and religion, and that Rev. Jones may have a severely unpopular and wrongheaded view of things, but it is precisely the point of the First Amendment to keep the government from putting the bite on such things.

Q: What did the Obama Administration actually do?

A: First, it had Holder loudly and publicly denounce Rev. Jones. When that seemed like it wasn't going to work, it sent an armed FBI agent down to "interview" him. What "crime" he is supposed to have committed to warrant this honor remains a mystery.

Q: If the Bush Administration had done exactly that to an imam who threatened to publicy burn the Bible (but nothing more than that), how would the Left have reacted?

A: They's STILL be screaming that Bush is Hitler.

So much for the notion that this Administration bears no hostility toward religion, Chrisianity (and Judaism) in particular.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 7, 2013 11:01:07 PM

This President has to consider troops overseas, not just crazy ministers here. Each time one of these burnings happen, U.S. troops are killed. Everybody knows this. Troops don't appreciate these ministers rubbing their hatred of Islam in the public's face. Troops hate it because, even if they agree, troops die. Such antics are good at one and just about only one thing: getting U.S. troops killed in retaliatory attacks.

Yes, Koran-burning is protected speech (even though an incitement argument might be made). Yes, the response is infantile, despicable and criminal (death of those having nothing to do with the burning, or death for anyone burning anything period). But instead of viewing the President's actions as some misplaced sympathy for Muslims or hostility to the First Amendment, remember that the President has a duty to protect the troops. Cut him a little understanding.

Posted by: ProtectTheTroops | Feb 8, 2013 12:09:09 AM

No.

Posted by: C.E. | Feb 8, 2013 12:17:35 AM

ProtectTheTroops --

Understanding the President's reasons is different from excusing his actions. Reagan's "reasons" for the arms-for-hostages deal were admirable -- to secure the hostages' release. But as his enemies furiously argued, and Reagan later admitted, the deal was all wrong and should never have been done.

What Obama did was even worse. If the Taliban wants to kill American soldiers, the answer is not to muzzle protected speech by Americans but to kill the Taliban first. Isn't it liberals who so often say that, if we forfeit our own liberties in the war against terrorism, that means the terrorists have won?

In addition, Reagan's actions did not chill anything protected by the Constitution, but the Obama Administration's did.

Sorry, when you send the FBI to intimidate a Christian minister exercising First Amendment rights, but do not do the same when some offensive imam does the same thing, you are evincing hostility toward the Christian minister.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 8, 2013 12:59:10 AM

I will now address the main argument made by Doug and some commenters: That DOJ's off-the-wall sentencing recommendation is the result, not of hostility to the religious beliefs of this tyrannical, fruitcake bishop, but of the Sentincing Commission's guidelines.

Doug puts it thusly: "I see this as an overkill prompted by dysfunctional federal sentencing guidelines, not a religion-hating DOJ....Whatever else one thinks about these issues, this Amish beard-cutting case surely provides yet another example of the many ways in which difficult sentencing cases can starkly reveal...how problematic any rigid system of sentencing guidelines can often be..."

Others have echoed this argument, e.g., Ryan, AnonymousOne and BHC.

The argument is incorrect for a number of reasons.

First, the issue here is the government's sentencing recommendation, NOT the sentence itself (which has yet to be determined and is very likely to differ from the government's recommendation). The Sentencing Commission does not make sentencing recommendations in individual cases, and I have no evidence it even knows this beard-cutting case exists. DOJ can make any recommendation it cares to, and frequently recommends sentences outside the guidelines-determined range (far more often down than up).

Second, it could scarcely be the case that the Sentencing Guidelines are the problem in this case when THOSE EXACT SAME GUIDELINES exist for the other 15 defendants, all of whom are recommended to get (and very likely will get) sentences that not a single commenter has objected to. In other words, the bottom line from the comments section is that the Guidelines are OK for fifteen-sixteenths of this case, but all of a sudden become the devil's spawn because of one-sixteenth.

Does anyone see something wrong with this picture?

Third, assuming arguendo that the Commission's Guidelines are the problem, I guess I should take a bow for having recommended years ago that the Commission be abolished (this in an article I wrote for the Federal Sentencing Reporter, and again in Congressional testimony).

Oddly though, the same pro-defense types who now condemn the Commission's Guidelines were the first to rise to the Commission's defense, insisting that it should become more active than ever (and eat more taxpayer money than ever, which it is doing).

Sorry, ladies and gentlemen. You can't lay DOJ's LWOP sentencing recommendation off on the USSC. The Department, which seldom recommends going to the top of the range, decided to do so all on its own. The Department can now back it up.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 8, 2013 1:48:16 AM

"In other words, the bottom line from the comments section is that the Guidelines are OK for fifteen-sixteenths of this case, but all of a sudden become the devil's spawn because of one-sixteenth."

Yes, in some cases, the Guidelines can recommend a bad sentence, while for other defendants, it won't. That is not surprising. That is, in fact, to be expected when that single defendant is the ringleader and most culpable.

"Oddly though, the same pro-defense types who now condemn the Commission's Guidelines were the first to rise to the Commission's defense, insisting that it should become more active than ever (and eat more taxpayer money than ever, which it is doing)."

To criticize the Guidelines in this and other flawed areas (CP, certain drug offenses, certain fraud offenses) is not to suggest that the Commission should have a less active role. It is that the Commission should do its job. For instance, in the CP arena, it is Congress that swoops in, typically after amendments drafted in little time and with absolutely no debate or testimony, and directs amendments to the Guidelines. When the Commission does its job, it tends to do a much better job than Congress. It is less political and more thoughtful. It has special expertise. Just because we may criticize the Commission does not mean we think it in general to be bad. So there is nothing surprising about coming to the defense of the Commission's work back then, and criticizing some of it (or Congress's work) now.

I still think it ridiculous to suppose this LWOP recommendation is a result of any hostility toward religion. If that were the point, why pick the Amish? They are not a major religion. Most people don't even understand what they believe. Many Americans don't even know it has a strong religious, rather than cultural, component. The idea that DOJ officials sat around waiting for a religion case with religious victims, just so they could shove it to religion, is I think preposterous. The idea they would take that opportunity with something as rare and bizarre as an Amish crime is even more preposterous.

Finally, you have not specifically dealt with why LWOP is improper for--I know its been said before--a repeat and unrepentant rapist, batterer, infringer of religious freedom, and abuser of power. You have not explained why an unrepentant person ideologically committed to his crimes is going to be deterred by anything other than LWOP. Nor have I seen a sentencing proposal from you--let alone one consistent with decades-long and DOJ-recommended sentences meted out--likely with your approval--to possessors of CP that have not actually raped or battered anyone, infringed on anyone's religious beliefs, or showed no glimmer of remorse.


BHC

Posted by: BleedingHeartCondition | Feb 8, 2013 3:04:09 AM

I understand it is not a justification for the President's actions, but it does tend to make less likely any claim that those actions are motivated primarily by some love for Islam or distaste for the First Amendment. And he is trying to kill these people, with troops in drones.

I suspect that he cringes when this happens not because he gives a damn about Islam--I'm sure he, like Bill Clinton, and despite protestations to the contrary, is an Atheist--but because he knows it will cause incredible difficulty in wars he is trying to wage and result in unnecessary deaths to his troops.

Posted by: ProtectTheTroops | Feb 8, 2013 3:07:09 AM

BHC --

"Yes, in some cases, the Guidelines can recommend a bad sentence, while for other defendants, it won't."

Which would seem to mean that Doug's laying the blame at the feet of the guidelines SYSTEM is incorrect. So we agree.

"That is not surprising. That is, in fact, to be expected when that single defendant is the ringleader and most culpable."

Then we also agree that the good Bishop Mullett deserves a nice stint in the slammer. But LWOP?

"I still think it ridiculous to suppose this LWOP recommendation is a result of any hostility toward religion. If that were the point, why pick the Amish? They are not a major religion. Most people don't even understand what they believe."

It's PRECISELY BECAUSE the Amish are a tiny, and many think odd, sect that they get picked. Did you think they were first going to go after some powerful and wealthy denomination like Episcopalians? That would be nuts.

The Administration is clever and wonderfully opportunistic. (Wasn't it the President's chief of staff who admonished never to let a crisis go to waste?). This is a delicious place to start (just as, as I was explaining, "medical" marijuana is the right place to start the push for general acceptance of dope).

I think you underestimate how shrewd and savvy this group is. For purposes of dusting up religion, this case must have stuck them as a Godsend (so to speak). It has it all: A bishop who actually is a criminal, not to mention a thoroughly nasty character; and a body of his own people who understandably detest him. You're just not going to find better political cover than that.

"The idea that DOJ officials sat around waiting for a religion case with religious victims, just so they could shove it to religion, is I think preposterous."

But that's not what I said happened. Just as there are crimes of opportunity, there are prosecutions of opportunity. It's not that the plan was pre-existng; it's that the attitude was. See the post by Adamakis.

"Finally, you have not specifically dealt with why LWOP is improper for--I know its been said before--a repeat and unrepentant rapist, batterer, infringer of religious freedom, and abuser of power."

That's correct. That's because virtually the entire board, liberal, conservative and in between (and our host) agree with me that DOJ's sentencing recommendation is too severe. On that score, it is you, not I, who is in the vastly outnumbered position, and who therefore bears the burden of persuasion.

I hope this answers your concerns, although I think that unlikely. But if I go on too much longer, commenters like Anon | Feb 7, 2013 5:16:58 PM will complain that I should be kicked off the board (indeed, he's already made that suggestion).

P.S. I have yet to see from you any evidence for your claim, BleedingHeartCondition | Feb 7, 2013 4:17:11 PM, that I have, to use your exact words, an "extreme deference to religion." Do you have such evidence? Could I see it?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 8, 2013 4:44:33 AM

Erika --

Your suggestion that my post "should not be dignified with a response" would not appear to be doing all that well.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 8, 2013 4:48:28 AM

I would support the death penalty for shoplifting if applied to reach a mass murdering drug kingpin, or a life sentence for tax evasion for Al Capone. The sentence addresses the status of the person. The person commits hundreds of crimes a year, and the criminal law cannot cope, except via pretext.

That being said, one has to wonder a couple of practical matters.

1) What is the crime rate in the Amish community? It is likely lower than average because they have corporal punishment within the community. They are religious, and motivated to not offend by the fear of God. And the smallness of the community makes crime nearly impossible to hide.

2) The government is in competition for moral authority, and cannot tolerate the success of the Amish community in achieving Job One of government, public safety. They will crush all self help, such as people defending themselves against the lawyer client. This attitude has seeped into our culture, and is a major factor, if not the proximate cause of 9/11. The male passengers were pussified by the vile feminist lawyer, spewing their garbage, and false ideology in the comments here. Disgusting internal traitors. Come the next major terror attack, their hierarchy should be arrested, tried for an hour for their legal utterances, and summarily executed. That is the mentality at the feminist, big government, anti self help DOJ, pro-criminal intentional incompetents.

3)The DOJ thugs are not just anti-religion, they are on a raging campaign of destruction, against all competing forms of moral authority, the white family, the school, the corporation, the self defender, criminal killer.

4) Perhaps, the leader is a rapist, bully, and a thug. Indict him for those crimes. Do not demean the law itself by over sentencing for a harmless prank, which he did not personally carry out. He just knew about it.

5) If he abetted the crime, actively, he could be an accessory after the fact. So charge him with that, not a hate crime. His was a love crime, to maintain religious orthodoxy.

6) Bill deserves credit for criticizing his former colleagues, rather than criticism. Unseemly personal remarks show the personal intellectual defectiveness of the utterer rather than saying anything valid about Bill. Prof. Berman deserves credit for replying rather than shunning. Shunning is cult method (I know. The Amish use it.).

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 8, 2013 7:10:25 AM

"(a) how problematic any rigid system of sentencing guidelines can often be, and (b) what values are at the core of various persons' diverse sentencing perspectives."

That says, sentences are expressions of feelings of the judge, and therefore violate procedural due process and Equal Protection. Because judges are all pro-big government, feminist running dogs, even if extremely conservative, they cannot be trusted with sentencing. Whatever the real problems with mandatory guidelines, they are safer for the public than the procriminal, pro big government bias of the lawyers on the bench.

That is why judging should become a separate profession from which all lawyers are excluded by statute.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 8, 2013 7:28:25 AM

Well, Bill surely has it right that the sentence is way over done and the DOJ has lost it with this case...It surely could be religion ( I haven't read mny posts thus far, sorry)
and they are treating it as a hate crime....Its the Uncharged Relevant conduct that they are using to jack the sentence way way up...He used intimidation with others wifes and had sex with them, degraded and pushed the people around.. He was a bishop..
Preponderance of evidence is all thats necessary..

Reminds me of an old case that I thought the guy got slammed as well, but this guy was not nice... Google Search for "Duck Hunter gets 30 Years" His name was Victor somebody...
He was duck hunting with a Remington 870, (be careful boys) and he was a felon...At first he got a gun bump, then he was a ACCA, then he got an extra 15 yrs for sending pipe bombs to his ex girl friend....Seemed over done to me, the 15 yrs was enough..

Don't ever over look what "Uncharged Relevant Conduct" can do in the Federal System..

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Feb 8, 2013 10:54:44 AM

Just an FYI: If you could not tell from the case and press releases this was a DOJ Civil Rights case being handled by CRT attorneys including a CRT supervisor.


______________________________________________________

After all the huffing and puffing about how I have to be nuts to see hostility to religion in DOJ's action here, NOT A SINGLE ONE of my critics has offered any even marginally plausible reason to explain why (1) DOJ reaches out to make a federal case of what is obviously a local matter (as a number of people have conceded),* then (2) filed a screed of a sentencing recommendation that virtually the entire board agrees is over the top.

Did DOJ just have a bad day? Assign only inexperienced and slightly loony AUSA's? Did this just happen at random?

* Some have said the local Amish people asked DOJ. I will assume this is true, but it's no explanation. DOJ is asked thousands of times a year by disgruntled or legitimately frightened groups or individuals to take a given case, and these requests are almost always denied, as anyone who ever worked at DOJ would know.

Posted by: AUSA 12 | Feb 8, 2013 11:40:51 AM

SC --

Thank you for your observations, particularly those in point 6). As you note, although I am generally more sympathetic to the prosecution point of view than the great majority of the board, there are any number of times I have criticized DOJ. That will continue. In addition, I agree that Doug deserves great credit for presenting and engaging with viewpoints different from his own.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 8, 2013 11:44:14 AM

AUSA 12 --

Thanks for your note. I was an AUSA for 18 years, and in all that time, I never saw a sentencing recommendation this over-the-top come from the USAO. The recommendation at issue in this case for sure has the aroma of something cooked up at Main Justice (which is much more ideological than the USAO's), and I'm glad you outted it.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 8, 2013 12:19:06 PM

Mr Otis,

Anyone who supports the Iran-Contra position immediately loses any credibility in my book. And then I recall your support for Scooter after he outed Plame. Oopsies!

And then you have the gall to claim President Obama is 'chilling' the First Amendment because through AG Holder, he asked Terry Jones (a man I know personally: I went to the University of Florida) to not burn the Qu'ran, because people might die. And guess what? People died!

And the reason I believe no one is responding to Adam Ekis is because all of us (save perhaps, for yourself) know that the US was NEVER a 'Christian nation.' Unless Johnny Adams was lying back in 1797. (Interestingly, David Barton is the third link to appear in a Google search, after Wikipedia and Stephen Jay Gould.)

Mr Otis, you did a great disservice to this country. And while you are an undeniably smart man, you will never see any respect from me.

Posted by: Aron | Feb 8, 2013 12:55:13 PM

: : Aron : :

"The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were.... the general principles of Christianity."
--President John Quincy Adams (1767-1848)

"The highest glory of the American Revolution was this; it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil
government with the principles of Christianity. From the day of the Declaration...they (the American people) were
bound by the laws of God, which they all, and by the laws of The Gospel, which they nearly all, acknowledge as the
rules of their conduct."--John Q. Adams, July 4, 1821

"That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the 1st precepts of Christianity and gave to the world the
1st irrevocable pledge of the fulfillment of the prophecies announced directly from Heaven at the birth of the Saviour
and predicted by the greatest of the Hebrew prophets 600 years before."---John Q, Adams, July 4, 1837

:- Is that the Johnny Adams about whom you speak?

:- Or this Johnny Adams?

"Religion and virtue are the only foundations, not only of all republicanism and of all free government, but of social felicity
under all governments and in all the combinations of human society."--John Adams, 1811

"Now I will avow, that I then believed, and now believe, that those general Principles of Christianity, are as eternal &
immutable, as the Existence and Attributes of God; and that those Principles of liberty, are as unalterable as human
Nature and our terrestrial, mundane System."---John Adams to Jefferson, 1813

"Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand.”—John Adams, 1776

“How is it possible that Children can have any just Sense of the sacred Obligations of Morality or Religion if, from their
earliest infancy, they learn their Mothers live in habitual Infidelity to their fathers, and their fathers in as constant
Infidelity to their Mothers?" -- -- "Let them revere nothing but Religion, Morality and Liberty."--John Adams


:- Who was cousin to this bloke:

"[P]ray that the Light of the Gospel, and the rights of Conscience, may be continued to the people of United
America; And that his Holy Word may be improved by them, so that the name of God may be exalted, and their
own Liberty and Happiness secured.”—Samuel Adams

"In the supposed state of nature, all men are equally bound by the laws of nature, or to speak more properly,
the laws of the Creator."--Samuel Adams


:- And who was married to:

“A patriot without religion in my estimation is as great a paradox as an honest Man without the fear of God.
Is it possible that he whom no moral obligations bind, can have any real Good Will towards Men? Can he be a
patriot who, by an openly vicious conduct, is undermining the very bonds of Society? ... The Scriptures tell
us ’righteousness exalteth a Nation.’"
--Abigail Adams

"The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong; but the God of Israel is He that giveth strength
and power unto His people. Trust in Him at all times, ye people, pour out your hearts before him; God is a
refuge for us.”—Abigail Adams
?

Posted by: Adamakis | Feb 8, 2013 3:45:27 PM

Bill, it continues to disappoint me that you lead threads here in bad directions by not even being familiar with basics of the government memorandum which you are so very eager to assail. Specifically, you assert in your defense of the FSG in your 1:48:16 AM comment that "it could scarcely be the case that the Sentencing Guidelines are the problem in this case when THOSE EXACT SAME GUIDELINES exist for the other 15 defendants, all of whom are recommended to get (and very likely will get) sentences that not a single commenter has objected to." This claim is 100% wrong on the facts if you are saying (or even implying) that something less than LWOP is being recommended by the GUIDELINES here, rather than by DOJ.

As I understand the basic guideline calculations in this multi-defendant case based on the government's own sentencing memo, an LWOP sentence (or at least a sentence of many decades) is in fact recommended by the FSG for all 16 defendants, even for those obviously the least culpable. At the bottom of page 7 of the DOJ memo which you think reflects "anti-religious bigotry" (despite the fact that it is now clear you never actually read it), the feds explain its general approach before getting into its specific sentence recommendations:

"As the Court will see below, the government is taking the unprecedented step of recognizing that variances and departures may be warranted for 15 of the defendants in this case -- despite the fact that they put the victims though the emotional pain and turmoil of testifying against them, and despite the fact that they put the govemment to its burden of proof at trial. For certain of these defendants, the govemment's recognition that 25-level variances or departures may be warranted amounts to an approximately 20-year reduction in their sentences."

In other words, once you actually read what DOJ has actually recommended in the memo that purportedly has you all worked up, it appears that the "THOSE EXACT SAME GUIDELINES [which] exist for the other 15 defendants" called upon a federal judge to impose LWOP or multi-decades long sentences. That is why I said at the outset that I saw the recommended sentence here to be "overkill prompted by dysfunctional federal sentencing guidelines, not a religion-hating DOJ." That is also why I was so surprised to hear from you --- a person who so often seems to be extolling the virtues of the FSG and long prison sentence, and who has advocated repeatedly to bring them back in a mandatory form --- the remarkable statement that only a "funhouse mirror" could produce such lengthy prison recommendations.

As you know well, Bill, the federal defense bar has long said that the FSG represent a prosecutor-biased set of "funhouse mirrors" that almost always recommend crazy long prison sentence for first offenders. It seems that, rather than revealing "anti-religious bigotry" inside the DOJ, this case has revealed that Bill Otis agrees with the federal defense perspective that the FSG are a form of "funhouse mirrors" that will sometimes recommend crazy long prison sentence for some first offenders.

As of this writing, I know that Sam Mullet Sr. and Scooter Libby Jr. are two duly convicted federal felons for whom you, Bill, think the FSG were dysfunctional in recommending unjustifably long sentences. I look forward to adding name to this list, and perhaps you are prepared now to highlight more.

Indeed, the reason I made a whole post out of this issue, Bill, is because you have testified before Congress and have written a law review article stating that the USSC's guidelines should be made mandatory again or the USSC ought to be abolished. I remain unclear which approach you favor, but I remain glad that this post et al. has helped you to better understand the potential dysfunctionality and injustices of MANDATORY federal guidelines system which would have, in this notable case, potentially required Judge Polster to sentence ALL the Amish defendants here to LWOP or many decades in prison. In fact, as you may now know, they all got MUCH lower sentences that the Guidelines recommended, in large part because the guidelines are now advisory and also in part because Obama's DOJ was willing and able to take here "the unprecedented step of recognizing that variances and departures may be warranted for 15 of the defendants in this case."

Bill, I love mixing it up with you here. But I would like to be able to depend on you having at least some of the facts right before you make incendiary assertions about motives and bigotry (within DOJ or elsewhere).

Posted by: Doug B. | Feb 8, 2013 3:56:30 PM

"Finally, you have not specifically dealt with why LWOP is improper for--I know its been said before--a repeat and unrepentant rapist, batterer, infringer of religious freedom, and abuser of power."

"That's because virtually the entire board, liberal, conservative and in between (and our host) agree with me that DOJ's sentencing recommendation is too severe. On that score, it is you, not I, who is in the vastly outnumbered position, and who therefore bears the burden of persuasion."

Bill, I know why the entire board favors leniency here. Most of the board is liberal. Their position on this issue is unsurprising. It is, however, surprising to hear that position from you. You are not liberal.

As for my "burden," here it is, thought it's been said many times before. This man is a repeat and unrepentant rapist, batterer, false imprisoner, infringer on religious liberty, and abuser of power and trust. He has done these things many times throughout his life. He shows absolutely no regret. Nor is there any likelihood, given he lack of remorse and ideological commitment to his criminal activity, that he will slow down once released. Oh, and he also obstructed justice.

You have yet to explain why any of these serious things alone (especially rape), let alone the repeated combination of them all, does not justify an extremely harsh punishment. This is surprising because I have never seen you once on this board object, as unduly harsh, the decades and even lifetime terms of imprisonment meted out to CP possessors or unsuccessful solicitors. The man committed repeated acts of rape, Bill, and he abused his religious authority to do so. And that is just a portion of his many odious actions.

"P.S. I have yet to see from you any evidence for your claim, BleedingHeartCondition | Feb 7, 2013 4:17:11 PM, that I have, to use your exact words, an "extreme deference to religion." Do you have such evidence? Could I see it?"

The evidence is that the second time I've seen you argue for a sentence more lenient than the Guidelines suggest is for a religious rapist. Many non-rapists have come and gone, but none of them held high religious office in their community. Of course, I think this evidence flimsy, but I think your own "evidence" as flimsy and conspiratorial.

Posted by: BleedingHeartCondition | Feb 8, 2013 4:48:51 PM

"I think you underestimate how shrewd and savvy this group is. For purposes of dusting up religion, this case must have stuck them as a Godsend (so to speak). It has it all: A bishop who actually is a criminal, not to mention a thoroughly nasty character; and a body of his own people who understandably detest him. You're just not going to find better political cover than that."

Every administration is shrewd and savvy, and none lets a crisis go to waste. This administration is no different. Still, the conspiracy theory has to be plausible, and have some plausible benefit.

What, on your theory, is the DOJ hoping to gain here? Let's say that they hate religion, and that Barack Obama's alleged distaste for religion is shared by the decision-makers at the DOJ (not one of whom is quoted by Adamkis). What in god's name is the plan? To eradicate religion? You haven't identified one, and I suspect you will have a lot of trouble doing so. Is this part of some campaign to end religion by putting all of its followers in jail, starting with the easy-to-get Amish? How does the DOJ's actions hurt religion, other than making people very reluctant to oversee cults of rape and battery that victimize religious minorities? How does the prosecution of a single rapist and abuser of power in a remote community have any palpable effect whatsoever on religion generally? What is the ultimate plan? How is this a part of that plan? Can you identify a real goal like, on your theory, the legalization of pot? You speak very vaguely of "dusting up" religion? Unpack it. Explain the plan, the goal, and how this prosecution helps achieve that goal. Because I, like a lot of people here, are having a bit of difficulty seeing the grand scheme to undermine religion that seems apparent to you.

Posted by: BleedingHeartCondition | Feb 8, 2013 4:49:17 PM

"Did you think they were first going to go after some powerful and wealthy denomination like Episcopalians?"

Gee, I guess we can rule out Warren Jeffs and that disfunctional splinter group of the Latter Day Saints...

Posted by: Jumpin' Jack Flash | Feb 8, 2013 5:22:28 PM

Doug --

It will take me more than one post to respond to you, but this will be a start.

"Bill, it continues to disappoint me that you lead threads here in bad directions by not even being familiar with basics of the government memorandum which you are so very eager to assail."

That is your very first sentence, and it's wrong. I have not assailed, indeed I have barely mentioned, the memorandum. I have assailed the SENTENCING RECOMMENDATION it contains. Evidently the judge didn't think a whole lot of it either.

Beyond that, the first part of your comment is built on a misconception of the Guidelines that is surprising in a man of your knowledge, though perhaps not surprising in a man who is not experienced in day-to-day courtroom practice.

The Guidelines DO NOT MAKE A SENTENCING RECOMMENDATION. They set out, without the ghost of a recommendation, a RANGE OF MONTHS (varying 25% top to bottom), and, under Booker, the judge is free to sentence within or outside that range, as the Sentencing Commission full well knows when it publishes the handbook every year.

The sentencing RECOMMENDATIONS come from THE PARTIES, not the Guidelines.

Yup, LWOP was at the top of the range, but what part of the Guidelines, or any federal sentencing law whatever, requires or even suggests that the judge should sentence at the top? The answer to that is: none. This fact guts the assertion upon which virtually all of your criticism of me depends: That the Guidelines "recommend" LWOP. They just don't, they AUTHORIZE a life sentence at the very top, and that's as far as they go.

Your critique is thus fundamentally misguided, because (a) there is just no definition of English words under which "authorize" means "recommend"; (b) federal law (indeed SCOTUS holdings) state that Guidelines need not be followed in any event, a state of affairs that has been the case for more than eight years; (c) the aspect of statutory law you most freqently cite here, Section 3553(a)'s parsimony principle, requires court's to impose the MINIMUM sentence consistent with the principles of sentencing (which is the opposite of recommending the top of the range); and (d) courts very, very seldom sentence at the top of the range -- a fact that, if your view of the meaning of "recommendation" were correct, would mean that district courts are violating the law more than 90% of the time.

Lastly for now, under the mandatory guidelines system that Congress enacted (with huge bi-partisan majorities) and that I continue to support, the judge was EXPLICITLY AUTHORIZED to depart up or down, as he saw fit, if he concluded that the case was very unusual in a way relevant to sentencing (which this one certainly is). And yes, I think that's a better system than the luck-of-the-draw we have now.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 8, 2013 8:12:45 PM

"I have not assailed, indeed I have barely mentioned, the memorandum. I have assailed the SENTENCING RECOMMENDATION it contains."

By articulating a theory of the reason for the Government's recommendation, you are, by implication, negating the reasons proffered in the memo. You are saying that they are a ruse, and rejecting them as cover. Doug's point is that, had you reviewed them carefully, you would see that they seriously undermine your claims. For one thing, the Government gave all but the ringleader exceedingly generous departure recommendations (even though they are all religious, and thus enemy combatants in Obama's covert and subtle war on religion). Before you castigate a recommendation and offer theories as to its provenance, it would be prudent to read the document and seriously contend with its contents, especially when the contents go a long way toward explaining the Government's calculus.

"This fact guts the assertion upon which virtually all of your criticism of me depends: That the Guidelines "recommend" LWOP. They just don't, they AUTHORIZE a life sentence at the very top, and that's as far as they go."

I think it is overly formalistic, and in any event goes nowhere, to say the Guidelines don't recommend a sentence. Yes, the parties make the actual recommendation. But the Guidelines are the basis of that recommendation. Who cares whether one calls it the Guidelines "recommendation" or "sentence" or "calculation" or "range"? How does this have any effect whatsoever on Doug's argument? The point is that this sentence did not come out of thin air. This was not some random idea cobbled together to battle the faithful. It was a within-Guidelines sentence, much like the within-Guidelines sentences that AUSAs across the country recommend routinely (and often harshly).

Posted by: AnonymousOne | Feb 8, 2013 9:08:52 PM

"Lastly for now, under the mandatory guidelines system that Congress enacted (with huge bi-partisan majorities) and that I continue to support, the judge was EXPLICITLY AUTHORIZED to depart up or down, as he saw fit, if he concluded that the case was very unusual in a way relevant to sentencing (which this one certainly is). And yes, I think that's a better system than the luck-of-the-draw we have now."

I don't think this is as "unusual" as you think it is (and it won't help to point to the liberally-minded for statistical support, as they find many sentences usual and harsh). Especially after reading the memo. More importantly, I think it the norm in certain classes of cases, and with certain Guidelines, that they routinely result in draconian numbers. Making them mandatory only exacerbates that ill (indeed, both conservative and liberal judges are, in large numbers, disregarding the Guidelines in these key areas--unlike legislators, these conservative and liberal judges can think, rather than merely reflexively respond, to the vagaries of politics). Perhaps mandatory Guidelines would be more palatable to many of us if they were based more on reason and evidence, reached after thoughtful and informed deliberation (as is the model with quite a bit of the Guidelines), rather than, as with one prominent class of cases, being reached after being proposed at the eleventh hour, attached to popular legislation which no politician in his right mind could debate, and based on no testimony, no evidence, and no deliberation whatsoever.

Even with deliberation, which is currently seriously lacking in Congress (which has stopped even putting on a show of it by holding hearings on many sentencing matters), there is still a very real danger that the Guidelines, which apply across-the-board, fail to account for certain individual circumstances and really totally fail to account for parsimony.

I agree that there is no simple solution. But I do believe that there are some serious problems with the Guidelines (mandatory or advisory), and that they extend far beyond the odd, once-in-a-decade case (if this can even be considered as such). They are far more pervasive. But, for some reason, only this case has caught your attention. Again, I'd contrast it with liberal and conservative judges across the country that are disregarding certain categories of Guidelines "recommendation" en masse.

Posted by: AnonymousOne | Feb 8, 2013 9:09:14 PM

Bill, I am not sure what troubles me more: your sophistry, your inaccuracy or you abject failure to engage with the true substance of my criticisms of your sloppy points about the guidelines and the DOJ recommendations in this case.

1. Let's begin with the sophistry: the Supreme Court, speaking via many Justices in many post-Booker rulings, has repeatedly used the phrase "recommended Guideline range" or the sentence "recommended" by the Guidelines (see, e.g., Tapia, Irizarry, Gall, Marlowe (Scalia, J., dissenting)). Countless lower courts use the same phrasing, and so too did the Chair of the USSC in Oct 2011 testimony to Congress. Not sure why you want to make hay about this bit of semantics, but turning to your inaccuracies...

2. You say the guidelines-calculated term of LWOP for Mullet "was at the top of the range" and that the FSG just don't [recommend that term], they AUTHORIZE" it. This is double wrong: (a) at offense level 43 and higher, there is no range, just a guideline recommendation of "life" as the sentence; (b) the STATUTES enacted by Congress are what authorizes any sentence, and the FSG can neither expand nor contract the sentencing authorization set forth in statutory ranges. In short, it is linguistically quite problematic to speak of the guidelines authorizing a sentence or range (which is why I and so many judges and Justices speak of the FSG as recommending a sentence or sentencing range).

3. Though my clarifications of your inaccurate semantics should help others understand how silly your latest sophistry, I continue to fail to understand why you keep digging a bigger and bigger hole --- and losing more and more of my respect --- with your sloppy efforts to defend a misguided attack on DOJ for seeking a within-Guideline sentence for Mullet and below-guideline sentences for his co-conspirators.

You apparently believe that the Obama administration is full of anti-religious bigots. You are, of course, entitled to such a belief, which in turn apparently led you to jump to the conclusion that DOJ's sentencing recommendations here reflect "snarling hostility to religion." But, in addition to hoping you now see (even if you will not admit) that the full DOJ sentencing memo does not in any way support this conclusion, I hope you might ultimately start to appreciate that your extreme claim here is akin to those on the extreme left whom you are often so eager to lampoon. Some on the extreme left claim that police and prosecutors are full of anti-[black/Latino/poor, etc.] bigots who urge severe sentences as part of a "snarling hostility" to those within that group. Unless and until you start to respect and credit those kinds of claims from the extreme left, it is so very hard to respect and credit any of your parallel claims coming from the extreme right.

To complete this circle, do I understand your final statement to express the view that you still think a better sentencing system would be one in which Judge Polster was essentially required bythe FSG to impose LWOP or multi-decade sentences on all 16 Amish persons sentenced in his courtroom today? If that is not what you are saying, can you explain what pre-Booker theory of departures you think are obviously applicable here?

Posted by: Doug B. | Feb 8, 2013 11:23:42 PM


AnonymousOne | Feb 8, 2013 9:08:52 PM --

You seek to get mileage, as Doug does, by pretending that words don't have specific meanings, and that one is just like the next. Simultaneously, you turn in the opposite direction, using intentionally loaded words (thus implicitly recognizing the power that shades of meaning actually have). You can't have it both ways.

1. "Authorize" does not mean "recommend" and it is not going to mean that no matter what you may do to brush past the difference. When we are talking about whether the problem with the sentencing in this case lay with the prosecution or the Sentencing Commission, this difference is crucial. The government made a recommendation. The Sentencing Commission, and the Guidelines it wrote, did not. The Guidelines authorize a range (although even "authorize" might be too strong, since the judge can ignore it).

Did the government take account of the Guidelines in making its recommendation? One would hope. So what? It is the government, and not the Commission, that alone decided to seek an LWOP sentence for this beard-cutting ("beard-cutting" being the phrase Doug used, and still uses, so don't go blaming me. Nor is the phrase inaccurate as shorthand).

2. "For one thing, the Government gave all but the ringleader exceedingly generous departure recommendations (even though they are all religious, and thus enemy combatants in Obama's covert and subtle WAR ON RELIGION)[emphasis added]."

I never said that the Administration is waging a "war" on religion -- that phrase is your invention, and Doug's, not mine. I say exactly what I mean. What I said is that the Administration is hostile to religion. I have given two specific examples on this thread, in addition to the irrationally sought LWOP sentence for Bishop Bennett.

One is the Administration's ongoing fight with the Catholic Church about government mandates on birth control, an issue of great moral significance to the Church (or so I am given to understand)(and as to which, I believe, the Administration is losing about half the cases at present).

The second was the intimidation of Rev. Terry Jones from his perfectly legal exercise of First Amendment rights. The cover for this was that it was needed to "protect the troops." Ah, yes. Isn't that the old national security rationale that liberals used to ridicule? But even if taken at face value, which I certainly do not from this bunch of Administration evaders (see, e.g., DOJ's "production" of Fast and Furious documents to Congress), the excuse is absurd on its face.

What you do to "protect the troops" is not have the AG make a snarling public denunciation of a law-abiding (if gross) clergyman. Still less do you have an armed FBI agent "visit" him for a little persuasion. What you do is send an army chaplain, maybe one wounded in Afghanistan, to talk to him privately and quietly, maybe ask to pray with him. This is assuming that ANY attempt to stifle the free exercise of rights by a government official is proper, an assumption I find pretty dicey.

3. "Before you castigate a recommendation and offer theories as to its provenance, it would be prudent to read the document and seriously contend with its contents, especially when the contents go a long way toward explaining the Government's calculus."

There you go again, as Reagan would say. Who's "castigating"? I criticized the government for (1) reaching out to take a case of a sort that's almost always handled locally, (2) and zipping out a life sentence recommendation that the entire board (not to mention, now, the judge) understands is excessive.

The lack of curiosity of those on the defense side about both those decisions represents a marked contrast with the ususal flinty-eyed suspicion of prosecution manuevers, especially unusual ones that disadvantage the accused. Indeed, the amount of credence being given the prosecution is remarkable. I generally credit what the government says, and I mostly do in this case as well (my view of what it DECLINES to say is another matter, and of no little consequence here). But normally very skeptical posters all over the board are treating the govenment's characterizations of Bennett as if they had been proven in a court of law. They haven't, and the unique defense credulity here is just amazing.

To repeat: Bishop Bennett is a bad man and a criminal in any sense in which that word ought to be understood. He deserved a nice stint in the slammer and he got one. He did not deserve life, even on the recommendation of the pristine Obama Administration, and notwithstanding the newly-minted Inspector Jauvert-type views of the former defense bar.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 8, 2013 11:48:42 PM

Doug --

I have now made 21 responses on this thread, which I believe is more than any commenter has made on any of your threads, ever.

It's your blog, and of course you get the last word. I might continue the discussion here, but if I do, I think it won't be for a while to allow some calm to set in. I might also take it up on C&C.

Your last post seems to me to be more personal than, given some time, you might want. It certainly is more personal than I feel comfortable with. It reminds me of an earlier thread when you made some remarks you thought the better of later on.

As always, I appreciate the opportunity to comment here and expect to continue, with your permission. I look forward to talking with you about mandatory minimums for gun control offenses when we're on WBEZ in Chicago on Monday morning.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 9, 2013 12:06:51 AM

Bill,

I think Doug’s incredulity—which I share to some extent—is due to what we both likely perceive to be an extremely conspiratorial argument, characteristic of a pro se plaintiff, that is (1) not supported by the Government’s sentencing memo, and indeed severely undermined by it; (2) not supported by reference to any statement made by any person directly involved in the decision-making in this case (I highly doubt Obama was even aware of this prosecution, and there is yet no evidence that Holder made the decisions or shares Obama’s alleged distaste for religion); and (3) not supported by, as BHC put it, any plausible or even logical connection to any articulable goal of the DOJ (he asked many questions, among them (a) how showing leniency to 15 religious criminals but seeking a harsh result for the ringleader, whose victims were religious, is consistent with a hostility to religion, (b) what the plan is, and how seeking a harsh result against this ringleader only effectuates that plan, and (c) how you can take two cases in the past four years of tens of thousands of DOJ criminal prosecutions—one of which was not even a prosecution—and conclude that there is some evidence of a DOJ effort to “dust up” religion, whatever that even means).

“I never said that the Administration is waging a "war" on religion -- that phrase is your invention, and Doug's, not mine. I say exactly what I mean. What I said is that the Administration is hostile to religion. I have given two specific examples on this thread, in addition to the irrationally sought LWOP sentence for Bishop Bennett.”

I never said you used those words. But you did refer to a snarling hostility to religion. And, as Doug and I have pointed out, the DOJ’s actions in this case—extreme lenience compared with the Guidelines for 15 of the criminals—is just completely inconsistent with a snarling hostility to religion.

Posted by: AnonymousOne | Feb 9, 2013 12:44:42 AM

“There you go again, as Reagan would say. Who's "castigating"? I criticized the government for (1) reaching out to take a case of a sort that's almost always handled locally, (2) and zipping out a life sentence recommendation that the entire board (not to mention, now, the judge) understands is excessive.”

The DOJ has, for years, reached out for any case that might get it some press or where longer sentences are available in federal court. That is not new, nor unique to this DOJ. CP used to be handled locally, with the exception of bigwigs. Now, every local guy in his basement is being hauled into federal court, and AUSAs who hoped to handle mafia matters are instead getting things that used to go to entry-level local prosecutors. This was an interesting, sexy and newsworthy case. Obama didn’t invent federal overreach to get such cases.

Posted by: AnonymousOne | Feb 9, 2013 12:45:30 AM

“The lack of curiosity of those on the defense side about both those decisions represents a marked contrast with the ususal flinty-eyed suspicion of prosecution manuevers, especially unusual ones that disadvantage the accused.”

You’ve invented a lack of curiosity. Liberals are disturbed by this. Just look at the comments on this board. I myself said it was outrageous. But it is nothing new. The DOJ regularly seeks outrageous sentences by slavish adherence to the Guidelines. I, and likely Doug, are disturbed each time this happens. We see this as more of the same, though, not as some unique creature of religious hostility. To me, the focus should either be on the Guidelines, or the Government’s slavish adherence to them in hundreds, if not thousands, of outrageously harsh cases. This is nothing special. More of the same from the DOJ.

Posted by: AnonymousOne | Feb 9, 2013 12:46:15 AM

Much of the ire directed at me is simply from those enraptured with the Obama Administration and who resent any criticism of the President or his appointees. Commenter "Joe" comes to mind.

If you actually believe this, it's fairly sad. I find it a bit funny too. I should link you to various times when people lash out at me for not being supportive enough of Obama. The use of "simply" here is a better hint at the problem. Your comment is simply poorly reasoned & comes off as more emotional than good argument. I also don't have "ire" at you or others for supporting the death penalty more than I. It is how the arguments are posed that bother me. Anyway, I again thank Doug Berman for his comments here. I have an idea that this was building up awhile.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 9, 2013 10:58:14 AM

interesting statement bleeding heart!

"As for my "burden," here it is, thought it's been said many times before. This man is a repeat and unrepentant rapist, batterer, false imprisoner, infringer on religious liberty, and abuser of power and trust. He has done these things many times throughout his life. He shows absolutely no regret. Nor is there any likelihood, given he lack of remorse and ideological commitment to his criminal activity, that he will slow down once released. Oh, and he also obstructed justice.

You have yet to explain why any of these serious things alone (especially rape), let alone the repeated combination of them all, does not justify an extremely harsh punishment."

I think bill is busy so let me take a shot!

IF you could point to even ONE actual charge Let alone a Conviction. You might have something. But right now all the record shows is words. Words without a conviction in a legal forum mean SHIT!

Legaly IT didn't happen!

Therefor legally it has no business being used for anything let alone a sentence enhancement!

Posted by: rodsmith | Feb 9, 2013 8:35:20 PM

Bill, a life sentence for the beard cutter has triggered a strong reaction from you...Which is good...But now you know how 98% of America feels about 100% of the federal sentences that are handed out day in and day out....How does it taste Bill..

I see from a thread above that Mullet got 15 yrs... That is still way too long. I don't want my dollars covering him any more than 3 years. If you feel differently, then spend your dollars alone for the excess....

Posted by: Josh2 | Feb 9, 2013 9:08:18 PM

I have been looking for folks interested in this case. I am not interested as a legal scholar or professional, but as one who has been shocked by the severity of the sentencing. This guy and his confederates cut beards. I agree that some charges were in order but nothing like this. Why were the feds even involved in this? Is hair cutting THAT offensive, to the point where it justifies the shredding of a community, locking up fathers, husbands a hundred miles or so from their homes so that the farms cannot now be worked? I just think it's madness. I know the amish males value their beards but after all, it grows back, it's just hair, and Mullett has 15 years for this, less for his confederates, for this crime that is being punished more severely than some serious felonies.

Posted by: qeddeq | Aug 16, 2013 1:03:42 AM

Is there a problem in this case with the sentencing guidelines or with the way they were applied? Since the sentence was excessive something clearly went wrong with at least one of the two. If there is nothing wrong with the guidelines themselves, then nothing needs to be done there. If there is a problem with their application in this case then it would seem that that could be fixed as well by an appeal.
In the court of public opinion, I'd say most people think he deserves something but not this much. I also disagree with the sentencing of his confederates in that I think it's too harsh there too. Are these people hardened criminals with lengthy rap sheets? I also have a problem with hate crime laws in that they punish not only the bad deed but the thought that motivated the deed, and to the extent it does that it criminalizes certain types of thoughts.

Posted by: qeddeq | Aug 16, 2013 3:02:36 PM

A few points, is the defendants character in that person would get really angry about beard justification for a long sentence? Should gang shootings, murders, arson offenses, assaults, have a severe penalty, if so then what is the big deal about beard cutting for the long sentence?

The problem of course, is that the person's religion dictates the crime, if you give a muslim pork , does it justify a longer sentence? Similarly, if a Muslim women wears hijab, should removing it carry a 15 year sentence, vs. a nun? What if the person was not a Muslim but the courts speculated that the person "might be a muslim"? What if the person removing the hijab was the same gender or a relative in which hijab was not required.

This opens up a lot of nonsense, so if I ask for no-pork and the waiter gives it to me because she doesn't like either my "possible religion" or doesn't like that I called the manager and I claim to be a muslim, the sentence is increased?

Getting back to the original point of motive, there is a problem, the issue of course is with the person's motivation, knowing the victim will be shamed and angry, but unlike other crimes, there is no violent attacks, rape, arson, beating,kidnapping, etc so there is no attempt to "hurt" the victim in a serious way.

If a group of teenagers plays a prank, does it make a difference what type of prank based on a person's religion, should throwing pork at someone merit a longer sentence based on a religion, rather then throwing say feces or an actual hazardous material? Of course the prank's intent while in the amish case is to make a person mad, it isn't in the case of a silly prank that could result in serious injury such as starting a fire.

This opens a can of worms, as for war on religion well its using religion as law, but a point Bill could make, is that Christians may be subject to a double standard, since we are using to accommodating different religions that come about.

If I tattoo a christian with an lgbt symbol or spray paint his/her house with the "Rainbow pride" logos and say I support gay marriage, obviously should that be an greater offense based on that the fact that he or she is a christian?


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