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July 16, 2017

DAG Rosenstein makes the case for his boss's new charging and sentencing directive to federal prosecutors

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein authored this notable op-ed appearing in the San Francisco Chronicle to explain and justify Attorney General Sessions' new memo to federal prosecutors concerning charging and  sentencing.  The piece was given the headline "Attorney General Jeff Sessions is serious about reducing crime," and here is its full text:

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently revised the federal criminal charging policy. When federal prosecutors exercise their discretion to prosecute a case, they generally “should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” established by the evidence, he wrote in a May 10 memo. Prosecutors must use “good judgment” in determining “whether an exception may be justified” by the particular facts of the case. The Sessions memo reinstitutes a policy that existed for more than three decades. It was first implemented by President Jimmy Carter’s attorney general, Benjamin Civiletti.

From 2013 to 2017, however, the U.S. Department of Justice protected some criminals from mandatory minimum sentence laws enacted by Congress. During that time, unless cases satisfied criteria set by the attorney general, prosecutors were required to understate the quantity of drugs distributed by dealers and refrain from seeking sentence enhancements for repeat offenders. Beneficiaries of that policy were not obligated to accept responsibility or cooperate with authorities.

After that policy was adopted, the total number of drug dealers charged annually by federal prosecutors fell from nearly 30,000 — where it had stood for many years — to just 22,000. Meanwhile, drug-related violence has surged. There has been a significant spike in murders, including an 11 percent increase in 2015 alone.

Drug overdose deaths also have accelerated at a frightening and unprecedented pace. The annual toll of Americans killed by drug overdoses stood near 36,450 in 2008, with some 20,000 overdose deaths involving prescription drugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Estimates show that the 2016 total was on the order of 60,000, making drug overdose the leading cause of death of Americans under age 50.

Officials in many cities are calling on federal prosecutors for help, and tough sentences are one of federal law enforcement’s most important tools. Used wisely, federal charges with stiff penalties enable U.S. attorneys to secure the cooperation of gang members, remove repeat offenders from the community and deter other criminals from taking their places.

In order to dismantle drug gangs that foment violence, federal authorities often pursue readily provable charges of drug distribution and conspiracy that carry stiff penalties. Lengthy sentences also yield collateral benefits. Many drug defendants have information about other criminals responsible for shootings and killings. The prospect of a substantial sentence reduction persuades many criminals to disregard the “no snitching” culture and help police catch other violent offenders.

Minor drug offenders rarely face federal prosecution, and offenders without serious criminal records usually can avoid mandatory penalties by truthfully identifying their co-conspirators. The Sessions policy is serious about crime. It does not aim to fill prisons with low-level drug offenders. It empowers prosecutors to help save lives.

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July 16, 2017 at 11:51 AM | Permalink

Comments

Article on places with very high murder rates.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/15/opinion/sunday/latin-america-murder-homicide.html

"Punishment is rare. ... have an impunity rate of 99%."

Impunity and murder rates are reviewed here.

https://www.unodc.org/documents/gsh/pdfs/2014_GLOBAL_HOMICIDE_BOOK_web.pdf

That makes murders the full responsibility of lazy and stupid lawyers.

Posted by: David Behar | Jul 16, 2017 6:28:56 PM

Ok Federal boys, Chicago killed 11 and wounded 37 over the weekend, its not even over.

Hows hiring more ATF, AUSA and the others working for you.

Chicago is a place to wAde into the crime bucket, give us a full report boys.

Thought so, you took the weekend off.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Jul 16, 2017 7:34:16 PM

Such a fallacious article from Sessions doesn't surprise me. I had been led to expect better from Rosenstein. But lifetime and long-time A/USAs are nothing if not true believers.

Posted by: Fat Bastard | Jul 16, 2017 8:24:12 PM

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