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December 11, 2009

"Judge suggests more sentencing options for war veterans"

The title of this post is the headline of this new article in the Denver Post.  Here is how it starts:

John K. Brownfield Jr. returned from tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan abusing alcohol and suffering from mood swings, anxiety, depression and insomnia.  "He was exposed to children being blown to pieces by explosive devices," said his lawyer, Vaughn McClain.  "His job was to go pick up body parts."

Brownfield broke down in U.S. Senior District Judge John L. Kane's courtroom recently as he testified about the turmoil in his life during a hearing about his federal criminal court case.

Brownfield pleaded guilty to bribery of a public official in a case stemming from accusations that during his tenure as a correctional officer at the U.S. Penitentiary in Florence, which began in 2007, two years after his military service, he smuggled tobacco products to at least seven inmates in exchange for $3,500 in bribes.  He faces as much as a year and a day in prison for the crime, court records show.

Kane, who has not issued a sentence in Brownfield's case, in October testified before the U.S. Sentencing Commission, saying he would like to see alternative sentencing options for military veterans. "I presently have cases involving veterans, and I have to ask myself, is this the way we treat our heroes?" Kane said.

This piece does not mention the recent Supreme Court ruling in Porter, but it would seem to give Judge Kane's concerns even more heft.

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December 11, 2009 at 11:24 AM | Permalink


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I have argued for many years that military service should serve as a mitigating factor at sentencing--particularly where the defendant has seen action--with mixed results. I am glad that the Supreme Corut in Porter now firmly supports this position.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Dec 11, 2009 12:19:41 PM

I think it's total nonsense. Because someone killed aboard they get a freebie rape here. Come on, that makes no sense. If anything veterans should be punished *harder* because they have betrayed the very ideals they fought to uphold.

Posted by: Daniel | Dec 11, 2009 2:27:11 PM

The court should be able to consider the kind of personal trauma here, but should not weigh it more heavily than some other person's trauma solely because it occurred in the military.

On a side note, I haven't heard of many prosecutions of prison guards for smuggling/corruption, although I am aware that it is a rampant activity in most institutions. Interesting.

Posted by: Anon | Dec 11, 2009 3:19:55 PM

Daniel, I stronlgy disagree with you. Have you ever fought for your country? Our very freedoms depend upon those men and women who fight to protect us, our families. Those who have seen combat and were willing to sacrifice themselves and the security of their families to protect us and the country deserve recognition, respect, care and yes, payback. It's not a question of a "freebie rape." No one is suggesting that a criminal should not be prosecuted. All the Supreme Court in Porter is saying is that when the judge has to consider the appropriate penalty, even for a serious crime, mitigation of punishment (not abrogation) is more than appropriate in recognition of the bravery and self-sacrifice of veterans.

Posted by: anon 11 | Dec 11, 2009 3:19:57 PM


In the interest of full disclosure I have never served in the military. FWIW my father had a career there. And he always taught me that military service was a choice and not an obligation (he was already in the military by the time the Vietnam draft came along). His manta was always "Duty, Honor, Country." Military people who commit crimes have failed their duty, destroyed their honor, and betrayed their country. It would be one thing if they were drafted into the military. It's another thing entirely when they made the decision to go on their own free choice. Doing the job one is paid to do and freely chose to do is no sacrifice. It's not heroic.

This situation frankly pisses me off. It shows the gross nativity of liberals who think they can curry favor with the military by coddling "the wounded" and it shows the blatant knavery of our modern forces that they suck this coddling for all it's worth.

I may never have served in the military but I was raised in a tradition of honor. Where people who acted with dishonor were shown no mercy...and expected none.

Posted by: Daniel | Dec 11, 2009 4:07:51 PM

Daniel, somehow I think you are distorting your father's teachings. Even the most right-wing, arch-conservative would show more compassion than you. Had you actually been in combat, you would know what I'm talking about. I ask you to give the matter further thought and study. In the meantime, I am thankful that you are not a judge and hope you never sit on a jury.

Posted by: anon 11 | Dec 11, 2009 6:04:03 PM

This idea is highly offensive to all veterans.

The overwhelming majority have superior functioning upon return. Why? They were superior people before they went and defended our way of life. The military added self-discipline, achievement, huge responsibilities at a very young age, impossible to duplicate in civilian life. Those folks met the test, and come back even better than they left.

The majority of people with PTSD, alcoholism, criminality had pre-existing conditions. When you are a cut up in the military, this is what happens. There is a cave to reconnoiter. There are body parts to pick up. There is a set of traps to test before the entire unit travels the road. You piss off the officer, by your shenanigans, guess who gets to enter the cave, pick up body parts, and reconoiter a dangerous road ahead of the unit.

The service of the veteran should enhance the sentence, since he has disgraced the uniform, and let down those who trained and supported him. He should know better than others between right and wrong.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 11, 2009 8:19:33 PM

S.C. as usual you're off the wall. Even the most conservative justices on the Supreme Court see the merit in giving veterans a break at sentencing.

"Moreover, the relevance of Porter's extensive combat experience is not only that he served honorably under extreme hardship and gruesome conditions, but also that the jury might find mitigating the intense stress and mental and emotional toll that combat took on Porter.

Porter v. McCollum 130 S.Ct. 447, 455 (U.S.,2009) (per curiam)

Have you ever fought for your country? Or are you just a coward on a couch?

Posted by: anon 22 | Dec 11, 2009 11:39:12 PM

Anon22: And, no, I will not meet you after class to fight, neither.

Most criteria for PTSD overlap with the results of ongoing substance abuse, and other diagnoses. PTSD has independnent validity, but is rarer than the rent seeking, multi-billion dollar consuming, federal PTSD program whores claim. They focus on PTSD, but the symptoms are from alcoholism and other neglected conditions. Try saying that in a PTSD program, and you lose your job at the VA. It is the veteran that suffers most, by not adequately addressing the real cause of their maladjustment, ongoing ordinary conditions and ordinary substance abuse, not caused by combat.

The overwhelming majority of people who were in combat do very well upon return, ending up with superior function and achievement. Those who use drugs, do crime, and end up misfits had pre-existing conditions. Zealous recruitment of unfit people explains their maladjustment in the military, their assignment to the worst jobs in the military, and maladjustment upon return. The studies showing brain changes in PTSD did not exclude substance abuse.

The allegations of greater maladjustment, and the lawyer need to denigrate the combat veteran by a downward adjustment in sentencing are also part of something bigger. The left wing ideologue wants to devalidate the military, the war on terror, and our country in general. So the left wing biased media report maladjustment in soldiers, suicides, murders, other criminality, but not their successes.

The lawyer is doing the same, for the same ends in this instance. Combat experience as a handicapping condition requiring some accommodation is an offensive lawyer idea.

What about this analogous trial argument of past service? "I deserve leniency in this $4 million tax evasion trial because I paid $hundreds of millions in taxes in the past." (Leona Helmsley). "You should know better then, and you are going to prison." (Leona Helmsley jury)

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 12, 2009 9:19:05 AM

I just love how both the anons say that because "conservative" justices agree that makes it all ok. I tell you, I rest much easier now knowing that it has been approved of by "conservative" justices. The word "conservative" is like a warm electric blanket keeping my toes all toasty warm at night. I have nothing to worry about knowing that "conservative" justices are on the scene.


I feel all giddy inside.

Posted by: Daniel | Dec 12, 2009 11:11:26 AM

FWIW, Texas authorized "veterans courts" this year that can handle both misdemeanor and felony cases; seeing this item reminded me to go back and take a closer look at that legislation in this Grits post. Courts could dismiss charges upon successful completion of court-ordered programming, supervision requirements, etc. - much like a drug-court. The statute mandates a "nonadversarial" court process.

There was an item this week out of Fort Worth about approval of funding for a new veterans court in Tarrant County - no word yet on the DA's eligibility rules.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Dec 12, 2009 11:13:43 AM

The judge presents with the appearance of virtue. He wants our vets treated better. He is a really hypocritical left wing, partisan extremist.

The real message is that combat experience courtesy of the Bush administration is a cause of crime. These criminals are less guilty and more excused because of the combat they saw courtesy of the Bush Administration. This unsupported theory is a defamation of our warriors, unfair and false.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 12, 2009 5:38:56 PM

To both the Anons, don't worry about the opinions of SC & Daniel, some think that they are one in the same anyway. I just love to listen to those who have never been there spout about what a combat vet goes through or what PTSD is or is not. They have no clue. Yes, many claims of PTSD are fraudulent but so are many Medicare claims so what's the point.

"It would be one thing if they were drafted into the military. It's another thing entirely when they made the decision to go on their own free choice. Doing the job one is paid to do and freely chose to do is no sacrifice. It's not heroic."

The preceeding statement is just about the most stupid and insulting statement that I have ever heard regarding those who "choose" to serve and only further shows that he has no clue. A career in the military may never require combat service and if you have been there no explanation is necessary, if not no explanation will suffice. And before the two of you ask another stupid question, the answer is yes.

Posted by: Old Vet | Dec 13, 2009 1:15:57 PM

The vet criminal is an ordinary criminal. He has a family and criminal history typical of non-vet criminals.


The idea that military service causes or excuses criminality is left wing, anti-Bush falsehood. That is what the biased, left wing extremist judge is trying to communicate. Not true. Insulting to combat veterans.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 14, 2009 2:51:09 AM

sc, the anons are right. You and your ilk always let others fight to protect you, your families and your country--just ignorant cowards. shame on you.

Posted by: real vet | Dec 14, 2009 10:29:27 AM

To Real Vet....HoooAhhhhh Tell it liks it TIZ

Posted by: Old Vet | Dec 14, 2009 1:44:19 PM

To the Left Wing Criminal Lover Vets.

Tell us what crimes being in combat made you commit.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 14, 2009 10:30:47 PM

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