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March 10, 2011

You be the judge: what federal sentence would you impose on former judge Jack Camp?

As detailed in this brief article, headlined "Ex-Judge Prepares to Learn Fate," tomorrow is the scheduled sentencing for former US District Judge Jack Camp, whose 2010 arrest on charges of buying drugs, while carrying firearms, all as part of his relationship with a stripper (basics here) culminated in what struck me as a sweetheart plea deal (basics here).  Indeed, the parties' sentencing arguments suggest Judge Camp need not fear much more than a relative slap on the wrist:

U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan is set to decide Friday whether to sentence Jack Camp to prison after he pleaded guilty to a felony drug charge and two misdemeanors.

Camp's attorneys have filed a flurry of motions asking that he be sentenced to probation and community service.  But prosecutors say he owes a debt to society that includes at least 15 days in prison.

Camp resigned in disgrace from the U.S. District Court in November.  The 67-year-old said in court filings that his decades-long battle with depression and a bicycling accident that caused brain damage led him to use drugs and start seeing a stripper.

Because the evidence in the case reveals that Camp engaged in multiple drug purchases and brought firearms with him repeatedly, the former judge is very lucky he is not facing years or even decades of imprisonment under the federal mandatory minimum sentencing provisions of 924(c).  For this reason, and a few others, I am not too pleased that the federal prosecutors are merely urging a 15-day prison term. 

I have not been able to review all the sentencing advocacy, and I doubt that a super-long prison term is necessary to achieve all the 3553(a) purposes of federal sentencing.  But I do think the 3553(a)(2)(A) concern with a sentence being sufficient "to reflect the seriousness of the offense, to promote respect for the law, and to provide just punishment for the offense, as well as the 3553(a)(6) with avoiding "unwarranted sentence disparities" call for more than a mere 15-day prison stint.  Were I the judge, I would probably impose a term of at least one year and probably longer.  I also would think seriously about shaming sanctions and/or other creative alternative sentencing possibilities in the hope of getting maximum deterrent bang for the federal prosecutorial buck in this high-profile setting.

I suspect many readers might have a view on the Camp case or what is a just and effective sentence in a case of this nature.  So as my post title asks, dear readers, what would you impose as a sentence on this former judge if you were had the sentencing responsibility that now falls on U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan?

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

UPDATEThis Atlanta Journal-Constitution article indicates that Jack Camp's ex-wife has also made a pitch for leniency:

Elizabeth Camp, the ex-judge's wife, asked Hogan for mercy and a sentence of probation, saying her husband is a changed man.  Thanks to proper medical treatment, the couple has begun to repair the damage to their marriage, she said.

The mania associated with bipolar disorder "has often been described as depression's evil twin, the insidious instigator that spurs one on to do all manner of lewd and immoral acts," Elizabeth Camp wrote.  "Mania handcuffs and gags the conscience."...

Atlanta criminal defense attorney Paul Kish said Thursday that Camp rarely granted breaks to defendants when they presented mitigation arguments to explain their behavior.  "One school of thought is that he should be punished the same way he punished everyone else," Kish said.  "The other is that he probably would not be punished for this in federal court, but for his position.  It's all very sad."

Meanwhile, in the comments, there seems to be a lot of (justified? cynical?) concern about the leniency apparently being shown by the US Attorney for its plea bargaining and light sentencing recommendation in light of Camp's offense behavior.  And at least one commentator has noted that the usual "get tough" voices in comment threads have been surprisingly silent here.

March 10, 2011 at 12:31 PM | Permalink


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Wow, why isn't 924(c) being applied? Replace the judge with a black man in the facts of the case and the poor defendant would get ten years.

I guess mandatory doesn't mean mandatory.

Posted by: Mike | Mar 10, 2011 12:42:14 PM

Absolutely infuriating! Mike is spot-on. Keep everything else constant but replace this judge-defendant with a poor, minority-defendant and what do you get? A 924(c) count or at least some other lengthy prison sentence. He'd probably even be accused of being the striper's pimp. But, no. This is a former judge. He only get a 15-day recommendation.

I guess the U.S. Attny's office is re-paying the favor: you gave us such an easy time over the years, we'll look the other way and give you an easy time.

Posted by: erl | Mar 10, 2011 2:12:39 PM

I would not be so lenient as to give him 15 days...Around here 924(c) is enforced with a vengence....Given his history as a judge, which I believe he gave guideline plus sentences, need I say more....Of coarse its overkill, but thats the whole point, so are the guidelines....

He gets 10 yrs or bascially a life sentence...924(c) never gets over looked by the Feds...Either correct the guidelines or everyone gets treated the same....Most judges are leary of shying under the guidelines and I'm sure the AUSA love and enjoy dishing out these gross nbrs...Therefore what goes around, comes around.. Hit the road Jack and don't ya come back no more no more.! ! !

Posted by: Josh | Mar 10, 2011 3:44:01 PM

What would I do? I would not have accepted a plea to less than a 924(c) count carrying a 5-year mandatory minimum. But here's how the Guidelines calculation shakes out, based on the conduct of which the Judge was convicted, and also uncharged relevant conduct that he admitted in the stip:
base offense level per 2D2.1 = 4
base offense level per 2B1.1 = 6
base offense level per 2K2.1(b)(6) = 18
plus 2 under 3B1.1, manager/supervisor enhancement
plus 2 under 3B1.3, abuse of a position of trust
minus 2 for acceptance of responsibility
yields total offense level of 30. Assuming Judge Camp is in criminal history category I, that results in a guidelines range of 97-121 months.
The statutory max for a violation of 21 USC 844(a) (counts I and II) is one year, as is the stat max for a violation of 18 USC 641, where the value of the property does not exceed $1000 (count III)
I would sentence him to 12 months on counts I and II (aiding and abetting unlawful possession, unlawful possession), to be served concurrently
and 6 months on count III (conversion of govt property), to be served consecutively (5G1.2(d)), and then I would vary upward under 18 USC 3553(a), based on the history and characteristics of the defendant and the nature and circumstances of the offense, to 36 months. Although I think that this Judge should be sentenced to a mandatory minimum just like anyone else would be, I am categorically opposed to mandatory minimums, and also think that 5 years for possessing drugs, even while packing 2 loaded pistols, is just too much. That said, he deserves an upward variance for knowing just how bad what he did was -and it's clear that he intended to bring the guns to "facilitate" the drug felony. Certainly he knew that this conduct generally carries a 5-year mand min. A sentence of 36 months gives him enough time to complete RDAP, takes account of his years of public service, and still punishes him appropriately for endangering others by carrying loaded (and in one case, cocked) handguns during a drug deal and making his associate buy drugs for him “because you’ve already got a record, I don’t,” as explained in the plea stip. Yuck.

Posted by: Anon def atty | Mar 10, 2011 3:44:26 PM

Whoops, I meant to say, would sentence him to 12 months each on counts I and II, to be served consecutively.

Posted by: Anon def atty | Mar 10, 2011 4:00:25 PM

Ok anon, I can't argue with an anaylsis like that, I retract my 10 yr and would go with the 36 months... I don't like MM either...They really don't indicate what transpires...Too much is empty, as in potential for this and that...Great writeup Anon

5 yrs would be a long pull for him in his present condition...and age..

Posted by: Josh | Mar 10, 2011 4:08:00 PM

As you judge, so shall you be judged. I'm certain someone else has commented previously that the very best way to get stupid, over-criminalizing drug laws repealed is their ruthless and even enforcement.

Posted by: Ala JD | Mar 10, 2011 4:24:21 PM

5 years - the minimum sentence any of my clients would get. (And, BTW, it is absolutely not true - as some commentators have suggested in prior threads - that crimes like this don't usually end up in federal court. They sure as heck do.) The conduct of the U.S. Attorney's Office here is shameful.

Posted by: AFPD | Mar 10, 2011 4:32:21 PM

OK everyone. Relax. This is another example of the extreme over-criminalization of some very modest behavior. Personal drug use and hookers is a federal case because a handgun? He wasn't selling the drugs. He was using them, to have fun, with a hooker. And for this we send people to prison? Unfortunately we do. Its insane when it happens to an average guy, and it's still insane if it's a judge. The federal system has gone mad, and so have the attorneys who are demanding years in prison for this type of behavior. If you are angry about a system that demands prison for this behavior, don't buy into it.

Posted by: federal defender | Mar 10, 2011 5:23:56 PM

I couldn't disagree more, fellow federal defender. As a previous commentator noted, only when high-profile "respectable" folks get the book thrown at them do people sit up and take notice of how ridiculous some of our sentencing laws are. So I say - throw the book, and throw it hard.

Posted by: AFPD | Mar 10, 2011 6:36:49 PM

Where oh where are the tough-on-crime guys who are generally so vocal on this list? I'd be most interested to hear what Bill Otis and others have to say about how they would sentence Judge Camp.

As for me, I'm in with Anon's 36 months, which with RDAP could work out to 18 months' prison and 6 months RRC. If Judge Hogan goes along with the cynical recommendation of the U.S. Attorney, color me disgusted.

Posted by: margy | Mar 10, 2011 10:17:08 PM

I have refused for a long time to recite the pledge of allegiance, as somewhere along the way, it became used for brainwashing. I will pledge allegiance to the Constitution (as I understand it and not as it has been bastardized by our Judiciary (who are mostly ex-prosecutors).

Somewhere along the way, the Judiciary failed to reign in Congress (and the federal government) to the limits imposed by the Constitution and now every POS that comes out of this August Body flies through (without appropriate debate and non-reporting by a responsible MSM) and causes further harm, i.e., FSA, healthcare, Adam Walsh, No Child Left Behind, Patriot Act, Byrne Grants (the put more people in jail stimulus grants), the every community needs a SWAT Team Act, the Don't Look Angry at a Federal Agent Act, you name it.

Bill: That is why we are insolvent.

With liberty and justice for nobody (maybe a select few, if they have connections).

We need to follow the GD Guidelines! (Harumpf from that person over there).

Posted by: albeed | Mar 10, 2011 10:55:47 PM

Doug --

The question posed here is quite specific. It is: "What federal sentence would you impose on former judge Jack Camp?" In connection with that, you observe that "at least one commentator has noted that the usual 'get tough' voices in comment threads have been surprisingly silent here."

Speaking only for myself, there is nothing "surprising" about my not recommending this number of months or that, since in all the years I have participated on this forum, exactly ONCE have I recommended a specific term (or even a particular sentencing range) for an individual case.

There must be some new definintion of "surprising" when following the near-uniform past practice is "surprising."

Like every other commenter, I find some threads pretty interesting and others not so much. That's not exactly remarkable.

I will say this, though. Even when I made my living in the USAO, which was more than a decade ago, not once did I make a sentencing guidelines recommendation; I was the Office appellate lawyer, and did not submit pleadings in district court. But if I had, of course it would not have been without reviewing all the files in the case FIRST HAND. It would not have been based on information gleaned over the Internet.

It's amusing, however, to see so many defense attorneys now blast the USAO for being extraordinarily lenient, while in their day jobs, those same attorneys work tirelessly -- and, they say, on principle -- to obtain exactly such leniency and then some, if they can swing it.

I was wondering whether, when those attorneys succeed in suckering some young AUSA -- uh, I mean, succeed in getting the USAO to "be reasonable, for once" -- do they then launch public broadsides against the USAO for agreeing with them?

P.S. Let me say hello to my old DOJ colleague, Margy (Margaret Colgate Love). Perhaps Margy and I can meet again on PBS if, say, John Edwards gets several years in the slammer for a non-violent, non-drug related first offense he committed while in his fifties. Until then, all the best.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 11, 2011 12:59:07 AM


You are such a defender of:

"Look in the sky, it's a bird. it's a bullet, it's a plane. No! It's Superman, defender of truth, justice and the American Way!

Many time's in my employment, I took the facts as presented by my government and turned them on my "guberment".

But then, I have a high ranking in chess.

Really smart people avoid government work. Shrewd people love it because the government has the capability to steal to meet its obligations to them.

Posted by: albeed | Mar 11, 2011 1:40:22 AM

Reading the above "debate" again brings to mind for me the question of what has happened to the similar offense, similar offender, similar sentence rubric that we seemingly were promised when Bill was still engaged in (or wasn't avoiding) government work.

Posted by: alan chaset | Mar 11, 2011 8:58:23 AM

Bill, you still haven't told us what sentence you would give the ex Federal Judge...Lets here it Bill, you support the guidelines to the hilt...SHould he get the gun bump for 5 yrs, plus an enhancement cause he was in the position of know and he had drugs on him.. Doesn't matter if he intended to sell them or not... or are you going to worm your way out of this of also..Lets have it Bill...Bake that Cherry pie Charming Bill..

Posted by: Josh | Mar 11, 2011 9:21:51 AM

alan --

"Reading the above 'debate' again brings to mind for me the question of what has happened to the similar offense, similar offender, similar sentence rubric that we seemingly were promised when Bill was still engaged in (or wasn't avoiding) government work."

What happened to it was Booker, more than anything else.

If it were up to me, Justice Stevens' dissent on the remedial portion would have prevailed, but it wasn't up to me. And I'd still like Congress to act, as I said in my FSR article (quoting Justice Souter), but I don't control that either.

Hope you're doing well.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 11, 2011 9:50:30 AM

Josh --

I guess you didn't read my post. Which is fine. You're not my servant (and vice versa).

I am curious though, about your attitude toward government sentencing recommendations. It seems that you criticize them when they're lenient, and also criticize them when they're harsh.

How odd.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 11, 2011 9:57:31 AM

Bill.. Come on, what we all want is a committment from you Bill...Give us the detail of what would support your sentence for the good ex Judge...Odd or not...Unless you just don't have it in you... Maybe your just all talk when it comes to nailing what you consider bad guys...and Judge Camp isnot a bad guy?? Go by the facts, he had drugs, a gun and a hooker....He must be bad, the guidelines say so...

Posted by: Josh | Mar 11, 2011 10:22:38 AM

A major problem that most are overlooking is this guy actually sat over major cases, when under the influence of drugs....To say he should get a guidelines sentence, is an understatement..

What about all of those defendents he sentenced and very harshly I might add....Perhaps they need there cases reopended and apply some salt and pepper to them...Its friday guys...

Seems that that Feds can't even get good people to do their dirty work, have to resort to a druggee...

Posted by: Josh | Mar 11, 2011 10:53:14 AM

Main Justice, Public Integrity, prosecuted the case, not the local USAO.

Posted by: AUSA | Mar 11, 2011 11:50:18 AM

AUSA, thanks for the info...WHat is main justice, public integrity, is a federal attorney? But not ???

Posted by: Josh | Mar 11, 2011 1:01:22 PM

His sentence, 30 days and 400 hrs of community service...Typical Federal injustice.....Obviously the door only swings one way....

Posted by: Josh | Mar 11, 2011 2:17:29 PM

Josh, Public Integrity is a unit at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. "Main Justice" refers to DOJ in Washington, as opposed to one of the various U.S. Attorney's Offices scattered around the country (one per judicial district).

I believe the U.S. Attorney's Office in Atlanta recused itself because of all the cases it had before Judge Camp over the years. The same is true of the judges in Atlanta with whom Judge Camp had shared the bench. With all of the federal prosecutors and judges in Atlanta recused, both the Public Integrity prosecutors and Judge Hogan were brought in from Washington to handle the case.

Posted by: Def. Atty | Mar 11, 2011 5:13:22 PM

but federal defender we know the law is over criminilized and the mm's are useless and retarded. BUT our problem is that for decades this judge has sat in judgment over 100's if not 1,000's of individuals in the same positon he now is in.

Our problem is that if someone was to go back and look at EVERYONE of those cases where the conviction was the same and the criminal history (none) was the same NOT ONE of them got out of that courtroom with 15 days! FIFTEEN YEARS maybe!

that's OUR PROBLEM with it!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 14, 2011 2:16:33 AM

At this tme, I have no comments on your article. Youve requested information on persons that view with interest in your post.

FYI: African-American Legal Defense Group which has its objective of reviewing and investigating wrongful conduct in the political and judicial systems.

Posted by: Gunny Thompson | Mar 15, 2011 2:17:11 PM

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