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June 9, 2013

"Iowa judge calls sentencing guidelines for meth dealers 'flawed'"

The title of this post is the headline of this local article discussing a significant federal sentencing decision handed down late Friday.  Here are the basics:

Sioux City-based U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett on Friday became one of a handful of U.S. judges to declare public opposition to federal sentencing guidelines for methamphetamine dealers. He wrote that he considers them to be “fundamentally flawed,” not based on empirical data and too harsh for lower-level drug figures.

Bennett — declaring in a 44-page ruling that he has a “fundamental policy disagreement” with the methamphetamine portion of guidelines that federal judges are supposed to consider in sentencing criminals — cut the sentence of Sioux City drug dealer Willie Hayes to six years and three months from a possible 15 years, eight months....

Bennett, a longtime critic of mandatory minimum sentences, notes in his opinion that the methamphetamine guidelines lack the depth of other portions of the sentencing blueprint and appear to be more influenced by politics than by science. Methamphetamine dealers in recent years have faced much harsher sentences than dealers of marijuana, cocaine or heroin and run into mandatory minimum sentences for handling a much lower quantity of drug.

“The methamphetamine guidelines are fundamentally flawed because they fail to consider additional factors beyond quantity,” Bennett wrote. “The system is too severe in the indiscriminate way it treats offenders … . Since the methamphetamine guidelines are fundamentally flawed, I find that they fail to promote the purposes of sentencing” outlined in federal law.

Des Moines defense attorney Angela Campbell called the ruling “a very big deal, and it’s also something that’s been coming for a while.”...

Bennett’s ruling borrows reasoning from two other federal judges who have made similar stands — Joseph Bataillon of Nebraska and John Gleeson of New York. “He’s not a lone voice in the wilderness,” said Iowa defense attorney F. Montgomery Brown. And Bennett’s ruling likely will have an affect on how federal drug cases are argued.

“It’s an argument that defense lawyers in both the Northern and Southern districts of Iowa need to make,” Brown said. “It’s malpractice not to.”

I concur with the sentiment that Judge Bennett's work in US v. Hayes (available here) is a "very big deal," and I believe that federal defense attorneys nationwide, not just in Iowa, ought to be raising arguments based on Hayes in every federal meth sentencing case.

June 9, 2013 at 09:46 AM | Permalink


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To me the conversion of psuedo to marihuana equiv is way off:
Cocaine is 200 gm
Meth is 2 Kgm
Crack is 3.6 Kgm
Psuedo is 10 Kgm
Pure meth is 20 Kgm
Psuedo is 5 times higher than meth. If one was charged with meth at 2 Kgm how ca you
Charge them at a 10 Kgm rate for psuedo.
It's just nonsense. Low level offenders get hammered for empty blister packs or others rat out on shopping trips. Crack is to blacks as meth is to whites
Meth needs a 2 level drop as crack got and lower the mm and make it all retro active.
Judge Bennett has been doing his home work. He and others in a position of power need to contact dept of injustice and setup some team building meetings.

Posted by: MidWestguy | Jun 9, 2013 9:17:14 PM

my name is Nadine Washington I am a mother my son was just tried for a meth crime,I was looking up people tried for this kind of case when this came up, my son is not perfect as no one in this world and he had to take a fall for someone who actually did drugs knew the people who did the drugsand you actually brought it into his life she is now walking free and he is facing the minimum sentencing it's not fair how is it that people have to take the fall for others as I said before he has done some things in his life but this kind of case he should have never been tried foror convicted

Posted by: Nadine C Washington | Oct 10, 2014 10:31:35 AM

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