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December 5, 2014

District Judge pushes federal prosecutors to back off extreme trial penalty sentence

As reported in this Reuters article, headlined "Prosecutors rethink convict's sentence after judge cites Holder," a federal judge earlier this week put some bite into the Attorney General's advocacy for reducing reliance on extremely long prison term by urging local federal prosecutors to reconsider an extreme sentence driven by application of mandatory minimum sentencing provisions. Here are the details of an interesting on-going sentencing story:

Prosecutors are reconsidering a 50-year sentence for a convicted robber and drug dealer, after a judge on Wednesday suggested they call Attorney General Eric Holder to ask him whether it was fair to "punish" a man for rejecting a plea deal and opting for a trial.

Randy Washington, 27, the Bronx man who faced the lengthy term after turning down a 10-year plea deal and getting convicted at trial, had been scheduled for sentencing in New York federal court on Wednesday.  But the hearing was adjourned so prosecutors could rework a deal carrying a shorter sentence, after U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan repeated his criticism that the 50-year mandatory minimum sentence appeared to "punish" Washington for going to trial.

Sullivan even suggested prosecutors call Holder himself to ask if their actions comport with his recent directive cautioning prosecutors against routinely using the threat of harsher sentences to induce defendants to plead guilty.  "He won't look with pride on what you're doing here today," Sullivan said....

In September, Holder issued a memo advising prosecutors to avoid employing the prospect of longer mandatory minimum prison terms in plea talks.  Sullivan cited the memo Wednesday in criticizing the sentence for Washington, who was convicted of robbery, narcotics and related charges.

In July, Sullivan said the potential 50-year term was legal but "unnecessary and unjust" and in a rare move pushed Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's office to seek a reduced sentence. In response, prosecutors offered to drop a 10-year enhancement based on a prior felony conviction for Washington.

They separately offered Washington a new 25-year deal, which Washington rejected as it included an appellate waiver, a provision Sullivan questioned on Wednesday. "I'm not sure there's great consistency in the position that says, 'We agree that 50 years is too long, but it's too long only if you give up your appellate rights,'" he said.

After prosecutors consulted with Bharara himself, Assistant U.S. Attorney Telemachus Kasulis told Sullivan they would consider a 25-year deal without requiring Washington to waive all of his appellate rights. Sentencing was rescheduled for Dec. 12.

December 5, 2014 at 08:47 AM | Permalink


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It is a sad commentary on Justice Department management that federal prosecutors have to be schooled on the Attorney General's policy pronouncements by a federal judge.

Posted by: margy | Dec 5, 2014 1:56:10 PM

Whats wrong with offering a 10 yr sentence and ask Holder if its ok.

After all, that would be following his new policy.

Lets find out where the rubber meets the road.

Or where the phony B S ends.

Posted by: 187Midwest Guy | Dec 5, 2014 10:12:45 PM

about damn time judges started to do their job.

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 6, 2014 2:48:39 AM

Every case is different. I do not believe in MANDATORY! The ridiculous sentences that uninformed juries give out are completely unlawful. Such as: 99 years, 350 years - to run concurrent,ect., ect. Life was always considered 20 years, but life to me is until you die. A one time offense is one thing but a serial killer is still a serial killer and a serial killer has taken many lives and does not deserve to live.

Do Judges know what is required of them, their duty?
Are juries informed of their rights?
Are Grand Jury's aware that they can save America from corruption? It's all about doing their job.

Posted by: LC in Texas | Dec 6, 2014 11:37:19 AM

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