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October 22, 2017

Should we call it the Sessions effect?: "enthusiastic" federal prosecutors operating at "full throttle" in the Southern District of Ohio

My local Columbus Dispatch has this fascinating new article highlighting an uptick in federal prosecution in the Southern District of Ohio.  The piece is headlined "Surge in prisoners prompts federal court to contract with northwest Ohio jail," and here are excerpts (with a few points highlighted):

Benjamin C. Glassman is costing taxpayers more money, and he’s OK with that. Glassman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, is reaching far and wide — very far, in some cases — to fight crime that could hurt Ohioans.

He persuaded the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to deposit four Ecuadorean cocaine traffickers caught off the Galapagos Islands for prosecution on his turf in Columbus. And members of the multinational gang MS-13 were charged in September with extorting money from Columbus businesses and laundering it back to the gang’s leadership in El Salvador.

The increase in the prosecution of violent crimes and drug cases such as these, especially amid the opioid crisis, had the U.S District Court for Southern Ohio looking for extra jail space to keep a record 483 defendants whose cases were pending as of Oct. 7. “That’s a lot for us,” said Chief U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr. 

Of the total defendants, 223 were up on drug charges, 43 for violent crimes and 38 for child pornography.

To prevent overtaxing the Franklin and Delaware County jails that hold federal prisoners, Peter C. Tobin, the U.S. marshal for the 48-county Southern District, recently contracted with a regional jail in Williams County, 150 miles northwest of Columbus, to hold some defendants.  So far, 30 defendants have been sent to the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio near Bryan.  That jail is charging $90 a day per federal inmate, about $25 more than the local jails.

Other federal court districts are having similar problems housing the influx of defendants, Sargus said.  The largest districts, such as New York City and Los Angeles, have their own holding facilities.

An Obama administration appointee last year, Glassman swears he’s not padding his crime-fighting resume because President Donald Trump could replace him at a moment’s notice. Ohio’s U.S. senators have recommended Greg Hartmann, an attorney and former Hamilton County commissioner, to replace Glassman. “We just want to reach out as far as we can and as far as we need to go to stop crime that is hurting people in this district,” Glassman said. “I sincerely believe people in Russia can hurt us, people in China can hurt us here.”

He spoke enviously of fellow prosecutors in North Dakota who this month “beat us to indicting” two men in China with selling fentanyl over the “dark web’ that has been tied to deadly overdoses. It was unclear whether Chinese officials have taken action against the suspects.

“We have violent crime initiatives in Cincinnati, and now Columbus, that are successfully bringing more violent crime prosecutions,” he said. Glassman’s office works closely with state and local law enforcement, counting on street cops to identify the “small number of people disproportionately responsible for a large number of violence.”  Suspects are charged in state or federal court depending on which nets prosecutors the best results, meaning guilty pleas and stiff prison sentences....

Glassman said his office is operating at “full throttle, with a lot of hardworking, really enthusiastic prosecutors.”  Individual assistant U.S. attorneys specialize in handling violent crime, drugs, illegal immigration, child pornography, tax and fraud cases.  Where only the top offenders in a drug ring were usually charged, now it’s not uncommon for cases to include a list of 15 or so defendants with even the most minor players. “We are looking to dismantle entire distribution organizations,” he said.

I find fascinating that even with a violent crime initiative and directions from Attorney General Sessions to focus on violent crime, this accounting of on-going federal prosecutions indicates that less than 15% of the current caseload (and maybe less than 10%) involves violent crimes (43 out of the 304 noted above, or maybe 43 out of the full 483).  Meanwhile, nearly half or perhaps even more than half of all the cases are drug cases, and now apparently even the most minor players in a drug ring are being subject to federal prosecution — no doubt in part because guilty pleas and stiff prison sentences are more common when drug charges are brought in the federal system.

I am inclined to call much of this a "Sessions effect" because the signals from the top of the current Justice Department would seem to be urging more and more federal prosecutions across the board (while also urging tougher approaches to sentencing).  I suspect it may be still some months before we see the full impact of these dynamics in federal sentencing statistics, but I also suspect I will be talking more about the Sessions effect in the months and years ahead.

October 22, 2017 at 11:13 PM | Permalink


Criminals are still protected by the lawyer traitor. There are 10 crimes for every one prosecuted.

The criminal law is in failure. It is close to worthless. Lawyers are the stupidest people in our country. As a result, their professional efforts are the very worst in our country. Every year a lawyer lives, he destroys a $million of economic value.

The better alternative is to support other source of authority for moral behavior, such as religion, the intact patriarchal family, and public self help. For example, instead of prosecuting the victim of an MS13 gang attack, such as a store owner, immunize the extorted store owner who kills one on the spot. Throw in a $10,000 check as reward. If the gang member was first tortured for over an hour, make it $20,000 for the additional effort. Post the recording of the torture on Youtube.

Posted by: David Behar | Oct 23, 2017 10:46:12 AM

If the above Duterte style program were instituted, what would happen? Crime would disappear. Gang members would turn themselves in for the protection of prison. And, what else?

Lawyers would lose their jobs. Correct, the crime rate is being artificially, and intentionally kept high to generate, worthless government make work jobs for the stupidest people in our country.

Posted by: David Behar | Oct 23, 2017 10:49:32 AM

I must admit that @David's argument is logically sound. If everyone were dead there would be no crime. I can't argue with that point.

Posted by: Daniel | Oct 23, 2017 11:16:29 AM

Daniel. What a drama queen you are. Only 1% need to be dead, at the earliest age palatable to society. In any case, CRISPR/cas 9 technology will end all crime, perhaps, not in our lifetime, but in Prof. Berman's life time, for sure.

Posted by: David Behar | Oct 23, 2017 2:42:38 PM

Behar, it's Monday, the day for the blue pill. You took the red one by mistake. I know it's hard to maneuver given the straightjacket, but try harder tomorrow.

Posted by: Emily | Oct 23, 2017 6:56:41 PM

Doug, let me clarify a few points. First, you're looking at the population of defendants who have been ordered detained pending trial or sentencing -- not all defendants. Second, I'm not positive of the Dispatch's source or methodology for identifying the kinds of charges for which defendants are detained. By my accounting, roughly a third of our case load involves violent crime and another third involves drugs or organized crime related to drugs, like money laundering. Third, it is incorrect that we are now charging low-level defendants who, in years past, would not have been charged at all. (And I'm actually not sure that the reporter was even saying that, since the article mentions minor players vis-à-vis a conspiracy.) If anything, and as the article elsewhere explains, we have been striving to push our investigations and prosecutions farther and wider than ever before. Perhaps it's that someone who looked like a major player in years past now looks more minor when we're able to see the wider conspiracy from a national or international perspective. In any event, we certainly are not seeking to prosecute low-level folks as a general matter. Fourth, it's true that our numbers are up, but, for one thing, that's true across the board -- from violent crime to drugs to national security to fraud and other white collar to cyber to child exploitation to hate crimes to corruption and on and on -- and, for another, in my judgment, the quality and impact of our cases are also increasing. I'd be curious as to your take. When I say that the office is operating at full throttle, that's a testament to the excellence and dedication of our lawyers and the agents and officers with whom they work. They *should* be enthusiastic because they are coming to work to do justice -- not just to prosecute or to win or to rack up stats, but to make the Southern District of Ohio and the nation a safer, fairer, and more just place. I'm proud of their public service.

Posted by: Benjamin C. Glassman | Oct 24, 2017 4:26:43 PM

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