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August 22, 2020

"Civil-Asset Forfeiture Should Be an Easy Place to Start on Criminal-Justice Reform"

The title of this post is the title of this new National Review commentary authored by Isaac Schorr.  Here are excerpts:

Civil-forfeiture reform is the principal focus of the FAIR Act, and for good reason: The process is broken.  Under this form of forfeiture, the government brings charges against the property itself without leveling any against the property owner.  On a federal level, criminal behavior need not be proven for law enforcement to initiate civil-asset-forfeiture proceedings; mere suspicion is considered reason enough.  It’s worth noting that as California’s attorney general, Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris strongly supported handing this same power to local law enforcement — for the people, of course.

Once proceedings have been initiated, the government needs to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence (51 percent sure), only that the property is subject to forfeiture.  The burden of proof then belongs — in most states — to the owners of the property, who must show that they were neither involved in any criminal activity nor aware that their property was being used for criminal purposes, or that, if it were, then they took steps to end that criminal activity.  Worst of all, property owners are not even necessarily entitled to legal representation. Whether they are granted this basic right is left to the discretion of the presiding judge.

Why has civil-asset forfeiture, which flies in the face of American expectations of due process and the presumption of innocence, been allowed to persist in its current form? It’s all about the Benjamins.  The federal government takes in net revenues exceeding $1 billion annually from asset forfeiture, and states share in the cash cow through “equitable sharing.”  This practice, which sounds innocent enough, provides local authorities with perverse incentives.  Per the Institute for Justice, equitable sharing allows law enforcement to “bypass state laws that limit civil forfeiture.  By collaborating with a federal agency, they can move to forfeit property under federal law and take up to 80 percent of what the property is worth,” which gives them “a direct financial stake in forfeiture encourag[ing] profiteering and not the pursuit of justice.”  What police department would not take advantage of such a profitable opportunity, particularly when those profits are not subject to the same oversight as taxpayer dollars?

The problems with civil-asset forfeiture are many; the FAIR Act addresses nearly all of them.  It would raise the evidentiary standards that the government needs to meet to the “clear and convincing” level.  It would place the burden of proof on the government to show a property owner’s knowledge of criminal activity rather than asking property owners to make the case for their innocence.  It would guarantee property owners the right to legal representation.  Perhaps most important, it would end equitable sharing, incentivizing police departments to stop spending their time pursuing frivolous forfeiture claims.  The act’s changes to the reporting structure are also important.  The Justice Department does not currently provide a public breakdown of how much of their annual seizures are criminal, administrative, and civil forfeiture, respectively.  The FAIR Act would mandate such a breakdown....

The FAIR Act has been endorsed by the Heritage Foundation and American Civil Liberties Union and is cosponsored by legislators as liberal as 2016 Bernie Sanders backer Tulsi Gabbard and as conservative as Freedom Caucus member Paul Gosar.  A functioning Congress acting in the best interest of the American people would take notice of this broad consensus and act swiftly to pass this piece of commonsense legislation.

August 22, 2020 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Fines, Restitution and Other Economic Sanctions, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0)

Via video, Lori Loughlin and her husband get agreed fixed short prison sentences in college admission scandal

Unnamed-2As reported in this CBS News piece, headlined "Lori Loughlin gets 2 months in prison in college admissions scandal. Her husband Mossimo Giannulli will serve 5 months," a high-profile (but low-drama) sentencing took place in federal court yesterday.  Here are the basics:

Actress Lori Loughlin will serve two months in prison and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, will serve five months after the couple pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in the college admissions scandal. A federal judge on Friday accepted plea deals from the famous couple in a video sentencing hearing.

After initially vowing to fight the charges, Loughlin and Giannulli reversed course after a judge denied their motion to dismiss the case in May. Prosecutors said the couple paid $500,000 to secure their daughters' admission to the University of Southern California by masquerading them as fake athletic recruits.

"I made an awful decision. I went along with a plan to give my daughters an unfair advantage in the college admissions process. In doing so, I ignored my intuition and allowed myself to be swayed from my moral compass," Loughlin said in the video call.

Loughlin, 56, will also pay a $150,000 fine, serve 100 hours of community service, and be under supervised release for two years. Giannulli, 57, is required to pay a fine of $250,000, serve 250 hours of community service, and serve two years of supervised release.

Earlier in the day, Giannulli apologized for the harm his decisions caused his family. "I'm ready to accept the consequences and move forward with the lessons I've learned from this experience," he said. Prior to rendering the sentence, U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel Gorton ripped into Giannulli for committing a "crime motivated by hubris" that is "defined by wanton arrogance and excessive pride."

In addition to really liking the aesthetic of this "courtroom sketch" of this video sentencing, I reprinted the picture here in order to wonder aloud whether the US Sentencing Commission is keeping track of which sentencings are taking place via video these days and which ones are taking place in person.  Because six months into this pandemic the USSC still has not even reported how many sentencings are taking place, I am not especially optimistic the USSC is collecting, or will anytime soon be reporting, special granular data on COVID-era sentencing realities.  But my hope for the USSC springs eternal.

A few prior posts focused on these defendants:

A few of many prior posts on other defendants in college admissions scandal:

August 22, 2020 in Celebrity sentencings, Offender Characteristics, Offense Characteristics, White-collar sentencing | Permalink | Comments (5)

August 21, 2020

Justice or injustice?: Golden State Killer gets LWOP for at least 13 murders and dozens of rapes after deal to avoid death penalty

As reported in this NBC News piece, a "former police officer known as the Golden State Killer for his crime spree across California in the 1970s and '80s was sentenced Friday to consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole."  Here is more about the crimes and punishment:

Joseph DeAngelo, 74, who had eluded authorities for decades, pleaded guilty in June to 13 counts of first-degree murder and 13 rape-related charges in a deal that spared him the death penalty.  He also publicly admitted to dozens more sexual assaults for which the statute of limitations had expired. Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman said Friday in a rare sentencing statement that DeAngelo would "meet his death confined behind the walls of state penitentiary."

"The court is not saying DeAngelo does not deserve to have the death penalty imposed," Bowman said, but given the age of the defendant and victims, a life sentence made more sense. Bowman said he hopes "survivors will find some resolution" after DeAngelo is permanently placed behind bars.

DeAngelo on Friday made a short statement in court addressing victims and their families. "I’ve listened to all your statements. Each one of them. And I’m truly sorry to everyone I’ve hurt. Thank you your honor," he said.

Prosecutors said DeAngelo admitted to harming 87 victims in 53 separate crimes spanning 11 California counties. As part of the plea agreement, he was required to register as a sex offender and pay restitution to the victims or their families, as well as any fees or fines. Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Thien Ho has said the scope of DeAngelo's crime spree is "simply staggering, encompassing 13 known murders and almost 50 rapes between 1975 and 1986."

DeAngelo's crime spree started while he was working as a police officer in Exeter, a northern California community in the San Joaquin Valley near the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Over the years, his crimes morphed from stalking properties to serial rape and murder. DeAngelo went on to marry and raise his own family, escaping investigators' efforts to find him for decades, before he was arrested in Sacramento County in 2018. It is believed to be the first high-profile case to have been cracked with genetic genealogy. Authorities said they used "discarded DNA" to confirm that DeAngelo was the man generations of authorities and citizen sleuths had searched for....

Some of DeAngelo's victims are in their 80s and 90s. Some are dead. But those who were willing and able spent the week addressing DeAngelo in court in anticipation of his sentencing. Phyllis Henneman said she was 22 years old and "young and carefree" when her life changed forever in June 1976. She was home alone with her sister while their dad was out of town when DeAngelo attacked.

"Joseph DeAngelo, henceforth called 'the devil incarnate,' broke into my home, blindfolded me, tied me up, threatened my life with a knife and raped me," she said, describing DeAngelo's modus operandi, which also included tying up partners and spending hours in homes, leaving his victims wondering what terror would come next. "Life as I knew it irrevocably changed that day," she said in the statement read by her sister, Karen Veilleux. But DeAngelo's arrest and upcoming sentencing meant "his victims and their families are now free."

A recent HBO documentary, "I'll Be Gone in the Dark," detailed the gruesome attacks and the desperate effort to find the killer, even as the years wore on. The documentary is based on crime writer Michelle McNamara's book of the same name, in which she recounted her own obsessive effort to uncover the identity of the Golden State Killer and conviction that genetic genealogy would help her do it. McNamara, the wife of comedian Patton Oswalt, died in 2016, two years before DeAngelo's arrest. Bowman on Friday thanked McNamara by name, along with law enforcement, other citizen detectives and DeAngelo's victims for their "dogged persistence" in their quest to bring him to justice.

August 21, 2020 in Offense Characteristics, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, Sex Offender Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (3)

"Unmuted: Solutions to Safeguard Constitutional Rights in Virtual Courtrooms and How Technology Can Expand Access to Counsel and Transparency in the Criminal Justice System"

The title of this post is the title of this timely new paper now on SSRN authored by Matt Bender. Here is its abstract:

A defendant’s fundamental right to a public trial, and the press and community’s separate right to watch court have been threatened by the shift to virtual hearings. These independent constitutional rights can be in harmony in some cases and clash in others.  They cannot be incompatible.  Public interest in criminal justice transparency is increasingly crystallized, but courts have often become more opaque, which jeopardizes First and Sixth Amendment rights.

This paper addresses the conflict and confronts a key question: how can we be assured that remote and virtual hearings like Zoom arraignments or trials guarantee the same rights as traditional court hearings?  Instead of rejecting virtual criminal hearings outright, new proposals are offered for how virtual courtrooms can safeguard constitutional rights.  The prevailing belief that criminal defendants should reject virtual trials is questioned.  Virtual trials may lead to better outcomes for defendants than traditional trials, specifically during the ongoing pandemic.  Beyond preserving rights in a virtual courtroom, the ways technology can improve the criminal justice system are explored.

Through an analysis of existing indigent defense and First Amendment scholarship, the myth that traditional court decorum should trump open court and virtual hearings is addressed.  Judicial legitimacy and transparency may benefit when criminal cases are accessible on virtual platforms or livestreamed.  Transparency can help safeguard defendants’s rights and improve indigent clients’s representation and outcomes.  Instead of disrupting the courtroom — whether a hearing is virtual or traditional — convenient public access helps a community learn more about the criminal justice system and evaluate cases, judges, and attorneys.

These proposals have significant implications for courts and clients by providing a framework for virtual litigation, and leveraging technology for a more equitable criminal justice system.  Livestreams and virtual, remote hearings can improve the right of representation for indigent defendants by increasing access to quality counsel, reducing costs, creating a more competitive legal market, and expanding a client’s choice of attorneys.

August 21, 2020 in Impact of the coronavirus on criminal justice, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ugly COVID headlines and stories not stopping in incarceration nation

It has now been a couple of weeks since I did a round-up of prison-COVID press pieces.  Thankfully, the press and commentators keeping reporting and discussing the discouraging tales that keep emerging from our prisons and jails, and here is a round-up of just a few recent headlines and pieces:

From ABC News, "'Who is going to man the prison if everyone tests positive?' Corrections officer union warns of dual threat facing federal prisons"

From the Detroit Free Press, "Nearly half the population at Michigan prison tests positive for COVID-19"

From Forbes, "A Look Inside A Federal Prison With Covid-19: FCI Seagoville"

From The Guardian, "'Severe inhumanity': California prisons overwhelmed by Covid outbreaks and approaching fires"

From MarketWatch, "U.S. taxpayers already pay a high price to support America’s giant prison population. Now COVID-19 is costing them even more"

From the Miami Herald, "Rubio demands answers from Barr on sexual abuse, COVID response at Florida prison"

From the Phoenix New Times, "'We Are Not Animals': Prisoner Slams State Response to COVID-19 Outbreak"

From the Sacramento Bee, "Folsom Prison COVID-19 cases double, now California’s largest active inmate outbreak"

From the Seattle Times, "Virus outbreak at Washington State Penitentiary, and the response, alarm inmates’ friends and family"

From STLtoday.com, "COVID-19 cases in Missouri prison system increase 50% in less than a month"

August 21, 2020 in Impact of the coronavirus on criminal justice, Prisons and prisoners, Scope of Imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 20, 2020

AG Barr says, unsurprisingly, that feds will appeal reversal of Boston Marathon bomber's death sentence

As reported in this new AP piece, headlined "Barr: Feds to appeal ruling, seek death for Boston bomber," the US Attorney General has told the press that the Justice Department will seek to get the Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, back on federal death row. Here are the details:

The Justice Department will seek to reinstate a death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the man who was convicted of carrying out the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, Attorney General William Barr said Thursday.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Barr said the Justice Department would appeal the court’s ruling last month that tossed Tsarnaev’s death sentence and ordered a trial to determine whether he should be executed for the attack that killed three people and wounded more than 260 others.  Barr said the Justice Department would take the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court. “We will do whatever’s necessary,” Barr said.  “We will take it up to the Supreme Court and we will continue to pursue the death penalty.”...

A three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit court found in July that the judge who oversaw the 2015 trial did not adequately question potential jurors about what they had read or heard about the highly publicized case....

Tsarnaev, now 27, was convicted of all 30 charges against him, including conspiracy and use of a weapon of mass destruction and the killing of an MIT police officer during the Tsarnaev brothers’ getaway attempt.  The appeals court upheld all but a few of his convictions.

An attorney for Tsarnaev, David Patton, declined to comment Thursday.  Patton said after the 1st Circuit’s decision that “it is now up to the government to determine whether to put the victims and Boston through a second trial, or to allow closure to this terrible tragedy by permitting a sentence of life without the possibility of release.”...

Describing media attention in the case as “unrivaled in American legal history,” the appeals court said U.S. District Judge George O’Toole fell short in running a jury selection process “sufficient to identify prejudice.”  The 1st Circuit also found that O’Toole erred in refusing to let the defense tell jurors about evidence tying Tamerlan Tsarnaev to the killings of three people in the Boston suburb of Waltham in 2011....

President Donald Trump tweeted after the decision that the federal government “must again seek the Death Penalty in a do-over of that chapter of the original trial.”  The ruling came as the U.S. government recently resumed federal executions following a 17-year pause.

Prior recent related posts:

August 20, 2020 in Death Penalty Reforms, Sentences Reconsidered, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (1)

Leadership Conference urges Senate Judiciary Committee "not to advance" Prez Trump's slate of nominee to the US Sentencing Commission

I reported in this post last week about Prez Trump's (long overdue) nominations to the US Sentencing Commission, a critical criminal justice agency that has been crippled by having only two (of seven) Commissioners in place since the start of 2019.  In my prior post, I speculated that these nominations have been put forward too late in the year before a presidential election to likely move forward.  And now the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights has written this letter to Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham and ranking member Dianne Feinstein to urge them to not advance these nominees.   Here is some of the text of the letter: 

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (The Leadership Conference), a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 220 national organizations to promote and protect civil and human rights in the United States, we write to urge the Judiciary Committee not to advance the slate of nominees to the United States Sentencing Commission that President Trump announced on August 12, 2020.  We are concerned that the four Republican nominees lack the diversity of race, viewpoint, and professional experience needed to reform a federal sentencing regime that has devastated communities of color for decades.  Our nation incarcerates people at a higher rate than any other country in the world.  The First Step Act of 2018 is proof of the bipartisan consensus in favor of changing this course.  But Senate confirmation of this homogeneous slate will delay meaningful sentencing reform and moves in the wrong direction at a moment when our nation demands a reckoning with structural and racial inequality....

[I]t is imperative that the Commission entrusted with such responsibility includes a diversity of experience and perspectives reflective of all individuals who move through federal courts. It is also no secret that policies are viewed as more legitimate if they are supported by diverse perspectives.  Considering the lack of diversity on the federal bench, a balance of viewpoints on the Commission is vital. While diversity on the Commission alone is not a cure-all for this nation’s mass incarceration crisis, it is key in fostering a more equitable system of justice....

Not a single Republican nominee is a person of color, and only one is a woman. As practitioners, each nominee’s experience with federal sentencing has been primarily through the lens of a prosecutor, U.S. Marshal, or both.  While these experiences are relevant to the Commission’s work, the disproportionate emphasis on them is not reflective of the diversity of background that Congress intended.  Moreover, the weight of these perspectives will worsen an already troubling bent towards law enforcement on the Commission, as the Department of Justice and the United States Parole Commission each have a designated ex officio member — an honor conspicuously not bestowed on any group that directly represents individuals in the federal legal system.  Two prospective nominees have particularly concerning records that suggest their inclusion on the Commission would hinder rather than redress this nation’s mass incarceration crisis. 

At a time when millions of people across this country are demanding that our institutions work to change course from the decades of systemic racism that have beget law enforcement brutality, it is more important than ever that the body charged with developing federal sentencing policy be representative of all people — particularly those upon whom it has had a disproportionate impact.  Past Commissions have taken important steps to address mass incarceration, from lowering the offense levels under the guidelines for drug trafficking offenses in 2014 to advocating as early as 1995 for parity between crack and powder cocaine.  The nominees recently proposed by President Trump, however, if confirmed by the Senate, are likely to undermine this progress by perpetuating outdated beliefs and confounding bipartisan efforts to reform our nation’s harsh sentencing practices.  We must not risk veering off the path towards meaningful sentencing reform. For these reasons, we urge the Judiciary Committee to reject the proposed slate of nominees for the U.S. Sentencing Commission, and to work to ensure that the Commission’s composition embodies the congressional intent of a diverse Commission membership. 

Prior related posts:

August 20, 2020 in Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0)

Amazing resources and insights from the Collateral Consequences Resource Center

Regular readers are used to my regular reminders to regularly check out work over at the Collateral Consequences Resource Center.  Doing so recently brings up a terrific series of posts drawn from a forthcoming report surveying mechanisms for restoring rights and opportunities following arrest or conviction.  Here are posts from this series:

In addition, the CCRC's website also has recently published these commentary posts on cutting edge topics:

August 20, 2020 in Collateral consequences, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Reentry and community supervision | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Labeled For Life: A Review of Youth Sex Offender Registration Laws"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new report from the Juvenile Law Center. Here is an excerpt:

Over 200,000 individuals are on sex offender registries for offenses committed when they were children.  Registration can be life-long and can be imposed without any inquiry into the child’s individual circumstances or progress in treatment. Some states require community notification in addition to registration and reporting requirements.  Many young people face registration as a consequence of developmentally normal behavior, including playing doctor, streaking, sexting, and consensual teen romances.  While some youth commit serious sexual harm and should be held accountable for this conduct, they also need support and effective interventions to change their behavior; the vast majority of youth who act out sexually do not recidivate.  A meta-analysis reviewing 107 studies found that across behavior type, over 97% of children charged with sexual offenses never harm sexually again.  Moreover, after almost 30 years of placing children on registries, empirical research concludes that the practice does not prevent or reduce sexual violence. Rather, placing young people on registries fuels cycles of homelessness, incarceration, and trauma, for both the registrant and survivors.

Children on the registry — including some as young as 8 years old — face residency and employment restrictions as well as barriers to education; suffer the stigmatization of being labeled a sex offender; and can face possible incarceration for failing to meet onerous registration and reporting requirements.  A 2013 Human Rights Watch report examined the grave consequences befalling registered youth.  Over 85% of these youth reported serious mental health issues or suicidal ideation.  A 2017 study revealed that registered children are nearly twice as likely to have experienced an unwanted sexual assault that involved contact or penetration in the past year when compared to nonregistered children who have also engaged in harmful or illegal sexual behaviors.  They are also five times more likely to report having been approached by an adult for sex in the past year.  Children on sex offender registries are four times more likely to report a recent suicide attempt than non-registered children who have engaged in harmful or illegal sexual behavior.  Many registered youth also experience vigilantism in their communities, with 52% reporting harassment and physical violence directed at them.  Accessing and maintaining housing is also a major barrier for both registered youth and their families.  Over 44% of children experienced homelessness as a result of the restrictions placed on their housing due to registration.  Almost all registered individuals face financial challenges and barriers to employment.  In some states, registration fees are so prohibitive that many fall out of compliance and face incarceration....

Although some states have improved youth registration requirements through legislation, the consequence of registration for any period of time is severe. Leading researchers that have studied the impact of registration on young people have empirical data demonstrating the harm caused by registration.  Legislative advocacy is needed — in coordination with litigation — to eradicate youth registration. This statutory review demonstrates that regional differences and nuances of state youth registration laws preclude a “one size fits all” approach to reform. Strategies and research must be based on best practices for both incremental reform and efforts to completely abolish youth registration nationwide.  In addition, a federal legislative strategy will be a necessary and fundamental component of these efforts, as many states continue to be constrained by stringent requirements imposed by the Adam Walsh Act.  Moreover, states continue to look toward the federal government and changing federal youth registration law would be one way to inspire and lead states to do the same.  Most states that require juvenile registration do so without regard to either changing United States Supreme Court caselaw or the emergent research on its effectiveness at promoting public safety or the harm it causes children.  Against this backdrop, the time is now to set a targeted policy reform agenda to roll back these harsh registration laws.

August 20, 2020 in Collateral consequences, Offender Characteristics, Sex Offender Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (3)

Federal prison population, per BOP report of "Total Federal Inmates," now down to 156,415

Regular readers may have noticed that this month I stopped doing my regular Thursday morning updates on COVID-era changes in the federal prison population based on the federal Bureau of Prisons' weekly updated "Total Federal Inmates" numbers. I did because the numbers through the end of July suggested that the federal prison population was getting closer to flattening out with weekly declines that were becoming considerably lower than in previous months. But I will still post episodically on this topic because the BOP population is still declining and this story still remains significant.

As I have noted before via this post, according to BOP's reporting, most weeks through April the federal prison population shrunk around or over 1,000 persons per week; through May, as detailed here, the pace of weekly decline increased to an average of around 1,200 fewer reported prisoners; through June, as detailed here, declines continued at a slightly reduced rate of about 950 fewer persons reported in all federal facilities on average per week.  But by the tail end of July, as noted here, weekly reported population declines were trending under 500.

My post on July 30 noted that the federal population was at a another new historic low with the new BOP reported "Total Federal Inmates" at 157,862.  Three weeks later we have hit another new historic low,and we seem to keeping the pacing at reductions of just under 500 per week, as the new BOP numbers at this webpage report "Total Federal Inmates" at 156,415. I still suspect that more COVID-delayed sentencings and stalled federal prison transfers continued to account for these declines; but the lack of any real-time sentencing data from the US Sentencing Commission and the opaque nature of BOP data make it hard to be sure just what the reported population numbers represent. 

I am hopeful that we will eventually get some sentencing data from the USSC that can help us better understand these prison data, but now nearly six months into the pandemic the USSC still seems in no rush to provide any inkling of how the federal criminal sentencing process has been impacted. Grrr.

A few of many prior related posts:

August 20, 2020 in Impact of the coronavirus on criminal justice, Prisons and prisoners, Scope of Imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 19, 2020

"The Meaning of a Misdemeanor in a Post-Ferguson World: Evaluating the Reliability of Prior Conviction Evidence"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper now available via SSRN authored by J.D. King.  Here is its abstract:

Despite evidence that America's low-level courts are overburdened, unreliable, and structurally biased, sentencing judges continue to uncritically consider a defendant's criminal history in fashioning an appropriate punishment. Misdemeanor courts lack many of the procedural safeguards that are thought to ensure accuracy and reliability.  As with other stages of the criminal justice system, people of color and poor people are disproportionately burdened with the inaccuracies of the misdemeanor system.

This Article examines instances in which sentencing courts have looked behind the mere fact of a prior conviction and assessed whether that prior conviction offered any meaningful insight for the subsequent sentence.  This Article then proposes a framework by which defendants should be allowed to challenge the use of prior conviction evidence in the sentencing context, arguing that the government should bear the burden of persuasion once the defendant sufficiently satisfies a burden of production.  Ultimately, however, this Article suggests that courts and legislatures consider categorical exemptions from the use of prior misdemeanor convictions in imposing sentences.  Failure to critically examine this evidence risks introducing and compounding the biases and errors of low-level courts into more serious sentencing proceedings.

August 19, 2020 in Offender Characteristics, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (2)

Lots and lots of federal drug charges resulting from Operation Legend, which is purportedly to "fight violent crime"

Six week ago, Attorney General William Barr announced the launch of operation legend via this press release that stressed the fighting of violent crime.  Here are excerpts from the July 8 DOJ press release (with my emphasis added): 

Attorney General William P. Barr announced the launch of Operation Legend, a sustained, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative across all federal law enforcement agencies working in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight the sudden surge of violent crime, beginning in Kansas City, MO. Operation Legend was created as a result of President Trump’s promise to assist America’s cities that are plagued by recent violence....

“President Trump has made clear: the federal government stands ready and willing to assist any of our state and local law enforcement partners across the nation responding to violent crime. Operation Legend will combine federal and local resources to combat the disturbing uptick in violence by surging federal agents and other federal assets into cities like Kansas City, a city currently experiencing its worst homicide rate in its history,” said Attorney General Barr. “The Department’s Operation Legend is named in honor of one of Kansas City’s youngest victims, four-year old LeGend Taliferro who was shot in the face while sleeping in his bed.  LeGend’s death is a horrifying reminder that violent crime left unchecked is a threat to us all and cannot be allowed to continue.”

Today via this press release, AG Barr "announced updates on Operation Legend," and here are excerpts:

Since the operation’s launch, there have been more than 1,000 arrests, including defendants who have been charged in state and local courts.  Of those arrests, approximately 217 defendants have been charged with federal crimes.  These numbers exclude Indianapolis, whose operation was just announced last Friday. In addition, nearly 400 firearms have been seized by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The Attorney General launched the operation on July 8, 2020, as a sustained, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative in which federal law enforcement agencies work in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight violent crime.... Launched first in Kansas City, MO., on July 8, 2020, the operation was expanded to Chicago and Albuquerque on July 22, 2020, to Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee on July 29, 2020, to St. Louis and Memphis on Aug. 6, 2020, and to Indianapolis on Aug. 14, 2020. A breakdown of the federal charges in each district, with the exception of Indianapolis, is below.

I am please to see this kind of accounting from DOJ about this operation, but when looking through the breakdown of the federal charges, it is remarkable how for DOJ the effort to "fight violent crime" seems to involve making a whole lot of drug charges:

Kansas City: "Forty-three defendants have been charged with federal crimes ... 17 defendants have been charged with drug trafficking"

Chicago: "Sixty-one defendants have been charged with federal crimes ... 26 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses"

Albuquerque: "Sixteen defendants have been charged with federal crimes ... Six defendants have been charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances; Four defendants have been charged with distribution of controlled substances; Six defendants have been charged with possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance;"

Cleveland: "Thirty-two defendants have been charged with federal crimes ... 22 defendants have been charged with federal drug trafficking charges"

Detroit: "Twenty-two defendants have been charged with federal offenses ... Two defendants have been charged with possession with the intent to distribute controlled substances"

Milwaukee: "Eleven defendants have been charged with federal crimes ... Five defendants have been charged with possession with intent to distribute narcotics"

St. Louis: "Twenty-five defendants have been charged with federal crimes ... 21 defendants have been charged with drug trafficking offenses"

Though it is hard to do an exact accounting based on the DOJ reporting, it seems like roughly half of the federal charges here involve drug trafficking, not actual violent crimes.  (In addition, the vast majority of all the  other federal charges involve illegal gun possession, not actual violent crimes.)  I presume DOJ would defend its work here by asserting that drug trafficking is inherently violent or by contending that disrupting the drug trade via these arrests serves to get people prone to violence off the streets.  But I still find it quite jarring and quite telling that a federal initiative developed and promoted as a means to fight violent crime ends up bringing primarily drug trafficking charges in city after city.

August 19, 2020 in Drug Offense Sentencing, Offense Characteristics, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0)

"COVID-19, Incarceration, and the Criminal Legal System"

The title of this post is the title of this short new paper authored by Jessica Bresler and Leo Beletsky now available via SSRN.  Here is its abstract:

Even before the pandemic, contact with the criminal legal system resulted in health harms on both individual and community levels, with disproportionate impact on people of color.  The COVID-19 crisis magnified the deleterious public health impact of policing, prisons, community supervision, and other elements of the United States’ vast system of control and punishment. 

Despite the scientific consensus that prisons and jails needed to be rapidly depopulated to avert disaster, the number of people released has remained small, resulting in explosive outbreaks of COVID-19 behind bars.  Depopulation of correctional settings is also rarely paired with meaningful efforts to connect reentering individuals to vital supports. Community supervision systems failed to relax onerous probation/parole requirements, while police have taken on enforcement of physical distancing and other public health orders. Even as COVID-19 is raging, the criminal legal system is resisting changes necessary to facilitate pandemic response.

With a focus on incarceration, this Chapter provides an overview of how the U.S. criminal legal system has shaped its COVID-19 response, situating prescriptions in the current debate about divestment from structures of social control in favor of a renewed focus on the social contract.  This Chapter will discuss (1) how the criminal legal system has exacerbated the current public health emergency and (2) how the United States can use this moment to reform this system and its legal underpinning.  This paper was prepared as part of Assessing Legal Responses to COVID-19, a comprehensive report published by Public Health Law Watch in partnership with the de Beaumont Foundation and the American Public Health Association.

August 19, 2020 in Impact of the coronavirus on criminal justice, Prisons and prisoners, Scope of Imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reviewing reservations about Prez Trump's latest slate of US Sentencing Commission nominees

Law360 has this effective new piece highlighting concerns about the make-up of the slate of US Sentencing Commission nominees announce by Prez Trump last week (basics here). The piece is headlined "Why Trump's Sentencing Panel Picks Worry Reform Boosters," and I recommend in in full.  Here is how it begins:

President Donald Trump has tapped five people for the influential commission that sets guidelines for federal prison sentences, but advocates for change on both the left and the right are calling the slate "antithetical to reform" and urging senators not to confirm the picks.

Prior related posts:

August 19, 2020 in Criminal justice in the Trump Administration, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 18, 2020

New research details uptick in domestic violence calls to police in early COVID period

I noted a few weeks ago that the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ) — which is a favorite new organization in part because they asked me to take a close look at the 1994 Crime Bill's sentencing provisions and because they recently produced a great report urging criminal justice reforms — has launched an important and impressive new commission to assess the impacts of COVID-19 on the criminal justice system (basic details here).  Today via that CCJ commission comes new research on domestic violence calls for service.  This six-page research brief, authored by Profs Emily Leslie and Riley Wilson,  is titled "Sheltering in Place and Domestic Violence: Evidence from Calls for Service during COVID-19," and here is its overview:

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has pushed people to spend more time at home, amidst increased uncertainty and soaring unemployment rates.  The best available evidence tells us that these conditions have the potential to increase domestic violence (Lindo et al., 2018; Card and Dahl, 2011).  News outlets around the world reported increased reports of domestic violence as the pandemic spread globally during Spring 2020.

We use data on calls for service to the police from 14 large American cities to compare domestic violence calls before and after the pandemic began in the United States, relative to trends during the same period in 2019.  The pandemic led to a 7.5% increase in calls for service during March, April, and May.  The biggest increase came during the first five weeks after widespread social distancing began, when domestic violence calls were up 9.7%.  State-mandated stay-at-home orders and school closures came later, suggesting the increase was not only a response to shelter-in-place policies.  The increase came across a broad range of demographic and socioeconomic groups, and includes households without a recent history of domestic violence calls.

August 18, 2020 in Impact of the coronavirus on criminal justice, National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Policing Procedural Error in the Lower Criminal Courts"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new article available via SSRN authored by Justin Murray. Here is its abstract:

The criminal justice system depends on reviewing courts to formulate norms of procedural law and to make sure those norms are actually followed in the lower courts.  Yet reviewing courts are not performing either of these functions very well.  No single factor can fully explain why this is the case, for there is plenty of blame to go around.  But the harmless error rule is a major culprit. 

The conventional approach to harmless error review prohibits reversal of a defendant’s conviction or sentence, even when the law was violated during proceedings in the lower court, unless that violation influenced the outcome below.  This limitation impedes effective oversight of the lower courts in two significant ways.  First, it enables trial judges, prosecutors, and other relevant entities (such as a district attorney’s office, to name one example) to persistently evade accountability for procedural errors, diminishing their incentives to comply with legal norms.  And second, it provides reviewing courts with a handy tool to avoid resolving legal claims on their merits.  Instead of holding that an error did or did not occur, thereby helping trial judges, prosecutors, and others learn what the law requires going forward, reviewing courts can — and often do — affirm on factbound harmless error grounds without ever adjudicating the legality of the challenged conduct.

These failings call for a major shift in how courts review procedural error.  I propose that, in addition to examining whether an error affected the outcome, as current law directs, a reviewing court should also consider whether (1) reversal would substantially help to prevent future errors, (2) the error caused substantial harm to a legally protected interest unrelated to the outcome, and (3) the benefits of reversal, as tabulated in the previous steps, outweigh its costs.  After making the case for this framework and discussing how to operationalize each of its components, I then explore, a bit more tentatively, whether the same set of ideas could help stimulate much-needed rethinking of other controversial rules that further obstruct the policing of procedural error in the lower criminal courts.

August 18, 2020 in Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Sentences Reconsidered, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0)

Should we all try to guess who will be the "very, very important" person that Prez Trump is planning to pardon?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this Reuters piece headlined "Trump says he will pardon a 'very important' person on Tuesday." Here are the details:

President Donald Trump said on Monday he would pardon a “very, very important” person on Tuesday, but added it would not be leaker Edward Snowden or former national security adviser Michael Flynn. “Doing a pardon tomorrow on someone who is very, very important,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One.

He declined to offer further details except to say it was not Flynn nor Snowden, a former U.S. National Security Agency contractor now living in Russia who has been charged with leaking secret information.

On Saturday, Trump said he was considering a pardon for Snowden, who gave a trove of secret files in 2013 to news organizations that disclosed vast domestic and international surveillance operations carried out by the NSA. Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russia’s then-ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. The U.S. Justice Department has sought to dismiss the case against Flynn following pressure from Trump and his allies.

Last month, Trump used his presidential power to commute the sentence of longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone, who was convicted of lying under oath to lawmakers investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

I am wondering if Prez Trump is maybe just going to pardon someone whom he previously only gave a sentence commutation, such as Stone or Rod Blagojevich or maybe Marie Johnson.  But doing so would not really be that exciting after this Trumpian tease, so I really wonder who is the next person to be getting Trump's golden clemency ticket.

Any guesses (serious of joking), dear readers?

August 18, 2020 in Sentences Reconsidered, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (6)

August 17, 2020

Should we expect to hear much on criminal justice reform during the Democratic National Convention?

This evening marks the start of the Democratic National Convention, and I am unsure if its virtual nature makes me more or less likely to watch a lot of it. But I am sure that I will be eager to hear whether and how criminal justice issues are discussed. The salience of criminal justice reform issues seems to be growing every quadrennial, and heightened concerns about both racial justice and gun violence would seem to ensure that both parties will be discussing crime and punishment during their nominating events.

Here is a partial round-up of recent pieces I have seen about the Democratic ticket and criminal justice issues as we enter the final phase of the 2020 campaign:

Some on many prior related post:

August 17, 2020 in Campaign 2020 and sentencing issues, Elections and sentencing issues in political debates, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0)

"COVID and Crime: An Early Empirical Look"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper authored by David Abrams and just posted to SSRN. Here is its abstract:

We collect data from over 25 large cities in the U.S. and document the short-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on crime.  There is a widespread immediate drop in both criminal incidents and arrests most heavily pronounced among drug crimes, theft, residential burglaries, and most violent crimes.  The decline appears to precede most stay-at-home orders, and arrests follow a similar pattern as reports.  We find no decline in homicides and shootings, and an increase in non-residential burglary and car theft in most cities, suggesting that criminal activity was displaced to locations with fewer people.  Pittsburgh, New York City, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington DC and Chicago each saw overall crime drops of over 35%.  There was also a drop in police stops and a rise in Black detainee share in Philadelphia, which may reflect the racial composition of essential workers. Evidence on police-initiated reports and geographic variation in crime change suggests that most of the observed changes are not due to reporting changes.

August 17, 2020 in Impact of the coronavirus on criminal justice, National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (0)

Can and should judges demand prosecutors provide written explanations for dismissals and plea deals?

The question in this post and broader concerns about judicial review of prosecutorial discretion seems to be arising more and more in a variety of contexts. The election of many so-called progressive prosecutors seems in particular to be lead some not-so-progressive judges to be more eager to review and regulate prosecutorial action, and this AP article notes how this debate might come before the Virginia Supreme Court:

A northern Virginia prosecutor who says her county’s judges are infringing on her discretion to dismiss charges and enter plea bargains is asking the state Supreme Court to intervene on her behalf.  Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti filed a petition [available here] Friday asking the court for a relief from a policy imposed by the county’s four Circuit Court judges.

In March, two months after Dehghani-Tafti took office, the judges required prosecutors to file a written brief explaining themselves any time they decide to drop charges or enter a plea bargain. Dehghani-Tafti was one among a cadre of prosecutors in northern Virginia and across the nation to win office on a reform agenda, promising not to prosecute lower-level drug offenses.

She said that the order is not only time-consuming, but potentially damaging in cases where the reasons for dropping a case should remain private, like protecting a broader investigation or in cases of domestic violence where a victim declines to cooperate. “It is not wise for us to be putting in all those details, and the court should know that,” she said....

The issue is playing out nationally in different ways.  In Maryland, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has crossed swords with Baltimore prosecutor Marilyn Mosby after Hogan tried to divert more resources to the state attorney general’s office to prosecute cases in the city. And in Missouri, the legislature is considering a bill filed during an ongoing special session sought by the state’s Republican governor that would give the state’s attorney general overlapping jurisdiction to prosecute cases amid complaints that St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner is too lenient in bringing charges.

Both Mosby and Gardner are among 60 current and former prosecutors who have signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Dehghani-Tafti’s petition in Virginia.  Miriam Krinsky, executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution, the organization that submitted the friend-of-the-court brief [available here], said that while judges have their own discretion to question on a case-by-case basis a prosecutor’s motion to dismiss a particular case, she said that issuing a blanket policy requiring written justification for every decision is excessive.

“In the ’80s and ’90s prosecutors used their discretion to ramp up mass incarceration, and judges never second-guessed or interfered with that,” she said. “Now we have this sweeping order in all cases in Arlington County where an elected commonwealth’s attorney is wanting to do exactly what voters elected her to do.” In Arlington, Dehghani-Tafti said that in previous years, 75 percent of dismissed cases were handled on oral motions only, often taking only a minute or two.

She acknowledged that prosecutorial discretion cuts both ways, saying a rural prosecutor in a jurisdiction that has declared itself a Second Amendment sanctuary also enjoys the discretion to decline prosecution on firearms charges.  She said, though, that her efforts to pass on low-level drug cases are distinguishable on policy grounds, because she is moving in the same direction as the legislature, and that her approach to drug prosecutions is evidence-based. 

Because I have long been troubled that prosecutorial actions and discretion operates mostly in the dark without being subject to any clear legal standards or transparency or review, I generally like the notion of forcing prosecutors to explain and justify their actions and subjecting these actions to some form of judicial review.  But especially given our society's core commitment to freedoms and limited government, I strongly believe any obligation of explanation should apply primarily when prosecutors are seeking to use coercive government powers to deny freedoms, not when they are seeking to forgo the use of government powers and will enhance freedoms.

August 17, 2020 in Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (3)

August 16, 2020

Unsurprisingly, victims of Boston Marathon bomber differ on seeking a new death sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after reversal on appeal

Later this month, I will have the pleased of starting a new semester teaching my sentencing law and policy class.  I often ask my students about on-going real cases, and this year I will press student to consider whether they would want the US Attorney for Massachusetts to pursue capital resentencing in the Boston Marathon bombing case, United States v. Tsarnaev, following the First Circuit’s recent death sentence reversal. Helpfully, the Boston Globe has these two new pieces focused on this topic:

Here are excerpts from the first piece linked above:

The overturning of Tsarnaev’s death sentence has sent tremors of anxiety across the community of survivors and relatives of those killed in the attack, many of whom are still recovering from their physical and emotional wounds.... In a statement, Andrew Lelling, US attorney for Massachusetts, promised to consider the views of survivors and victims’ families before deciding whether to seek a new trial....

“Let him serve his life in prison, and let us live our lives in peace,” said Lynn Julian Crisci, who suffered a brain injury, hearing loss, and neurological disorders as a result of the first bomb. Crisci, 43, used to support the death penalty, until having to live through what feels like an endless appeals process.  Now she hopes prosecutors will not seek another penalty trial....

Of 18 victims who responded to the Globe about what prosecutors should do, a majority said they would prefer to avoid another trial and to let Tsarnaev spend the rest of his days at the US Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility in Colorado, the nation’s highest-security prison.

“I would prefer to let it go and let him rot in jail,” said Beth Bourgault, 65, who lives in Lynn. Bourgault and her husband were standing a few feet from Krystle Campbell when the first of two bombs exploded on Boylston Street.  Shrapnel severed muscles and nerves in one of her legs. She also suffered a ruptured eardrum.  Her husband, Michael, suffered burns and ear injuries as well.  She was troubled when Tsarnaev was originally sentenced to death and hopes prosecutors do not pursue a second trial.  “My feeling is he was hoping for death and that he got what he wanted,” she said. “I’d prefer he spend his days thinking about what he did.”

Other victims, though, were enraged by the court’s ruling and were willing to endure another trial to see Tsarnaev sentenced to death.  “If they don’t go through with the death penalty in this case, what kind of precedent is there?  What’s the point of the death penalty?” said Liz Norden, whose two adult sons lost their right legs in the bombing.  “This is personal to me.” Norden, 57, who lives in Melrose, vowed to attend a new trial.  “I want to see it through the end,” she said. “I want justice.”...

On Thursday, the US attorney’s office in Massachusetts, which prosecuted Tsarnaev in 2015, held a conference call with victims to discuss the appeals court decision and how they wished to proceed.  Discerning a consensus might be difficult.

Helen Zhao, who lost her niece Lingzi Lu, a 23-year-old Boston University graduate student from China, to the second bomb, supports the death penalty for Tsarnaev.  “He has harmed a lot of people and changed a lot of people’s lives,” she said.  “He’s a terrorist.” Lu’s parents, who live in China, were “shocked” and “speechless” by the ruling, she said.  “They were disappointed in the American legal system,” said Zhao, 49, who lives in Rhode Island.

Marc Fucarile, who lost his right leg in the bombing, worried that a life sentence could mean that Tsarnaev might one day be able to regain his freedom.  “As long as he’s breathing, that’s a possibility,” he said.  “They’re giving [Tsarnaev] a victory.” Fucarile, 41, who lives in Reading, testified during the penalty phase at Tsarnaev’s trial and said he would attend a new trial.  “I want to see it happen,” he said.

But Jenny Chung Greenfield, who was hit by shrapnel in her chest from one of the bombs, prefers that prosecutors put an end to what could be decades worth of appeals, keeping Tsarnaev’s name in the public eye.  She didn’t attend the first trial and doubts she’d go to a new one.  “I just think about what does closure mean, and closure is such a personal thing to people, and the way that folks find closure is different,” said Chung Greenfield, 42, who lives in Cambridge.

August 16, 2020 in Death Penalty Reforms, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Sentences Reconsidered, Victims' Rights At Sentencing, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (3)

Is Prez Trump serious about considering a pardon for Edward Snowden?

The question in the title of this post follows from Prez Trump's discussion of this possibility this weekend, as detailed in this Fox News piece.  Here are the basics:

President Trump said he will “look at” the case of Edward Snowden for a potential pardon. “I’m not that aware of the Snowden situation,” Trump told reporters in a briefing Saturday. “Many people think he should be somehow treated differently and other people think he did very bad things.”

“I’m going to take a look at that very strongly,” he added. Trump polled his aides Thursday to see whether he should free the anti-surveillance whistleblower and allow him to return to the U.S. from Russia without fear of arrest. “There are a lot of people that think that he is not being treated fairly. I mean, I hear that,” Trump told the New York Post in an interview....

His comments Saturday reveal remarkable reversal of course about the man he once deemed a “traitor." “Snowden is a spy who should be executed - but if it and he could reveal Obama’s records, I might become a major fan,” Trump wrote on Twitter in 2013.

A number of Republicans have voiced a renewed call for the president to free Snowden. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said he was one of those Trump referred to as believing Snowden was treated unfairly.... Another Kentucky Republican, Rep. Thomas Massie, voiced similar concerns. “Employees of the US government violated the Constitution and lied to Congress and the American people about it.  @Snowden exposed them.  This is bigger than him.  If he’s punished for his service to the Constitution, there will be more violations of the Constitution, and more lies,” Massie wrote on Twitter.

Snowden, hiding in Russia, said last year he would return to the U.S. if he would be guaranteed a fair jury trial.  “That is the ultimate goal, but if I’m going to spend the rest of my life in prison then my one, bottom-line demand that we all have to agree to is that at least I get a fair trial,” Snowden said on “CBS This Morning."  He said that the U.S. government has “refused” to guarantee one.  “They won’t provide access to what’s called a public interest defense,” Snowden said.

The ex-National Security Agency (NSA) contractor blew the lid off U.S. government surveillance methods in 2013.  Moscow has resisted U.S. pressure to extradite Snowden, who faces charges that could land him in prison for up to 30 years.  The Guardian in Britain published the first story based on Snowden's disclosures.  It revealed that a secret court order was allowing the U.S. government to Verizon phone records for millions of Americans.  Later stories, including those in The Washington Post, disclosed other snooping, and how U.S. and British spy agencies had tapped into information from cables carrying the world's phone and Internet traffic.

This Salon article, headlined "Trump's new comments about Edward Snowden put pressure on Democrats to support a pardon," highlights that support for Snowden has often come from progressive quarters:

The ACLU ... restated its support for the whistleblower in the wake of latest comments from Trump, noting in a late Saturday tweet that "Snowden blew the whistle on illegal government activity kept secret for years, sparking a global debate about the proper limits of government surveillance."

"We've said it before and we'll say it again," the group added. "Snowden is a patriot and should be pardoned."

In a Saturday tweet, digital rights activist Evan Greer singled out progressive lawmakers including "Squad" members Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and said they should help "lead their party right now by publicly calling to #PardonSnowden" and protect whistleblowers.

And some members of the GOP are not at all keen on the idea, as highlighted by this Hill article headlined "Cheney calls pardoning Snowden 'unconscionable' after Trump says he's considering it":

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said on Sunday that pardoning former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden “would be unconscionable” after President Trump said he was considering the idea at a recent press conference. <P.“Edward Snowden is a traitor. He is responsible for the largest and most damaging release of classified info in US history. He handed over US secrets to Russian and Chinese intelligence putting our troops and our nation at risk,” Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in the House, tweeted on Sunday afternoon, adding; “Pardoning him would be unconscionable.”

August 16, 2020 in Clemency and Pardons, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (1)