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November 13, 2021

Some clemency news and notes as we enter the holiday season

Regularly readers know that I view, and advocate for, the exercise of clemency to be a regular part of the work of chief executives, and that I consider regular use of the clemency power to be all that more important in our modern era of mass incarceration and mass punishment and massive collateral consequences.  But, since it seems some chief executives seem to wait until the holiday season to think about clemency work, I will declare that the holiday season has begun. 

Of course, the holiday season often includes my annual complaints about turkey pardons getting more attention than humans with real strong clemency cases.  But, encouragingly, some of past week's news suggests advocates, and even some chief executives, are already getting into the holiday clemency spirit:

From the AP, "North Carolina man wrongfully imprisoned 24 years pardoned"

From Channel3000, "‘A pardon can be a powerful message’: Gov. Evers issues 29 more pardons, bringing total to 307"

From Marijuana Moment, "Senators Urge Biden To Grant Mass Pardon For Thousands Of Marijuana Cases"

From the News Station, "President Clinton’s Pardon Transformed Me Into A Clemency Crusader"

From PIX11, "Advocates want Hochul to use clemency powers for older inmates"

From the Tulsa World, "Five Oklahoma Republican lawmakers urge clemency for Julius Jones"

For anyone intrigued by all this attention to clemency for real people, here are a few obligatory turkey headlines:

From the Alabama News Network, "From Gov. Kay Ivey Pardons Turkeys in Time-Honored Alabama Tradition"

From the Indianapolis Star, "Indiana turkeys will travel to White House for Biden's Thanksgiving presidential pardon"

From People, "Joaquin Phoenix, Billie Eilish Petition Joe Biden to Allow Pardoned Turkey to Live at Sanctuary"

Last but certainly not least, I am pleased to be able to highlight in this context that a terrific pardon project on which I have been working here in Ohio has been officially expanded as of this past week.  This news release from the Governor of Ohio, "Governor DeWine Expands Expedited Pardon Project to Include Law Partners in Cleveland, Dayton, and Cincinnati," starts this way:

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine today announced the expansion of the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project, which eliminates administrative hurdles and provides free one-on-one help for qualified citizens seeking legal absolution for past criminal offenses. 

Governor DeWine launched the Ohio Governor's Expedited Pardon Project in 2019 in partnership with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, and the University of Akron School of Law to fast-track the pardon applications of specific candidates who have become law-abiding and contributing members of society.

The expansion of the program enlists new law partners to reach more potential pardon candidates and to help guide candidates through the pardon process. 

A few prior posts about the Ohio "Expedited Pardon Project":

November 13, 2021 in Clemency and Pardons, Sentences Reconsidered, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 12, 2021

"Two Strikes and You’re in Prison Forever: Why Florida leads the nation in people serving life without chance of parole."

The title of this post is the headline of this important new reporting (and accounting) from the Marshall Project. I recommend the full piece, and here is a taste:

The number of people serving life-without-parole sentences has soared across the country in the last two decades, rising to 56,000, according to The Sentencing Project, an advocacy group.  Some people received these penalties as an alternative to capital punishment, which has fallen out of favor with many prosecutors and the public.  The number of death sentences dwindled to 18 last year, and only 2,500 people are now on death row, down from almost 3,600 two decades ago.

But there’s another reason for the increase: A handful of states have embraced life-without-parole sentences to punish “repeat offenders” — even if their crimes didn’t cause physical injury, an investigation by The Marshall Project and The Tampa Bay Times found.

Washington passed the first “three strikes” law in 1993, allowing prosecutors to give life sentences to people convicted even of nonviolent felonies if they met the criteria for “persistent offenders.”  At least two dozen states followed suit, including Florida in 1995.  In many states, people sentenced to life used to become eligible for parole after 15 years. But Florida and others virtually ended parole a generation ago, so that life sentences became permanent.

Today, Florida has more than 13,600 people serving life without parole, far more than any other state and almost a quarter of the total nationwide.  Though this sentence is widely seen as an alternative to the death penalty, which is used in murder cases, 44% of the people serving it in Florida were not convicted of that crime, according to our analysis of state data.

Part of the reason Florida’s numbers are so high is that it went further than any other state in 1997 by passing an unusual “two strikes” law known as the Prison Releasee Reoffender Act. The law directs prosecutors to seek the maximum sentence for someone who commits a felony within three years of leaving prison, which often means a lifetime behind bars. The law also takes sentencing discretion away from judges.  About 2,100 of the state’s permanent lifers, or about 15%, are in prison because of the law, our investigation found.  The crimes that netted life without parole included robbing a church of a laptop, holding up motel clerks for small amounts of cash and stealing a television while waving a knife....

The two-strikes punishment has been disproportionately applied to Black men, who account for almost 75% of those serving time because of the 1997 law, our analysis found; about 55% of all prisoners in the state are Black. Their most common charge was armed robbery, not homicide. Housing its life-without-parole population, including those locked up under the two-strikes law, cost Florida at least $330 million last year, according to our analysis of state data.

“This is an incredibly punitive law that is totally arbitrary,” said Jeff Brandes, a Republican who represents St. Petersburg in the Florida Senate and is trying to repeal the two-strikes law, so far without much support from his colleagues. He said Florida wastes too much taxpayer money locking people up forever on burglary, robbery and theft. “A sentence that is too long is just as unjust as a sentence that is too short,” he said.

The Marshall Project has this companion piece headlined "He Got a Life Sentence When He Was 22 — For Robbery: Black men are most affected by Florida’s two-strikes law." Here is a snippet:

The two-strike punishment has been disproportionately applied to Black men, an analysis of state data by The Marshall Project and Tampa Bay Times found. Among all prisoners serving life in Florida, 54% are Black; but among those serving life with enhancements like two strikes, 74% are Black.

In some counties, the racial disparities regarding sentence enhancements were glaring, the analysis found: In Leon County, home to the state capital of Tallahassee, among people serving life sentences for crimes committed within three years of release from prison, 96 of 107 were Black.  In Pinellas County, where Mackeroy grew up, 75% of prisoners serving life with two-strikes sentences are Black.

November 12, 2021 in Data on sentencing, Detailed sentencing data, Prisons and prisoners, Race, Class, and Gender, Scope of Imprisonment, State Sentencing Guidelines, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0)

Highlighting compassion's limits as to prison releases during pandemic

Wanda Bertram has this notable New Republic commentary fully headlined, "State Prisons Released More People Before Covid-19 Than During It: Prison officials touted a compassionate response to Covid, but the statistics tell another story."  I recommend the full piece, and here is how it starts (with links from the original):

As Covid-19 first spread through the United States, it became clear that jails and prisons would see the worst of it. Already suffering from overcrowded, unsanitary facilities and medical neglect, incarcerated people lived in prime conditions for deadly outbreaks.  Responding to pressure from advocates, prison officials insisted they would look for opportunities to release people who could go home safely or who were at high risk of dying from the disease.

But state prison statistics show another story: Relatively few people have been released from prisons over the course of the pandemic.  According to data collected by the Prison Policy Initiative (where I work as a spokesperson) tracking releases in 11 states, 10 of those states reported releasing even fewer prisoners in 2020 and the beginning of 2021 than they had in 2019.  This drop in releases occurred as the coronavirus infected one in every three people in prison nationwide, leading to 2,800 deaths as of this October.

Many prisons did make policy changes designed to expedite early releases.  In most places, though, these changes didn’t result in more people going home.  An apparent drop in the overall prison population during the last two years, most agree, is due to fewer people being sent to prison in the first place, not people being freed. So why did releases go down?  Prison officials say that they make decisions on petitions for early release by weighing several factors, including an individual’s behavior, the nature of their original offense, their potential risk to public safety, and circumstances that might prompt a “compassionate” release (such as a prisoner suffering from severe dementia).  To be sure, the pandemic posed logistical challenges — making it hard to hold in-person parole hearings, offer classes that are sometimes prerequisites for parole, or place people in halfway houses.  But the pandemic also introduced what should have been a compelling new factor in release decisions: the risk of serious illness or death.  One would think this would have tipped the scales in a significant number of cases, adding up to more releases.  The fact that it did not raises disturbing questions about the conduct of prison officials.

While the data collected by my colleagues at the Prison Policy Initiative is incomplete, because only some states publish monthly release data, anecdotes and statewide reports help fill in the gaps. We know, for instance, that compassionate releases have stagnated in many states.  A recent investigation by The Salt Lake Tribune showed Utah’s parole board didn’t increase compassionate releases during the pandemic; instead it denied people like Jesus Gomez, an 84-year-old man confined to a wheelchair who can’t remember his crimes.  Over in Nevada, officials granted zero compassionate releases in 2020; medical staff in its prisons failed even to identify candidates to review. Alabama, whose infamously crowded prisons hold about 28,000 people, identified just 15 candidates for compassionate release last year and granted it to five.  Alabama also granted parole to a smaller percentage of the people who applied in the spring and summer of 2020 than it had from 2018 to 2019.  Meanwhile, the Southern Poverty Law Center obtained a list of the oldest incarcerated people in Alabama, discovering that hundreds were parole-eligible but either had been denied or hadn’t had a hearing.

November 12, 2021 in Impact of the coronavirus on criminal justice, Prisons and prisoners, Scope of Imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 11, 2021

Making the case for criminal justice reform as a way to honor those who served on Veterans Day

Jason Pye has this potent and personal Hill commentary headlined "Veterans fought for our freedom: To return the favor, fight for criminal justice reform."  I recommend the piece in full, and here are excerpts:

One way veterans deal with their problems is by self-medicating through alcohol and drugs.  This wasn’t an issue in our home, but given the pain that was so apparent in my father, I understand all too well why veterans disproportionately struggle with addiction.  Alcohol and prescription or illicit drug abuse often lead to entanglements in our broken criminal justice system, and instead of healing these men and women, incarceration simply adds to their trauma.  In the criminal justice reform movement, we advocate for alternatives to incarceration for sick people — those with addiction and mental health issues who are better served with treatment, counseling and rehabilitative services. 

recent report showed 8 percent of people incarcerated at the state level, and more than 5 percent incarcerated at the federal level, are military veterans, constituting a disturbing 107,400 current or former members of America’s armed forces behind bars.  More than one in 10 veterans have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder, so it should come as no surprise that nearly 30 percent of the veterans in federal prison are there for drug convictions.

At the state level, veterans’ courts, more diversion and treatment options and expanded reentry services have led to better outcomes for many veterans. But we must do more, especially for communities of color that are sending a greater number of young people into military service.

In Congress, a bill called the EQUAL Act is stalled in the Senate after receiving a rare and overwhelming bipartisan 361-to-66 vote in the House of Representatives.  This bill would eliminate the shocking 18-to-1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, perhaps the worst vestige of injustice in America’s drug policy.

During Military Families Appreciation Month and on Veterans Day, my hope is that we can view criminal justice, and particularly drug policy reforms, through the lens of those who have served our country.   I’ll be pushing for the EQUAL Act to honor my father, Lamar Pye, and the tens of thousands of other military veterans who suffered severe trauma, many of whom are left alone to struggle with addiction and the consequences of America’s archaic, unfair, counterproductive drug policies.  

These men and women fought for our freedoms. Now it’s time for us to fight for theirs.

Regular readers know I have often blogged about the intersection of veterans' issues and criminal justice on Veterans Day.  For example, this day has always seemed to me a good day for some focused advocacy for clemency for veterans, as I suggested in these prior posts:

Disappointingly, 10 months into his Presidency, Prez Biden has not yet granted clemency to a single person yet, so I doubt we will see him grant clemency to any veterans today.  But a recent US Sentencing Commission report (discussed here) indicates that over 10,000 veterans are serving time in federal prisons now and tens of thousands more have federal criminal records.  It is a darn shame that no Prez has had the wisdom and the courage to try to start a tradition of clemency grants to honor veterans on this special day. 

I will continue to honor this day and those who serves by highlighting issues at the intersection of military service and criminal justice, as I have in a number of prior posts: 

November 11, 2021 in Offender Characteristics | Permalink | Comments (2)

November 10, 2021

Feds get 41 months for one high-profile January 6 rioter and seek 51 months for another

Two new Politico articles provide updates on the latest sentencing news from the prosecution of persons involved in the January 6 Capitol riot.  Here are links and excerpts:

"N.J. man hit with toughest sentence yet in Jan. 6 attack":

A federal judge on Wednesday imposed the most serious sentence yet in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, ordering a New Jersey man to serve almost three-and-a-half years in prison for punching a police officer in the face during the melee.

Scott Fairlamb, 44, a former MMA fighter and gym owner, is the first defendant charged with assaulting an officer during the attack to face sentencing. The judge, Royce Lamberth, said he expected Fairlamb’s 41-month sentence would end up lower than others also facing charges for assaulting police that day.

That’s because Fairlamb was the first to plead guilty to such an assault and, despite initially celebrating the attack, has since expressed remorse that both prosecutors and Lamberth himself described as “genuine.”

Some of many prior related posts:

November 10, 2021 in Celebrity sentencings, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Offender Characteristics, Offense Characteristics, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (2)

BJS releases "Census of State and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities, 2019 – Statistical Tables"

Via email, I learned that the Bureau of Justice Statistics has released this new report providing a US correctional census with "data collected from state, federal, and private adult correctional facilities on the characteristics of facilities by type, operator, size, physical security level, capacity, court orders, and programs." This report provides a pre-COVID era snapshot o f US carceral realities, as decribed at the start of the 24-page report:

At midyear 2019, there were a total of 1,677 adult correctional facilities in the United States.1 Of these, 111 were operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), 1,155 were operated by state correctional authorities, and 411 were privately operated (table 1).  Confinement facilities made up 69% of all adult facilities, and community-based facilities made up the remaining 31% (figure 1).

Confinement facilities held about 95% of all prisoners reported at midyear 2019.  About 8 in 10 (83%) confinement facilities were operated by state authorities, and those facilities held a comparable percentage of prisoners in confinement facilities (82%) (figure 2).  About 2 in 3 (64%) community-based facilities were privately operated, and those private facilities housed about half (51%) of prisoners reported in community-based facilities at midyear 2019.

Statistics in this report are based on the 2019 Census of State and Federal Correctional Facilities (CCF).  The CCF covers adult correctional facilities operated by state departments of corrections, BOP, and private contractors in all 50 states, including the combined jail and prison systems in Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

November 10, 2021 in Data on sentencing, Prisons and prisoners, Scope of Imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 9, 2021

Rounding up reviews of SCOTUS oral arguments on religious liberty in death chamber

On Tuesday morning, the US Supreme Court heard oral argument in Ramirez v. Collier to consider whether a condemned prisoner can have his pastor physically touch him and audibly pray in the execution chamber while he is being executed.  I have not yet had a chance to listen to the oral argument (which is available here), but a quick scan of a number of press reports suggests the Justices were split on the matter.  Here is a partial round-up of blog and press comment on the argument:

From NPR, "Supreme Court conservatives are skeptical on spiritual advisers in death chamber"

From SCOTUSblog, "Court debates inmate’s request for prayer and touch during execution, but a key justice remains silent"

From Slate, "The Supreme Court’s Conservatives Finally Found a Religious Objection They Don’t Like"

From USA Today, “Texas death row case: Supreme Court wrestles with religious freedom in the execution chamber.”

November 9, 2021 in Death Penalty Reforms, Sentences Reconsidered, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (1)

Two exciting DEPC events on tap in coming days

I am pleased to be able to promote here a couple of online events scheduled this week and next organized by OSU's Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (which I help direct).  I am quite excited about both events, and here are the titles and short descriptions (with a link to see the panelists and to register):

"Addressing Harm: Opioid Settlement Background and Historical Context"

Date: Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021    Time:  Noon - 1:15 p.m. (Register here)

The opioid epidemic that has swept across the United States in the last decade has had a devastating impact on individuals as well as their families and communities. While the true cost of the epidemic is most likely incalculable, states and local governments have fought hard to seek damages from various companies along the opioid supply chain to help address the resulting crises plaguing their communities.

Join the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center and Harm Reduction Ohio for the first panel in a series on Ohio's opioid settlement.  The purpose of this panel is to understand how opioid litigation was pursued and the settlements that resulted. The panel will look back at similar litigation, such as the tobacco settlement, to see how the current settlement compares to earlier public health litigation and what lessons can be learned.

"Cannabis Crossroads: What’s in Store for Marijuana Reform in Ohio?"

Date: Friday, Nov. 19, 2021    Time:  Noon - 1:30 p.m. (Register here)

Join the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center and Natural Therapies Education Foundation for a virtual discussion featuring panelists representing current Ohio cannabis reform endeavors. The event will provide attendees with knowledge about pending initiatives and legislation, as well as a vision of what the future may hold for cannabis in Ohio.

November 9, 2021 in Drug Offense Sentencing, Marijuana Legalization in the States | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Elections have consequences": Virginia criminal justice edition

I now have seen a couple of noteworthy articles related to criminal justice issues coming from Virginia in the wake of GOP candidates prevailing in last week's election.  Here are headlines and excerpts:

"What Youngkin’s parole board promise signals for Virginia’s criminal justice system":

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin promises to fire and replace the board after an investigation last year found its members weren’t following the board’s own rules. Attorney general-elect Jason Miyares also says his office will re-investigate what happened.  Come January of next year, Virginia will have a republican governor for the first time since 2014. The new leadership is expected to bring new policies — and a new, Republican-appointed parole board.

While claiming victory last week in northern Virginia, Youngkin echoed what was one of his key campaign promises.  “We will replace the entire parole board on day one,” he said....  The promise comes during the ongoing parole board scandal.  Last year, the state’s watchdog agency found Virginia’s parole board violated the law, specifically failing to notify local prosecutors and victims’ families of some releases.  “The most that we can kind of conclude from that whole saga was that the board was not following its own rules and needed to do a better job of doing that,” said 8News Political Analyst Rich Meagher, on Monday....

Meagher said with a new, Youngkin-appointed board, we should expect changes.  “The parole board is considered more of a politicized board and it represents the interest of the party and the party’s ideology,” he said. All of the board’s five current members were appointed by Democratic governors Terry McAuliffe and Ralph Northam between 2014 and 2020.

The state’s new self-described “top cop” Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares doesn’t have any direct control over the board or its decisions. However, Miyares said he’s expecting Youngkin’s appointees to more heavily consider victim input when considering paroles. “I think that’s a critical component,” Miyares said last week.

This is perhaps bad news for some convicts seeking a second chance and good news for victims’ families.  “Youngkin very clearly wants to take a very tough law and order approach so we will definitely see fewer of these parole releases almost guaranteed over the next few years,” Meagher said.

Since parole was abolished in 1995, the parole board only considers eligible people convicted before then. Meagher said what will likely impact even more Virginians is Youngkin and Miyares’ approach to criminal justice. “It signals that there is a change coming,” Meagher said. “I think the democrats have been trying to push for more rehabilitation, less of a focus on incarceration in previous years, and that’s most likely going to change with Youngkin,” Meagher said.

"Virginia AG-elect Miyares seeks legal way to override 'social justice' DAs and 'do their job for them'"

Virginia Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares said that he and Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin will pursue legislation to enable the state's attorney general to circumvent "social justice" commonwealth's attorneys who refuse to vigorously prosecute crimes.

At a news conference on Thursday, Miyares laid out "one of our major legislative initiatives" which Youngkin "has already indicated that he would sign… into law."

Under current law, the AG's office can prosecute a case on behalf of a commonwealth's attorney — Virginia's version of a district attorney (DA) — so long as the DA requests it.

The new bill "would essentially say, if the chief law enforcement officer in a jurisdiction — either the chief of police or the sheriff — makes a request because a commonwealth's attorney is not doing their job, then I'm going to do their job for them," Miyares said.  "I'm thinking specifically, some of the so-called ‘social justice’ commonwealth's attorneys that have been elected particularly in Northern Virginia. We're obviously aware of some pretty horrific cases" where these DAs have not pursued justice.

November 9, 2021 in Elections and sentencing issues in political debates, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (10)

November 8, 2021

Gearing up for SCOTUS argument in Ramirez on religious liberty in death chamber

On Tuesday morning, the US Supreme Court will hear Ramirez v. Collier, which presents these issues:

(1) Whether, consistent with the free exercise clause and Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, Texas’ decision to allow Ramirez’s pastor to enter the execution chamber, but forbidding the pastor from laying his hands on his parishioner as he dies, substantially burden the exercise of his religion, so as to require Texas to justify the deprivation as the least restrictive means of advancing a compelling governmental interest; and (2) whether, considering the free exercise clause and RLUIPA, Texas’ decision to allow Ramirez’s pastor to enter the execution chamber, but forbidding the pastor from singing prayers, saying prayers or scripture, or whispering prayers or scripture, substantially burden the exercise of his religion, so as to require Texas to justify the deprivation as the least restrictive means of advancing a compelling governmental interest.

Here is some of the press I have seen previewing the case:

From Bloomberg Law, "Lawyer Takes Rare Case on Religion, Executions to U.S. Top Court"

From Newsweek, "Conservatives Find Rare Common Ground With ACLU in Death Penalty Religious Freedom Case"

From SCOTUSblog, "Court to clarify the right of death-row inmates to receive spiritual guidance during execution"

From Time, "‘Why Can’t I Hold His Hand?’ The Supreme Court Will Decide What Comforts a Pastor Can Offer During an Execution"

From Vox, "The Supreme Court must decide if it loves religious liberty more than the death penalty"

From the Washington Post, "Supreme Court considers a minister’s role at the time an inmate is put to death"

Prior related posts:

November 8, 2021 in Baze and Glossip lethal injection cases, Death Penalty Reforms, Sentences Reconsidered, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (2)

"Resurrecting Arbitrariness"

The title of this post is the title of this new article authored by Kathryn Miller available via SSRN.  Here is its abstract:

What allows judges to sentence a child to die in prison?  For years, they did so without constitutional restriction.  That all changed in 2012’s Miller v. Alabama, which banned mandatory sentences of life without parole for children convicted of homicide crimes. Miller held that this extreme sentence was constitutional only for the worst offenders — the “permanently incorrigible.”  By embracing individualized sentencing, Miller and its progeny portended a sea change in the way juveniles would be sentenced for serious crimes. But if Miller opened the door to sentencing reform, the Court’s recent decision in Jones v. Mississippi appeared to slam it shut.

Rather than restrict the discretion of a judge to throw away the key in sentencing child defendants, the Court in Jones increased that discretion.  It recast Miller as a purely procedural decision that only required a barebones “consideration” of a defendant’s “youth and attendant circumstances” to fulfill its mandate of individualized sentencing. Jones further held that judges need not engage in any formal factfinding before sentencing a child to die in prison, which renders these sentences nearly unreviewable.  This article argues that, through these two jurisprudential moves, Jones created conditions that will maximize arbitrary and racially discriminatory sentencing outcomes nation-wide, resembling the unconstitutional death sentences of the mid-twentieth century.

This article is the first to comprehensively analyze Jones, contending that the decision represents an embrace of unfettered discretion in the sentencing of children facing life without parole.  Given the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Eighth Amendment, I contend that state solutions are the way forward.  I propose that states join the national trend of abandoning life without parole sentences for children.  Short of abolishing the sentence, I offer three procedural interventions.  First, states should enact “genuine narrowing” requirements that establish criteria designed to limit eligibility for life without parole sentences for children to the theoretical “worst of the worst.”  While inspired by the narrowing requirement in capital sentencing, “genuine narrowing” relies on meaningful and concrete criteria that seek to achieve the mandate of Miller that such sentences be uncommon.  Second, states should require jury sentencing, which ensures that sentences will be imposed by multiple, and typically more diverse, voices than what currently occurs with judicial sentencing.  Third, states should go beyond merely telling sentencers to take youth into account in their sentencing decisions, but should instead inform them that the characteristics of youth are “mitigating as a matter of law,” and when pre-sent, must weigh against an imposition of life without parole.

November 8, 2021 in Assessing Miller and its aftermath, Offender Characteristics, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (1)

Is longest prison term for Jan 6 rioter, and a possible new benchmark, coming this week?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this recent AP article, headlined "Prosecutors seek 44 months in 1st sentence for riot violence," previewing a notable sentencing scheduled for this coming Wednesday. Here are the basics:

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday recommended a prison sentence of nearly four years for a New Jersey gym owner who is on track to be the first person sentenced for assaulting a law enforcement officer during the riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Scott Fairlamb’s sentencing, scheduled for next Wednesday, could guide other judges in deciding the appropriate punishment for dozens of other rioters who engaged in violence at the Capitol that day.

Prosecutors said Fairlamb, one of one of the first rioters to breach the Capitol, incited and emboldened other rioters around him with his violent actions....

If U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth adopts the Justice Department’s recommendation for a 44-month prison term, Fairlamb’s sentence would be the longest for a rioter.  An 8-month prison term is the longest sentence among the nearly two dozen rioters who have been sentenced so far.  A man who posted threats connected to Jan. 6 but didn’t storm the Capitol was sentenced to 14 months in prison.

Defense attorney Harley Breite said during an interview Wednesday that he intends to ask Lamberth to sentence Fairlamb to the time he already has served in jail, allowing for his immediate release.  Fairlamb has been jailed since his Jan. 22 arrest at his home in Stockholm, New Jersey....

Fairlamb, a 44-year-old former mixed martial arts fighter, owned Fairlamb Fit gym in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey.  He is the brother of a Secret Service agent who was assigned to protect former first lady Michelle Obama, according to defense attorney Harley Breite.

Fairlamb picked up a police baton as he joined the mob that broke past a line of police officers and breached the Capitol, according to prosecutors. A video showed him holding the collapsible baton and shouting, “What (do) patriots do? We f——— disarm them and then we storm the f——— Capitol!”  After he left the building, Fairlamb shoved and punched a Metropolitan Police Department officer in the face, an attack captured on video by a bystander.  The officer said he didn’t suffer any physical injuries, according to prosecutors.

Fairlamb pleaded guilty to two counts, obstruction of an official proceeding and assaulting the police officer.  The counts carry a maximum of more than 20 years in prison, but sentencing guidelines calculated by the court’s probation department recommend a term of imprisonment ranging from 41 to 51 months.  Lamberth isn’t bound by any of the recommendations....

Fairlamb’s social media accounts indicated that he subscribed to the QAnon conspiracy theory and promoted a bogus claim that former President Donald Trump would become the first president of “the new Republic” on March 4, prosecutors wrote.  QAnon has centered on the baseless belief that Trump was fighting against a cabal of Satan-worshipping, child sex trafficking cannibals, including “deep state” enemies, prominent Democrats and Hollywood elites.

Some of many prior related posts:

November 8, 2021 in Celebrity sentencings, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Offender Characteristics, Offense Characteristics | Permalink | Comments (2)