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October 21, 2022

Federal judge sentences Steve Bannon to 4 months of imprisonment for contempt of Congress

As reported in this USA Today piece, "Trump White House strategist Steve Bannon was sentenced to four months in prison Friday, three months after his conviction on contempt of Congress charges for defying a subpoena from the special House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol attack." Here is a bit more:

The Justice Department had sought a six month prison term for Bannon and recommended that he pay a maximum fine of $200,000 for "his sustained, bad-faith."... While Bannon initially refused to comply with the panel's summons, citing a claim of executive privilege, prosecutors said Monday that the Trump operative's actions were "aimed at undermining the Committee’s efforts to investigate an historic attack on government."

Bannon's attorneys argued that a sentence of probation was more appropriate. "The legal challenges advanced by Mr. Bannon were not meritless or frivolous and were aimed at protecting his constitutional rights," attorney Evan Corcoran argued in court documents. "For these reasons, the fact that Mr. Bannon chose to put the Government to its burden at trial should not preclude him from receiving a reduction to his offense level based on acceptance of responsibility."

Prior related posts:

October 21, 2022 in Celebrity sentencings, Offender Characteristics, Offense Characteristics, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, White-collar sentencing, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 20, 2022

Oklahoma completes execution for man who killed his infant daughter 20 years ago

As reported in this extended CNN article, "Oklahoma has executed by lethal injection Benjamin Cole, who was sentenced to death for the 2002 murder of his 9-month-old daughter Brianna Victoria Cole, over the objections of defense attorneys who argued the 57-year-old suffered from schizophrenia and was severely mentally ill."  Here are some more details:

The case highlighted a longstanding issue in the debate over capital punishment: how it should apply to those who suffer from mental illness.  Meanwhile, relatives of the slain infant on Thursday decried the two-decade span between Brianna’s death and Cole’s execution.

The execution — the second of 25 Oklahoma has scheduled through 2024 — began Thursday at 10:06 a.m. CT, Oklahoma Department of Corrections Chief of Operations Justin Farris told reporters.  Cole was pronounced unconscious at 10:11 a.m. CT and pronounced dead at 10:22 a.m. CT....

Donna Daniel, Brianna’s aunt, thanked the state for carrying out the sentence and giving justice to her late niece, whom she described as a blond-haired, blue-eyed baby.  “She died a horrific death,” Daniel told reporters, adding, “And he gets off easy and gets to get a little injection in his arm and go to sleep in his death.  He did not give Brianna the chance to ever grow up, to even have her first Christmas, to meet her family.”...

Cole’s attorney called him a “person with serious mental illness whose schizophrenia and brain damage” led to him murdering his daughter, according to a statement.  By the time of his death, Cole had “slipped into a world of delusion and darkness,” the attorney, Tom Hird said, and was “often unable to interact with my colleagues and me in any meaningful way.”...

Cole is the second death row inmate put to death in the series of more than two dozen executions the state of Oklahoma intends to carry out through 2024 — a spree critics have condemned amid the state’s history of botched lethal injections.  The procedure for Cole on Thursday was “uneventful and without any complications,” Farris told reporters....

Cole’s attorneys insisted he should not be put to death because his mental condition — magnified by his exposure as a child to drugs and alcohol, substance abuse issues and physical and sexual abuse — had deteriorated so much that he was not competent to be executed, according to a clemency petition in a failed bid for mercy.

The US Supreme Court on Wednesday denied Cole’s request for a stay of execution.  Cole’s attorneys also unsuccessfully asked a state appeals court to compel the inmate’s warden to refer his case for review to the district attorney to initiate a competency hearing.

October 20, 2022 in Baze and Glossip lethal injection cases, Death Penalty Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)

"Violent Crime and Public Prosecution: A Review of Recent Data on Homicide, Robbery, and Progressive Prosecution in the United States"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new study looking at relationships between prosecutorial policies and crime. The full study is apparently not yet available, but this executive summary provides lots of details and also has this extended abstract:

What caused the sharp increase in homicide in dozens of major cities in the United States in 2020 is the source of acrid debate.  Most academic researchers have attributed the sudden increase in homicide to changes in the availability of guns, shifts in policing, and the pandemic’s aggravation of chronic strains in civil society such as homelessness, ill mental health, and drug abuse.  Others have hypothesized that the increase in homicide is the result of the election of prosecutors whose pledges to reform the system of criminal justice have discouraged the police from stopping and arresting emboldened lawbreakers.

We examined the most timely, reliable, and comprehensive set of data on homicide and robbery that was publicly available in the summer of 2022.  We took three different approaches to the analysis of these data: we pooled data from 65 major cities, conducted a statistical regression analysis of trends in violent crime as well as larceny in two dozen cities, and compared the incidence of homicide before and after the election of progressive prosecutors in Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles, cities where we are conducting on-going research on changes in criminal justice.  We have also compared trends in recorded crime across all counties in Florida and California since 2015.

We find no evidence to support the claim that progressive prosecutors were responsible for the increase in homicide during the pandemic or before it.  We also find weak evidence to support the claim that prosecutors of any broad approach to crime and justice are causally associated with changes in homicide during the pandemic.  We conclude that progressive prosecutors did not cause the rise in homicide in the United States, neither as a cohort nor in individual cities.  This conclusion echoes the findings of most of the research to date in this field.

This new piece in The Atlantic, headlined "What’s Really Going On With the Crime Rate?: Cities with progressive prosecutors may not exactly resemble the dystopian landscapes you’ve heard so much about," discusses this new study at some lengthy.

October 20, 2022 in National and State Crime Data, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0)

Might the recent marijuana pardons by Prez Biden "make things worse for criminal legal reform"?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new Slate commentary by John Pfaff headlined "Biden’s Focus on Marijuana Is Part of the Problem." One should read the full lengthy piece to understand the full "hot take," but here are some excerpts (with my complaints to follow):

A bigger concern, though, is not just that the policy might accomplish very little, but that it might make things worse for criminal legal reform in the long run because it reinforces a false narrative about the causes of mass punishment in general and mass incarceration in particular.  It’s a narrative that shapes — or, better put, misshapes — policy.

Most Americans are deeply misinformed about why people are in prison.  A survey in 2017 found that solid majorities across the ideological spectrum agreed with the claim that a majority of people in U.S. prisons are there for drug crimes. That’s a far cry from reality: 14 percent of people in state prisons were locked up for drug offenses at the time, a number that has fallen since then.  (Those held in state prisons make up 90 percent of the nation’s incarcerated population.)  This misbelief likely contributed to the next two results from that survey: while majorities of liberals, moderates, and conservatives favored lesser sanctions for those convicted of non-violent crimes who posed little risk of reoffending, majorities of all three groups also opposed lesser sanctions for those convicted of violence who likewise pose little risk of reoffending.

We think we can decarcerate with easy choices.  We cannot.

Nationally, in 2019 almost 60 percent of all people in state prisons were convicted of violence; those convicted of just homicide or rape make up nearly 30 percent of the overall prison population....  If we released everyone held in state prisons convicted not just of marijuana crimes, nor just of drug offenses, but of all non-violent offenses combined, we would still have one of the world’s highest incarceration rates.  Unsurprisingly, this means that violent crimes are also at the heart of racial disparities in U.S. prison populations, as a recent study by the Council on Criminal Justice made clear.

Yet reforms continue to refuse to grapple with this reality.  A 2020 report by the Prison Policy Initiative found nearly 100 state reforms in recent years that had explicitly refused to extend the changes to those convicted of violence.  In some cases, the tradeoff between non-violent and violent crimes is explicit.  In 2016, Maryland’s Democratic legislature scaled back sanctions for non-violent crimes, but also increased punishment for violent offenses.  And just recently, California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill to limit the use of solitary confinement, long viewed by behavioral scientists as torture, an indication of the lack of stomach for deeper reforms even among so-called progressive state leaders.

The inability to discuss crimes of violence remains clear in our current politics. Oz’s attacks on Fetterman on crime are now echoed in Wisconsin, where Republican Sen. Ron Johnson says Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes demonstrated “far greater sympathy for the criminal or criminals versus law enforcement or the victims.”  Anecdotal attacks about violent crime have already caused two different New York governors to roll back the state’s 2020 bail reform law, before it was even possible to assess its impact.  Even with new evidence suggesting reform did not contribute much if anything to rising crime in 2020, further rollbacks loom for 2023.  And Virginia recently amended a law that expanded the ability of people in prison to earn good time credits to expressly exclude those who were serving time for any crime of violence.

Meanwhile, as state prison populations fell nationwide by 15 percent from 2010 to 2019, Bureau of Justice Statistics data suggests that the number of people locked up for violence fell by just 1 percent; a separate analysis of the BJS data conducted by the Council on Criminal Justice estimated that the numbers confined for violence actually rose over that time, undermining the declines in drug and property cases.

Talking exclusively about drugs does little in the short-run and reinforces a narrative that appears to affirmatively undermine the sorts of difficult discussions we need to have about the ways we respond to violence.  There are things that Biden could have done, or at least done at the same time, that could have taken advantage of his bully pulpit.

He could have encouraged state and local governments to think about alternative ways to address not just crime, but serious violence.  Biden’s August 2022 Safer America Plan did include some funding for just this but that part of the plan was always secondary to the push to hire more police; it was even framed merely as a way to free up the police to focus more on violence....

He could have announced a push for a repeal of the PLRA or AEDPA, two Clinton era laws that continue to impose real costs on people held in prison or challenging potentially wrongful convictions.  Or, he could have pushed harder to amend the federal code to eliminate qualified immunity for police, or pushed state legislatures to pass such bills, about 35 of which have been proposed in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder only to almost all be thwarted by police union lobbying.  Such an approach could help improve police-community relations, which in turn could help address the single biggest challenge we face in reducing violence: the general unwillingness of victims of violence to contact the police.

It’s true that these are long-shot proposals.  But short of pardoning every single person in federal prison — an impossibility — nothing any president does will have a significant impact on the size and reach of a criminal legal system that is almost entirely driven by local politics, policies, and funding.  The president’s biggest power is his ability to shape the debate around criminal legal policy, not the policy itself.

Biden’s proposal here did nothing to shape that debate. There are lots of ways he could have taken steps to push the discussion in the direction it needs to go, but he disappointingly chose to highlight, once again, marijuana.  That choice will make it harder to move the reform discussion beyond where it has mostly been mired for the past decade.

I am a big fan of so much of Pfaff's work, especially his emphasis on "the numbers," but there is much about this commentary that just does not add up.  For starters, these World Population data of incarceration rates suggests that the US would easily fall out of the top 10 in incarceration rates if we cut our prison population 40% by releasing everyone held for non-violent offenses.  Pfaff has long been eager to say we must not ignore violent offenders when thinking about the problem of mass incarceration.  That is basically right, but dramatic decreases in our use of prison for non-violent offense would still make a very big impact AND his own commentary highlights why this is far more politically achievable than massive cuts to sentences for violent offenders.  (Indeed, there is good reason to hope and expect that much shorter and many fewer prison sentences for non-violent offenses would serve as an essential first step to laying the foundation for reducing the overall severity scale of all our punishments.)  

More generally, Pfaff claims there is an "inability to discuss crimes of violence," but I am seeing plenty of discussion (and political ads) about crimes of violence and especially murder having increased considerably over the last few years.  When violent crime has spiked — which it clearly has and which Pfaff does not discuss — and when many polls indicate many voters are troubled greatly by this spike — which they clearly have and which Pfaff does not discuss — one should not be surprised that politicians are responsive to voter concerns about violent crime in their actions and rhetoric.  Indeed, I think it notable (and encouraging) that some criminal justice reform efforts continue moving forward (at least for non-violent crimes) even when "tough on crime" political conditions seems to be prevalent.

And while I support various reforms to PLRA and AEDPA and qualified immunity, I am not aware of any significant research or evidence that such reform will reduce violence in our communities.  If there was such evidence, these reforms could and likely would become a central element of reform supported by politicians on both sides of the aisle.  There are all sort of good arguments for all sorts of criminal justice reforms, but wishing away the facts of increased violent crime (and increased voter concerns about violent crime) will surely "make things worse for criminal legal reform in the long run," much more than will Prez Biden granting blanket pardons to thousands of marijuana possession offenders. 

October 20, 2022 in National and State Crime Data, Offense Characteristics, Prisons and prisoners, Scope of Imprisonment, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (1)

Lots of coverage of ugly BOP mistreatment of cancer victim called out in court opinion

I finally got the chance to read in full this federal district court order from earlier this month authored by US District Judge Roy Dalton Jr., assailing the Bureau of Prisons' treatment of Frederick Mervin Bardell, who died of colon cancer not long after it seems BOP denied he had colon cancer.  The full opinion is worth a full read, and it begins and wraps up this way:

Judges carry the heavy burden of depriving individuals of their liberty. But the Bureau of Prisons shoulders the constitutional burden of protecting the remaining rights of the incarcerated while in custody.  The possibility that the Bureau of Prisons would be so indifferent to the human dignity of an inmate in its care as the facts here demonstrate, increases the burden on the sentencing judge exponentially.  This, of course, pales in comparison to the suffering of the inmate and his family....

Though this contempt proceeding focused primarily on the circumstances surrounding Mr. Bardell’s release, the Court is also troubled by his care and treatment while confined, especially during the latter stages of his incarceration.  The Court has serious reservations about the adequacy of his treatment and diagnosis.  In light of these concerns, the Court recommends that the Attorney General (or Inspector General for the Department of Justice) undertake an investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Bardell’s confinement and treatment, the failure of the BOP to respond to his medical needs, and the BOP’s misrepresentations in connection with the compassionate release briefing regarding the seriousness of his condition.

I believe Reason was the first outlet to highlight this ruling in this article headlined, "Judge Holds Federal Bureau of Prisons in Contempt for Allowing Man To Waste Away From Untreated Cancer."  Since then, I have been intrigued to see this case garnering lots more media attention:

From the New York Times, "Judge Holds Prison Officials in Contempt for Treatment of Terminally Ill Inmate"

From Reason, "Justice Department Inspector General Launches Investigation Into Inmate Death Following Judge's Contempt Order"

From Salon, "A federal prisoner's gruesome and shameful mistreatment — and why it was all too typical"

From the Washington Post, "Judge blasts Bureau of Prisons’ treatment of dying prisoner"

October 20, 2022 in Prisons and prisoners | Permalink | Comments (9)

October 19, 2022

"Inflation and the Eighth Amendment"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper recently posted to SSRN and authored by Meara Maccabee, a student at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.  This paper is part of a student paper series supported by OSU's Drug Enforcement and Policy Center, and here is its abstract:

As inflation pushes the prices of goods higher and higher, the monetary thresholds that separate misdemeanor thefts from felony thefts deflate.  This paper argues that deflated felony thresholds provide courts a unique opportunity to wade into what is typically 'properly within the province of legislatures': sentence proportionality.  Because inflated thresholds are the result of a natural economic event, rather than legislative enactment, courts have more deference to find felony sentences disproportionate when the underlying theft would have constituted a misdemeanor absent inflation.

October 19, 2022 in Offense Characteristics, Sentences Reconsidered, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (1)

New FAMM report: "Grading the States: The State Compassionate Release Report Card Project"

Compassionate-Release-MapAs detailed in this press release, the folks at FAMM have today released a lot of new materials and resources focused on how states approach compassionate release for state prisoners.  Here are details from the press release:

Today, FAMM has released a compassionate release report, including report cards for every state, grading compassionate release programs designed for incarcerated people struggling with certain extraordinary circumstances, such as a terminal or age-related illness.

“It was not surprising, but still disheartening to see so little improvement in compassionate release across the country since we first examined state compassionate release in 2018,” said Mary Price, FAMM’s general counsel and author of the report. “Lawmakers across the country fund compassionate release programs that sit idle and leave people to die in prison – including during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There comes a point in a person’s sentence where they are so sick that incarceration loses any meaning or worse, becomes torture. If the programs are broken and can’t be used effectively, the lawmakers should fix them.”

In concert with the report, FAMM today also released a new national poll which found that 70% of Americans, across political lines, support compassionate release programs.

“At a time of concern about rising rates of crime, why are so many states wasting their limited resources to incarcerate sick and elderly people?” said Kevin Ring, FAMM’s president. “Committing to compassionate release programs could allow for funds to be better used to address concerns about crime.”

FAMM graded the compassionate release programs for each state in several categories before assigning a letter grade. The map of results is below.

The report is an update to “Everywhere and Nowhere: Compassionate Release in the States,” a comprehensive, state-by-state report on the early-release programs. That report was released in 2018.

October 19, 2022 in Prisons and prisoners, Sentences Reconsidered, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 18, 2022

Get ready: new US Sentencing Commission soon to finalize new policy priorities

Though MLB playoffs and NCAA and NFL action are what usually get me going this time of year, in 2022 my inner federal sentencing nerd has as much to look forward to as my inner sports fan.  Specifically, after receiving a few weeks ago the US Sentencing Commission's new tentative policy priorities for the 2022-2023 amendment year, next week brings the excitement of the first public US Sentencing Commission hearing in nearly four years, on October 28, to finalize the USSC's priorities for the coming amendment year.

For those eager to pre-game all the USSC action, the Commission has now released here a "very special episode" of its official podcast, Commission Chats.  This is "Episode 9: Meet Our New Chair!" and it gets previewed this way:

In this very special episode, newly appointed Commission Chair Carlton W. Reeves discusses highlights of his career as a lawyer and judge, including the moment he learned he was not only nominated as a member but also Chair of the Commission.  Judge Reeves also shares his goals for the Commission this amendment year and hopes for this season's Jackson State Tigers. (Published October 17, 2022)

And, for even more intense pre-game action, the folks at FAMM have put together this great panel discussion for Monday October 24 titled "Guess Who's Back: The Sentencing Commission's Return & the 2022-2023 Amendment Cycle."  Here is a preview of the FAMM overview:

After over 3 years without a Sentencing Commission, the Commission is now back in action.  What does this mean for criminal justice reform?  Join FAMM and our special guests as we provide an overview of the Commission's role in criminal justice reform, what we know the Commission will prioritize this guideline amendment cycle, the legal landscape that has developed in the absence of a Commission, and the impact of all this on real people.

So get ready, get ready, because here they come!

October 18, 2022 in Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0)

Extended Final Call for Papers: "Drugs and Public Safety: Exploring the Impact of Policy, Policing, and Prosecutorial Reforms"

Drugs-and-Public-Safety_Call-for-Papers_for-social_new-date_1-1800x1005In this post a few months ago, I highlighted a new call for papers relating to an exciting event I am helping to plan on "Drugs and Public Safety Exploring the Impact of Policy, Policing, and Prosecutorial Reforms."  I am grateful we have already received a number of great proposals, and we have now  extended the closing date for proposals until the end of this month.  Here again is the call, which is available in full at this link:

The Drug Enforcement and Policy Center at the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University and the Academy for Justice at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University are organizing a symposium titled “Drugs and Public Safety: Exploring the Impact of Policy, Policing, and Prosecutorial Reforms” to examine the public safety impact of marijuana and other modern drug policy reforms.  The conference is committed to exploring, from a variety of perspectives and with the help of a variety of voices, how to better understand and assess the relationship between drug reforms (broadly defined, including clemency policy and criminal justice reform) and public safety (broadly defined, with an emphasis on violent and serious crime).  [The conference will take place at Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ from March 14-16, 2022.]

Background

In 1996, California kicked off a new state-driven law reform era through a ballot initiative legalizing medical marijuana.  In subsequent decades, as dozens of states legalized marijuana use, various advocates, public officials, and researchers warned about the possibility of dire public safety consequences.  More drug crimes, more general criminality, more drugged driving, and all sorts of other public safety harms were often mentioned as the possible short- or long-term consequence of significant state-level marijuana reforms.

As of summer 2022, there are 37 states with robust medical marijuana regimes and 19 with full adult-use marijuana programs.  The continued support for state-level marijuana reforms seems to reflect, at least in part, the fact that so far, researchers have not documented direct connections between marijuana reforms and adverse public safety outcomes.  Though crime is a growing public concern given the rise in violent crimes in recent years, few advocates or researchers have documented clear connections or correlations between jurisdictions that have reformed their marijuana laws and increases in crimes.

As marijuana reforms have spread, so too has discussion of broader drug reforms such as decriminalization or legalization at both state and local level, as well as relief from drug-war excesses through clemency and expungement.  But given the increasing concern about violent crime, many advocates and lawmakers are wondering whether past and possible future drug policy reforms may be advancing or undermining the broad interest in creating safe and stable communities. As the country moves away from marijuana prohibition, a fully informed discussion of drugs, violence, and public safety is needed now more than ever.

Call for Papers

The symposium is soliciting papers from researchers to be included in the scholarship workshop.  Each paper will be assigned a discussant to provide feedback during the workshop.  The papers will be gathered and published in a symposium edition of the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, a peer-reviewed publication in Spring of 2024.

Though proposed papers can and should look to explore the relationship between drug reforms and public safety in any number of diverse ways, the conference organizers are particularly interested in explorations of the impact of: (a) legalization of medical and/or adult-use marijuana, (b) drug decriminalization efforts, and (c) back-end relief efforts (e.g., clemency) — on crime and violence, the enforcement of criminal laws, and the operation of criminal justice systems.

Deadlines and Length of Paper

A proposed abstract of no more than 300 words are now due by October 31, 2022.  Abstracts can be submitted to Jana Hrdinova at hrdinova.1@osu.edu.  Accepted researchers will be notified by November 18, 2022.

Participants should plan to have a full draft to discuss and circulate by March 1, 2023.  Papers may range in length from 10,000 words to 25,000 words.  Final papers for publication will be due on August 1, 2023.

October 18, 2022 in Drug Offense Sentencing, National and State Crime Data, Offense Characteristics | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 17, 2022

New DPIC report: "Deeply Rooted: How Racial History Informs Oklahoma’s Death Penalty"

This coming Thursday, Oklahoma is scheduled to execute Benjamin Cole for the 2002 murder of his infant daughter (though his lawyers have sought a stay from SCOTUS based on claims of incompetency).  Remarkably, Oklahoma has another 20+ executions scheduled for the next two years, with almost one execution scheduled for every month through 2024.  These plans appear to have prompted the folks at the Death Penalty Information Center to produce this big new report titled "Deeply Rooted: How Racial History Informs Oklahoma’s Death Penalty."  Here is the text of the report's conclusion:

Oklahoma is at an inflection point in its administration of the death penalty.  The state can continue executing people affected by what many Oklahomans consider a broken system or implement reforms that have been proposed by bipartisan advocates for years.  A shift away from the death penalty may even be more aligned with Oklahomans’ views on the issue, as recent surveys have shown a decline in support for the death penalty.  In addition, more than half of Oklahomans surveyed in 2015 revealed they would support abolishing capital punishment if the state replaced the death penalty with the alternative sanction of life without parole, plus restitution.

Systemic issues in the state’s use of the death penalty affect all capital defendants. However, the impact is skewed based on the race of defendant and victim, and the effects are particularly harsh on defendants of color. People of color are more likely to be victims of police misconduct and violence; they are more likely to suffer from the effects of having all-white or nearly all-white juries; and they are at greater risk of being executed if they have intellectual disabilities.  Additionally, the higher rate of death sentencing for cases involving white victims illustrates the enhanced punishment for those accused of crimes against white people that has been evident since the heyday of lynchings. Despite documented problems with the administration of Oklahoma’s death penalty, courts are largely unwilling to rectify them, leaving few options for relief.  If Oklahoma is to establish a fair and humane system of justice, it is crucial to acknowledge and redress the lingering effects of Jim Crow and racial violence on the state’s administration of the death penalty.

October 17, 2022 in Death Penalty Reforms, Race, Class, and Gender | Permalink | Comments (2)

Feds urging six months' imprisonment and $200,000 fined for Steve Bannon as punishment following his convictions for criminal contempt of Congress

As detailed in this extended ABC News piece, the "Justice Department is asking a federal judge to sentence Steve Bannon, adviser to former President Donald Trump, to six months in prison and make him pay a $200,000 fine for his conviction on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress, according to a new court filing." Here is more of the basics:

Bannon was found guilty in July of defying a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.  He had been subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 panel for records and testimony in September 2021.

Bannon is set to be sentenced on Friday at the D.C. courthouse by federal judge Carl Nichols at 9 a.m.  His lawyers are expected to submit their own sentencing memo Monday.

The Government's 24-page sentencing memorandum is available at this link, and it starts this way:

From the moment that the Defendant, Stephen K. Bannon, accepted service of a subpoena from the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol (“the Committee”), he has pursued a bad-faith strategy of defiance and contempt.  The Committee sought documents and testimony from the Defendant relevant to a matter of national importance: the circumstances that led to a violent attack on the Capitol and disruption of the peaceful transfer of power. In response, the Defendant flouted the Committee’s authority and ignored the subpoena’s demands.  The Defendant, a private citizen, claimed that executive privilege—which did not apply to him and would not have exempted his total noncompliance even if it had—justified his actions.  Then, on the eve of trial, he attempted an about-face, representing to the Committee that former President Donald J. Trump had waived executive privilege and freed the Defendant to cooperate.  But this proved a hollow gesture; when he realized that his eleventh-hour stunt would not prevent his trial, the Defendant’s cooperative spirit vanished.  Despite the removal of the only purported barrier to his compliance, to this day the Defendant has not produced a single document to the Committee or appeared for testimony.  For his sustained, bad-faith contempt of Congress, the Defendant should be sentenced to six months’ imprisonment—the top end of the Sentencing Guidelines’ range—and fined $200,000—based on his insistence on paying the maximum fine rather than cooperate with the Probation Office’s routine pre-sentencing financial investigation.

UPDATE: Steve Bannon has also today submitted his sentencing memorandum, which can be found at this link. Here is its starting "summary":

The ear of a sentencing judge listens for the note of contrition. Someone was convicted. Did they learn their lesson? This case requires something more. It involves larger themes that are important to every American. Should a person be jailed when the caselaw which sets forth the elements of the crime is outdated? Should a person be jailed for the doing the exact same thing that was done by the highest law enforcement officers in this country, yet they received no punishment? Should a person who has spent a lifetime listening to experts – as a naval officer, investment banker, corporate executive, and Presidential advisor – be jailed for relying on the advice of his lawyers? Should a person be jailed where the prosecutor declined to prosecute others who were similarly situated – with the only difference being that this person uses their voice to express strongly held political views? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then a sentence of probation is warranted. Because we believe that the answer to each of these questions is no, we respectfully ask this Court to impose a sentence of probation, and to stay the imposition of sentence pending appeal.

October 17, 2022 in Celebrity sentencings, Offender Characteristics, Offense Characteristics, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (5)

Half dozen GVRs provide only "excitement" for CJ fans in latest SCOTUS order list

Regular readers now know I am making a regular habit (see here) of complaining about the relative lack of interesting criminal matters on the Supreme Court's docket this Term.  That reality leads me to eagerly await each new SCOTUS order list with the hope the Justices will add something spicy for sentencing fans (or really any criminal cases concerning more than just intricate procedural issues).  So, I opened today's SCOTUS order list ... and the title and start of this post surely made it plain that there were not any exciting new criminal justice cert grants or even opinions dissenting about any denials (in fact, there were no cert grants or opinions at all).

That said, I was intrigued to see that the new order list did include six GVRs based on criminal justice rulings last Term.  Specifically, there were five GVRs based n Ruan (basics here) and one based on Concepcion (basics here).  I have not kept a running list of the number of GVRs from these cases or others, but maybe that will be my best bet for SCOTUS excitement these days.

But hope springs eternal in the SCOTUS fall, and the Justices will release another order list in a couple of weeks on October 31.  Perhaps someone can scare up some spirited cert grants for that special day.  And, not to be forgotten, a big case for federal prisoners seeking review of convictions and sentences, Jones v. HendrixNo. 21-857, is be argued on November 1.  (And, as I will discuss in another coming post, in the meantime sentencing fans do have the excitement of the first public US Sentencing Commission hearing in nearly four years on October 28.)

October 17, 2022 in Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Sentences Reconsidered, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 16, 2022

Another discouraging dispatch about BOP's shaky First Step Act steps

Walter Palvo continues to provide terrific coverage of difficulties in the implementation of the First Step Act's earned time credits, and this latest piece in Forbes is titled "Bureau Of Prisons’ Failure To Communicate First Step Act."  Here are excerpts from this lengthy piece that merits a full read:

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is under new leadership but it is still suffering from decades of mismanagement. BOP Director Colette Peters began work on August 2nd of this year ... [and] testified on September 29, 2022 in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.... Senator Dick Durbin was frustrated in Peters’ testimony stating that the full effects of FSA had not been implemented nearly 4 years after it being signed into law.  Peters assured the Senators that an auto-calculator was completed in August 2022 that provided FSA credits to prisoners which had the effect of reducing many sentences.  However, that auto-calculator was not in place at the time of the hearing, or at least it was not communicated to prisoners or the public. 

According to dozens of prisoners I interviewed for this piece, calculations were not communicated to them nor reflected on BOP.gov, which tracks release dates for federal prisoners.  Anticipating this computer program’s rollout that would reduce many prisoner release dates, prisoners and their families eagerly awaited the news of when they would be going home.  As the weeks passed after after August, prisoners still had no news.  It was not until the week of October 3rd that FSA credits started to be applied.  As one prisoner told me, “I was expecting a year of credits and I got 4 months. I have no idea what happened.”

What happened is that the calculator still has errors in it.  Prisoners who were transferred to a halfway house after receiving an interim calculation of their sentence, were called in and told they would be returning to prison after the new calculation took away their year....

Prisoners have worked for years to take programming that the FSA law stated would earn them credits.  Now, as implemented, those credits are fewer than many thought and they still do not have answers.  They also have no realistic remedy to correct it in a timely manner.  Millions of dollars will now be spent on litigation that will last years while prisoners who should be released stay in prison.

Some prior related posts:

October 16, 2022 in FIRST STEP Act and its implementation, Prisons and prisoners, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (1)