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June 7, 2023

Spotlighting notable sentence reduction for prisoner sexually abused by multiple BOP guards

This new NPR piece, headlined "Prison sexual assault victims can now petition for compassionate release," highlights a recent grant of a sentence reduction under 3582(c)(1)(A) for a prisoner who was repeatedly sexually abused by federal prison guards.  Here are the particulars and some broader context:

For years, Aimee Chavira suffered sexual abuse in a Dublin, Calif., federal prison by the officers responsible for protecting her. Now, thanks to a program known as compassionate release, she is free. And her freedom could help pave a similar path for other people who experienced physical or sexual assault behind bars.

"We are very hopeful that this can lead to more women who were abused at Dublin getting out," said Erica Zunkel, Chavira's lawyer.

Chavira, 44, has been home for less than two weeks after learning her request for compassionate release had been granted by a federal judge. Those petitions allow people in prison the chance to convince a court they should be freed because of extraordinary and compelling circumstances.

Typically, those cases involve terminal illness or other dire medical conditions. In April, the U.S. Sentencing Commission, a federal body that sets advisory guidelines, voted to expand the bases for compassionate release to include sexual and physical assault by prison workers.

Chavira reported her abuse to a psychologist and a warden at the Federal Correctional Institution, Dublin. But they did nothing. The warden later was convicted of sexual abuse and lying to the FBI. Five other officials have been charged with sexually abusing women at the facility, in what became known as a so-called "Rape Club." One of them, John Bellhouse, was convicted this week on charges that include sexual abuse of an incarcerated person.

Chavira said she knows women from the Dublin prison who have been moved to other facilities, where they continue to suffer retaliation and face trauma. "This is just one prison that's coming out to the light," she said. "What's happening in all the rest of the prisons with the rest of the people that don't have any help or a voice?"

Last year, a bipartisan probe by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found widespread sexual abuse by officers in federal prisons with few consequences for those officers....

Zunkel, the associate director of the Federal Criminal Justice Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School, said it's important that Chavira and other survivors of assault get released as soon as possible. "The experts confirm it doesn't matter if you're moved to a different prison, it doesn't matter if they're offered the very best therapy possible, the Bureau of Prisons is a fundamentally unsafe place for a survivor of sexual violence to recover from," Zunkel said.

In Chavira's case, prosecutors did not object to her request for compassionate release....

Chavira said she's determined to speak out for all the people she met in prison who are still experiencing abuse and poor conditions behind bars. "There is no help, if you went in in one piece, you're coming back out in a million pieces, because you're beyond broken," she said. For now, she said she intends to get stronger emotionally and "show everybody, you know, I went through this, and I got out of it."

The short ruling granting compassionate release is available here and the detailed motion filed by Erica Zunkel on behalf of Aimee Chavira is available here.

June 7, 2023 at 10:23 PM | Permalink


Did she have the right of self-defense?

Posted by: federalist | Jun 8, 2023 8:31:06 AM

Some bad news on the murder front . . . . https://www.nationalreview.com/news/d-c-reaches-100-homicides-quickest-rate-in-20-years/?utm_source=recirc-desktop&utm_medium=blog-post&utm_campaign=river&utm_content=top-bar-latest&utm_term=third

Posted by: federalist | Jun 8, 2023 8:35:54 AM


1. There was no contention that Ms. Chavira was wrongfully imprisoned. Wasn't that always the foundation for your peculiar claims about some special prisoners having some special rights while imprisoned?

2. City-by-city homicide rates often seem so unpredictable. Lots of big cities are seeing murder declines this year -- 2/3s according to the AH Analytics accounting, with some of the biggest cities like NYC, LA, Houston, Philly so far down 15% or more. But still a number of big cities like DC, Dallas, Memphis, Miami and KC are seeing significant murder upticks this year. My own Columbus saw a 30+% decline in 2022, but is having a rough start to 2023.

Posted by: Doug B | Jun 8, 2023 9:18:51 AM

Certainly, a sexual assault victim has the right to use deadly force to prevent the assault, whether incarcerated or not? No?

Posted by: federalist | Jun 8, 2023 9:53:23 AM


Speaking of sentence reductions . . . .

Posted by: federalist | Jun 8, 2023 10:28:38 AM

federalist: under Ohio common law, a person can use deadly force in self defense if she had an honest and reasonable "belief that she was in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that her only means of escape was the use of force." Ohio v. Thomas, 77 Ohio St. 3d 323 (Ohio 1997). Most sexual assaults will qualify, in Ohio and elsewhere, as a threat of great bodily harm to justify the use of deadly force to prevent the assault.

But, again, I thought our most recent discussions about prisons and prisoners were not about generally applicable SD rules, but rather about your peculiar claims that some special category of prisoners have some special category of rights while imprisoned. Have you abandoned your prior curious and unclear contentions that some (undefined) subset of prisoners have some (undefined) special rights while in prison?

Posted by: Doug B | Jun 8, 2023 11:51:33 AM


Without reading the entire piece, when it comes to prison, sexual assault often means consensual sex between officers and inmates. The latter are seen as not being able to consent.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Jun 8, 2023 12:08:39 PM

I have not abandoned at all. If self-defense is a constitutional right, and it is, it has to mean that people have the right to defend themselves against the government using fraud or other extreme measures to incarcerate them. As a matter of power, well, that view of the world isn't going to do a whole lot because they have the guns and the numbers. Understand that your view of the world condones micro-tyrannies in what is supposedly the land of the free. Honest mistakes, we all have to live with, that's the price of admission, but situations where a cop procures an arrest warrant because he's butthurt over his ex-wife's comments, you are asking a lot when you ask that she acquiesce to being put in handcuffs. I don't feel that society has that moral right. The reason you have so much casual abuse of rights (e.g., what was being done under the guise of a Terry stop in NYC) is that government actors often pay no price for the most egregious of abuses.

In the Dublin case, there seems to have been a fair bit of coercion. Apparently, this woman had no right of self-defense: https://reduxx.info/exclusive-female-inmate-at-nj-womens-prison-alleges-brutal-assault-by-trans-identified-male-transfer/

Posted by: federalist | Jun 8, 2023 1:40:54 PM

For insight as to the mindset of our brother "Federalist", please refer to one of his sources of information which he posted above (that is the "Washington Free Beacon", a far-right wing extremist online publication, founded by far-right provacateur and gadfly, Michael Goldfarb).

If at all interested, you can read this illuminating summary about this Goldfarb fella at:


Federalist...really...why not some publications from the John Birch Society? Seems like that source would be right up (or down) your alley and you can then flood this blog with even more Extreme Rwing tripe.

Posted by: SG | Jun 8, 2023 3:09:31 PM

Deal with the arguments . . . .

Your president, by his own daughter's admission in a diary, took showers with her. Yuck. And you're whining about the WFB.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 8, 2023 3:51:39 PM

federalist, I appreciate that you have now made explicit what always seemed, as I have been asserting, always the underlying premises of your claims, namely that you are expressing your feelings about morality, not legal rule. As you put it now: "I don't feel that society has that moral right."

You are, of course, 100% entitled to have and express your feelings about morality, and your moral feelings do not need to be logical or even comprehensible to others. But that's why I sought in prior discussions to distinguish the "rule of law" from the "rule of federalist."

Posted by: Doug B | Jun 8, 2023 4:05:02 PM

Once again, since self-defense is a constitutional right, how does it give way when it's the government . . . . put differently, how is it a cop can get his buddy the magistrate to issue an arrest warrant for speech plainly protected by the First Amendment and principles of self-defense don't engage? We've already agreed that self-defense against government actors is ok, and you posit that it's ok only when the self-defense is directed at the bad actor when the bad actor is doing something really bad. How is that a distinguishing factor--you could say in my ex-wife hypo that the cop was following an arrest warrant issued by a magistrate--ok, but that guy chose to be a cop, the ex-wife didn't choose to have a blatantly illegal arrest warrant issued against her. And, do you think the cop who served it did know what was up? And if he did, under your theory, the ex-wife would have the right to defend herself against the arrest.

Your argument, in the face of a clear constitutional right, seems to be "We can't have this anarchy." Well, I would argue that when ex-wives are being arrested in such a manner, we can't have that either. And when does the right kick in?-would Argentine parents, who had their kids stolen, be justified in killing those responsible to get them back? Well, what about in Canada where a dad was jailed because he did not want the state to mutilate his child under the guise of gender-affirming care. Here, in Washington State, the state can transition your kid at the tender age of 13, and there, allegedly, ain't thing one you can do about it. Ultimately, my point is that when a cop gets his buddy the magistrate to issue an arrest warrant because he's butthurt about some complaint made by his ex-wife, we aren't dealing with the rule of law, we are dealing with the rule of power, and once power is unleashed people get to exercise the power that they can get away with. And at some point, your arguments support the "law" in the CCP, Nazi Germany, Iran and even North Korea--yeah, those prisoners have no legal right to escape, right Doug?

The people who founded this country thought like I do.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 8, 2023 6:36:19 PM

Once again, federalist, you seem incapable of distinguishing between moral views and extant law. I am not contending that immoral laws are moral, just that they are existing laws. Your latest feelings about laws that bother you serves, yet again, to show that the "rule of federalist" is not the "rule of law." But if you ever decide to start a violent revolution, please start by going after the former g-men like Bill Otis and former prison guards like Tarls and leave me out.

Posted by: Doug B | Jun 8, 2023 8:49:33 PM

Doug and Federalist,

This may be relevant to your discussion.


“ Young's defense attorney, however, argued that McCarthy had no lawful reason to do what she was doing, and therefore his client was acting in self-defense.

“ Raj Malin, the defense lawyer, told Los Angeles' ABC 7 that McCarthy did not have reasonable suspicion to justify patting down his schizophrenic client when she arrived on scene.

"The issue was, was the initial detention of Mr. Young legal?" he told the station. "If it's not, then he's not guilty. ... He could punch her 100 times, and it wouldn't matter."”

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Jun 8, 2023 9:10:53 PM

Thanks much, Master Tarls, a very interesting case. Seems to me proper that prosecutors brought charges, but federalist might not see it that way based on my understanding of some of his prior comments. Indeed, I think federalist may say it would have been entirely legal for Ari Young to kill Deputy McCarthy.

Also interesting that, according to another story, "Young was shot several times [by other deputies] and was taken by ambulance to a local hospital." I wonder what the "rule of federalist" would say about that shooting.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jun 8, 2023 9:58:41 PM

Fascinating, but this doesn't seem like lawful self-defense at all. Not sure that the instruction should have ever been given . . . . hope the jurors can live with themselves.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 9, 2023 9:30:17 AM

And I have repeatedly said, we have to live with honest mistakes . . . .

Posted by: federalist | Jun 9, 2023 9:31:06 AM

How should Prez Trump and his supporters (and also his detractors) sort out which state and federal law enforcement actions are "honest mistakes" as opposed to "hoaxes" and "warfare" involving "the rule of power" that would permit armed resistance? Will the oracle of federalist soon be providing guidance on these matters?

Posted by: Doug B | Jun 9, 2023 9:43:52 AM

These prosecutions are really problematic. If resistance happens, it's a problem. None of this is the rule of law.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 9, 2023 9:55:07 AM

oracle of federalist, the takeaway is unclear: according to the "rule of federalist" that you have been spinning out, is armed resistance to law enforcement by Trump and his supporters within their "legal right"? If so, what forms of armed resistance and by whom are within the scope of what you consider a "legal right"?

Posted by: Doug B | Jun 9, 2023 10:04:00 AM

The answer is that I don't know. Obviously, the DOJ has lost all sense of perspective and has different standards for Trump/Republicans than it does for Democrats. That's a problem, and who knows where it will lead.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 9, 2023 10:13:28 AM

Doug, since you seem to think that North Korean prisoners don't get to lawfully escape, I think you prove my point--at some point, we aren't really dealing with law, but rather power. I'll grant that peace requires submission to the government in many cases, but where do you draw the line? And how do you keep that from creating a police state--you really think it's cool that James O'Keefe got roughed up for performing journalism or that Bogdan Vechirko was prosecuted to provide cover to scum like Governor Walz?

What's going on with Trump is a problem. The same DOJ that tipped the scales in the 2020 election is now prosecuting the former President.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 9, 2023 10:24:38 AM

For the record, federalist, I think some North Korean prisoners have a moral right to escape --- though I doubt you claim serial killers like Park Myung-sik ought not be brought to justice by other nations, and I am also unsure if you making comparable "legal" claims for prisoners in China and Russia and the Philippines and the vast majority of other nations that do not have US style legal systems. And that's the problem with the "rule of federalist" -- which captures your feelings, but lacks any clear or predictable content.

That said, it does seem your feelings are akin to the BLM crowd, as you fret about a problematic "police state." But, other than partisan commitments, it is hard to figure out which "police state" abolition is sought when feelings lead to the prattling off of all sorts of matters (like transgender cases).

Posted by: Doug B | Jun 9, 2023 11:07:00 AM

The double standards at work are impossible to deny.

And the problem with the rule of power (when law is blown off) is that you have micro-tyrannies imposed by the City of Parma. And you have judges like the execrable Emmett Sullivan covering for prosecutors.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 9, 2023 11:18:36 AM

And you have what happened to Bogdan Vechirko.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 9, 2023 11:19:32 AM

And do the NoKo prisoners have the right to kill guards in order to effectuate their escape? And are you cool with James O'Keeffe getting roughed up? Cool with the prosecution of those who found Ashley Biden's diary? Cool with the "Hunter laptop is Russian misinfo"? Cool with Washington state saying that they can take your kid and cut his dick off?

Posted by: federalist | Jun 9, 2023 11:24:18 AM

I barely have time, federalist, to focus on sentencing-related laws and legal rulings, and I have already spent way too much time in comments engaging with your feelings on a wide range of matters that trigger you. (If you start a blog or substack to express all your feelings, I will be sure to check it out.)

Generally speaking, I trust the US legal system to sort matters through and to provide the American people, though the democratic process, means to change laws that do not serve us well. Do your feelings lead you to generally trust or distrust the US legal system? Isn't that really the core question here, especially when you preaching that armed resistance, rather than the remedies provided by law, is (often?) justified? Do your feelings lead you to view our justice system as just a variant of North Korea?

Posted by: Doug B | Jun 9, 2023 11:32:55 AM

The core question is whether the constitutional right of self-defense allows people to lawfully resist tyranny.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 9, 2023 11:59:05 AM

Your new framing prompts questions of when is there "tyranny" in the US and who gets to decide that as a matter of "law"? (And also what is the reach and limits of your asserted "constitutional right of self-defense.")

I have sincerely tried to better understand the "rule of federalist," but I think I should at this stage give up to have more time to focus on more productive inquiries.

Posted by: Doug B | Jun 9, 2023 12:45:11 PM

The fundamental point--how is it a right if you cannot prevent it from happening to do, particularly when the imposition is pretty egregious?

And since self-defense is a right, how do you explain the unstated exception of it not engaging when there is a badge involved. No answer is really satisfactory, but let's acknowledge what we're asking a supposedly free people to do.

"Generally speaking, I trust the US legal system to sort matters through and to provide the American people, though the democratic process, means to change laws that do not serve us well."

Yeah, tell that to the woman who was put in jail for posting on her ex, the cop with the magistrate buddy. Did the magistrate ever have to pay for what he did? Did the cop?

Posted by: federalist | Jun 13, 2023 5:30:34 PM

happening to you--not happening to do

Posted by: federalist | Jun 13, 2023 5:31:03 PM

I am not sure what you are trying to say here, federalist, but I am sure every innocent person wrongly arrested and/or convicted --- of which we know every year there are tens of thousands, with surely thousands involving willful corruption --- can and should reasonably ask who should "pay" for being wronged. But unless and until you can provide some sensible and clear accounting of how to sort such matters out for these tens of thousand wronged by a bloated (and sometimes corrupt) criminal justice system, you are fundamentally advocating for responding to "tyranny" (as clearly defined only in your mind) with some kind of armed force (as clearly defined only in your mind). That's why I call it the "rule of federalist."

I get you feel that only with your mysterious and undefinable "rule of federalist" can we avoid "tyranny." Okay, I get your feelings. But, since I still do not understand the reach or limits of the "rule of federalist," for now I am sticking with the rule of law.

Posted by: Doug B | Jun 13, 2023 6:01:23 PM

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