Who Hijacked Our Country

Friday, July 06, 2007

Crime and Punishment

This will probably sound like one of those trivia columns: did you know that our Constitution guarantees equal protection under the law? Who knew?? Looks like a great idea on paper; let’s see how it really works:

Millions of non-violent drug offenders (mostly marijuana users) are serving huge federally-mandated prison sentences. And several people are facing up to twenty years in jail for importing Khat — a plant which acts as a mild stimulant when you chew the leaves — from East Africa into the United States. And in Georgia an 18-year-old boy was sentenced to ten years in prison for having consensual oral sex with an underage girl.

Boy, are we strict. But then again:

Scooter Libby had his 30-month prison sentence commuted. The average sentence for obstruction of justice is five years and four months. Even if Bush hadn’t commuted Libby’s “excessive” prison term, his sentence would’ve been less than half of the average sentence for that crime.

Equal protection??? Maybe Scooter Libby should smoke some marijuana so he could get sentenced to fifteen years at Leavenworth.

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Blogger PoliShifter said...

Equal Protection.

Currently there are defense attorneys using Libby's sentence commutation to justify lieniency for their clients.

This decision by Bush will haunt us for years.


A Chicago man convicted on a Hamas-related charge is trying to capitalize on Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s commuted sentence.

Mohammed Salah, 57, was convicted of obstruction of justice and is facing sentencing next week in Chicago. In the same trial Salah was cleared of racketeering charges in support of Hamas terrorist operations in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The maximum punishment for one count of obstruction is 10 years, but prosecutors are seeking a 22-year sentence based on evidence presented during trail they believe proves Salah was part of a terrorist conspiracy, reported the New York Sun.

"To sentence Mr. Salah on the basis of non-relevant, state, and acquitted conduct would most assuredly result in an unreasonable sentence and promote disrespect for the law," said Salah’s defense attorney, Michael Deutsch.

President Bush pointed similarly to "allegations never presented to the jury" this week in his reasoning for commuting the 30-month sentence for Libby, a former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney convicted for obstructing justice into the investigation of the leak of the name Valerie Plame, a covert CIA agent married to an Iraq war critic who had been targeted in a White House retaliation scheme.

Although the president’s decision sets no legal precedent, Deutsch believes Bush's commutation to be relevant because the allegations the prosecution wants the judge to consider "were presented to a jury and he was acquitted."

July 6, 2007 at 3:54 PM  
Blogger Damien said...

god I'd have loved to have seen Scooty go in, and i was thinking right up till the eleventh hour that he would go to jail, damn i'm a naive bastardo!!!

July 6, 2007 at 4:23 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

PoliShifter: You're right, this probably will haunt us for years. I remember when Nixon resigned, the popular wisdom was "he's suffered enough" as a reason that he shouldn't be prosecuted. I think several judges followed suit: when a defendant was convicted of a petty crime, the judge would say "he's suffered enough" and not sentence him to any jail time.

This needs to start happening again. The double standard is blinding and deafening. Either victimless "criminals" need to be set free, or people like Scooter Libby need to do hard time.

Damien: I was naive too. I kept seeing all this speculation about Bush commuting Libby's sentence but I kept thinking "no way, even Bush wouldn't be that blatant."

July 6, 2007 at 5:04 PM  
Blogger Lizzy said...

I'd like to see every attorney that is representing someone that has committed a meaningless crime, ask for what Scooter Libby got. Can you imagine the repercussions?

July 6, 2007 at 8:03 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Lizzy: Yup, that's what needs to happen. If nothing else, it would be amusing to hear a bunch of judges and politicians talking out both sides of their mouths.

July 6, 2007 at 8:24 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

Sorry, Tom... I tagged you. Check at my weblog for details.

Sorry decision by Bush indeed... Our national sense of right and wrong is just about gone, and what a horrible example Dubya and others who make (or have made) similar decisions set for the country.

July 7, 2007 at 12:08 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Snave: You're absolutely right, this is a horrible example by Bush and a sorry decision. Typical, in other words.

I answered the other part of your comment at your blog. Hope I'm not too much of a disappointment :)

July 7, 2007 at 2:28 AM  
Blogger Leo said...

So much for "liberty and justice for all". It should read, liberty for the rich and powerful and justice for those who are white and can afford a good defense attorney. Great post as always Tom.

July 7, 2007 at 12:40 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Leo: Thanks. Yup, "liberty and justice for all" isn't very accurate any more. Maybe it never was.

July 7, 2007 at 3:25 PM  
Anonymous JollyRoger said...

I never figured they'd let Scooter do any time. His singing might cage THEM, after all.

July 7, 2007 at 7:44 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Jolly Roger: "His singing might cage them" -- so true.

July 7, 2007 at 8:13 PM  
Blogger LET'S TALK said...

I wonder how this decision will effect the courts when the next attorney try this on the grounds of the commutation and reasons our President used.

July 8, 2007 at 8:07 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Let's Talk: Yup, that would be poetic if a lot of nonviolent criminals got freed using the same logic that Bush used.

July 8, 2007 at 8:14 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

Tom, you're never a disappointment!

I read your post again, and I have to say that I believe one of the primary reasons our jails and prisons are so overcrowded and getting so much worse all the time IS due to the amount of people serving time for victimless crimes, like pot use.

It seems like the very people who say they can't stand having the government trying to protect us from ourselves are the ones who want to make it a crime for someone to smoke a joint. What a bunch of damned hypocrites.

July 9, 2007 at 12:53 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Snave: Yeah, that's definitely why our jails are so overcrowded. If these "limited government" conservatives actually meant what they said, there'd be plenty of room in our jails for the real criminals who are actually a threat to the public.

Glad you aren't disappointed :)

July 9, 2007 at 4:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Corporations have their cake and eat it too.

Too Often they have gotten out of prosecution by claiming as a large entity, they cannot be responsible for the actions of a few.

Yet they got the supreme court to consider them a single person giving them the same protection against libel as you and me.


July 11, 2007 at 9:35 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Erik: That's exactly it, corporations have it both ways. They're a "person" with constitutional rights and civil liberties, and at the same time they have more wealth and political clout than any individual (or even some countries) could ever dream of.

July 12, 2007 at 12:47 AM  

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