BUSH AND SENTENCING.
President Bush opened up a can of worms when he commuted the sentence of former VP aide Scooter Libby. Bush’s reasons supporting the commutation sounded very familiar to most of us who practice criminal law in the State and Federal Courts: Libby was a first time offender; he was convicted of a non-violent offense; Libby had made substantial contributions to society during his lifetime; the effects of Libby’s incarceration would be harsh on his wife and children; Libby was most likely destined to suffer consequences of his conviction that would be more far reaching and punitive, including the loss of his license to practice law and his ability to earn a living.
The problem with the President’s reasoning is that these are reasons that are usually rejected by the courts. Let’s stick with Federal courts for a moment and address the reasons point by point:
No Prior record: The response is that the guidelines already adequately take into account lack of prior record by not scoring any additional points.
Non-violent offense: the guidelines are the guidelines and also take whether there was injury or threat of use of force into account.
The effect on Libby’s family: Judges are specifically prohibited from considering this factor unless there are extraordinary circumstances which don’t exist here. Paris Hilton's parents were said to be depressed to the point where they could barely eat anything at their country club's Saturday evening social during the time their daughter was in jail.
The effect on Libby’s future earnings and his background and contributions to society: these matters are reported to the Judge in the pre-sentence report but are not legally authorized reasons to depart downward from the guidelines.
So what are we to make of our President’s new found sympathy for felons?
Can we expect a Bush/Libby sentencing doctrine, to be invoked on behalf of every first time offender with a family that relies on him who has otherwise led a law abiding life?
If nothing else, Bush’s commutation of Libby’s prison sentence may well have opened a national discussion on the harshness of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. If a tough law and order don’t mess with Texas President finds 30 months for a first time offender too harsh, then isn’t it about time Congress got off their duffs and stopped thwarting the President’s well known compassion for felons and amended the sentencing guidelines to more reflect the Republican/Conservative beliefs in giving first offenders a second chance?
We join in with the President and his Republican allies and demand that the Democratic controlled Congress address this inequity and national disgrace. How many more commutations will our President be forced to issue to protect first offenders from serving a federal guideline mandated prison term before the Democrats do something about this? Isn’t it time the rest of the politicians joined our President and stopped playing politics with people’s lives?
Doesn’t any other politician have the courage of our President to stand up to the law and order lobbyists and the public’s fear of crime fueled demands for prison for anyone and everyone convicted of any crime?
We admire the President for his courageous and lonely stance on this important issue. We have in the past written about our differences with the President and his policies.
But when he is right, he is right. Well done Mr. President; well done indeed.
Prison is no place for first time offenders convicted of non violent offenses.
See You In Court, arguing just that, and citing our President as authority in the matter.
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