DOJ: Little Support for Federal Sentencing Overhaul
By Ryan J. Reilly | May 27, 2010 4:24 pm

The Justice Department thinks that mandatory minimum sentencing laws have placed a strain on the federal penitentiary system, disparately impact demographic groups and result in undue leniency for white collar crimes and some child exploitation offenses.

But there isn’t much support in Congress or within the federal criminal justice system for a structural change of federal sentencing, a Justice Department representative told the U.S. Sentencing Commission at a hearing on Thursday morning.

Sally Quillian Yates, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia (DOJ).

U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Sally Quillian Yates testified on behalf of the Justice Department. In her prepared testimony, Yates noted that DOJ’s Sentencing and Corrections Working Group, chaired by Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler, has involved over 100 officials from across the Justice Department.

Pressed by members of the commission, Yates would not say which of the 170 mandatory minimums the Justice Department did not believe were necessary. She said the department’s position was that the commission should recommend to Congress which statutes should be revised, but said the DOJ would be happy to work with the commission.

“This is the starting point and not the ending point,” said Yates.

The Justice Department believes the commission should do a statute by statute analysis of the 170 federal sentencing guidelines, and that DOJ employees were ready to “roll up their sleeves and work with” the commission, said Yates.

She said it was important to get input from all the players in the criminal justice system and “not only from those of us squirreled away in the department.”

Yates also touted a memo sent to federal prosecutors last week that gave prosecutors more flexibility in making charging decisions and deciding on recommended sentences in criminal cases.

Asked by a commissioner whether the Holder memo could create greater disparity between sentences for the same crime because it gave prosecutors more flexibility, Yates said she did not think it would. “It places the responsibility on federal prosecutors to consider the specific circumstances of the case when making the determination as to what to charge,” she said.

Yates said that the Northern District of Georgia was facing a number of challenges. It has experienced more bank failures than any other district, has a growing gang problem and one of the highest rates of mortgage fraud and is the number one district in the exportation of illegal firearms, she said. She said Northern Georgia has become the East Coast hub for Mexican cartels. “Miami now gets its dope from us,” Yates said. Those challenges have forced the U.S. Attorney’s office to make difficult decisions about how to allocate resources.

The American Civil Liberties Union’s Jay Rorty testified that the mandatory minimums “create excessive prosecutorial discretion, which is exercised in an arbitrary manner and used to coerce defendants into relinquishing their constitutional rights and punish defendants when they exercise those rights.” He acknowledged that Congress is unlikely to taking action to change mandatory minimums.

“Although we believe the correct policy choice is clear, we understand that good policy and good politics do not always align, and that Congress may not yet be prepared to abolish all federal mandatory minimums,” Rorty said.

A representative of the Fraternal Order of Police testified in support of mandatory minimums, which he said been an effective deterrence for crimes. An American Bar Association representative testified that sentencing by mandatory minimums “is the antithesis of rational sentencing policy.”

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2 Comments

  1. the truth says:

    I personally knew Steve Keller and Grant Sutherland in the 1990’s in Lexingtion and I can tell you that Steve Keller was “ALL ABOUT GREED” and one of the most arrogant people I’ve ever met. He was out to “make a buck” for himself regardless of who he had to hurt along the way. This man has no morals and is behind bars where he deserves to be. Steve was so arrogant he actually tried to flee the U.S. before sentencing, opposed to owning up to the fraud that he committed and represented. If you would’ve met Steve, you would walk away thinking this guy is so full of BS he smells of it. Steve did NOTHING to contribute to society and got what he deserved regardless of anyone’s opinion about the trial…. it’s called KARMA and Steve Keller got his! Well done!

  2. fair2all says:

    Of course there won’t be support from prosecutors who actually hold all the power without accountability. When will the DOJ began to enforce penalties of some sort for prosecutors who act unethically and illegally? Why were the prosecutors from the Ted Stevens fiasco simply shunted elsewhere, still receiving taxpayer paid salaries and benefits? And so many others . . . I have a partial list and the judges’ opinions when they chastised these prosecutors.

    How about the prosecutors in ED KY who pursued the executives at Kelco, when there was no violation of any federal law and no violation of state law? More than six years have passed but Steve Keller, an innocent man, sits in federal prison awaiting the ruling on his 2255 while one of the most inefficient district courts in the nation takes its plodding time.

    The so-called co-conspirators who testified included career criminals, at least two of whom went on to commit other fraud. Prosecutors rewarded them for their testimony with no imprisonment and allowed them to keep all their ill-earned gains–which they did not declare on tax returns. Prosecutors again rewarded them by not reporting to IRS the hundreds of thousands these creeps pocketed from many companies (they were known as “professional viators.”).

    Then there is the chief prosecution witness, Anne DiLeo, who was ordered at her sentencing in TN to repay three individuals, an elderly couple from OH and a man in KY. She never did. But she so delighted prosecutors with her help in blaming Kelco for what she actually did that she was rewarded with a sentence of 18 months. To this day TN proscutors have made no effort to have DiLeo (who now raises horses) reimburse her victims.

    And the TN attorneys’ office was notified, again, last year. A copy of the judgment was sent to them, as a reminder.

    It is time to expunge the DOJ of prosecutors who victimize innocent people, like Keller, Drach, and Sutherlin (the Kelco executives) and revictimize fraud victims.

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