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Thursday, January 03, 2013

Justice in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave




Plead Guilty or Go to Prison for Life

The stark choice given a medical marijuana grower highlights the injustice of mandatory minimums.
Jacob Sullum | January 2, 2013 REASON

Chris Williams, a Montana medical marijuana grower, faces at least five years in federal prison when he is sentenced on February 1. The penalty seems unduly severe, especially because his business openly supplied marijuana to patients who were allowed to use it under state law.
Yet five years is a cakewalk compared to the sentence Williams originally faced, which would have kept the 38-year-old father behind bars for the rest of his life. The difference is due to an extremely unusual post-conviction agreement that highlights the enormous power prosecutors wield as a result of mandatory minimum sentences so grotesquely unjust that in this case even they had to admit it.
Of more than two dozen Montana medical marijuana providers who were arrested following federal raids in March 2011, Williams is the only one who insisted on his right to a trial. For that he paid a steep price.
Tom Daubert, one of Williams' partners in Montana Cannabis, which had dispensaries in four cities, pleaded guilty to maintaining drug-involved premises and got five years of probation. Another partner, Chris Lindsey, took a similar deal and is expected to receive similar treatment. Both testified against Williams at his trial last September. 
Williams' third partner, Richard Flor, pleaded guilty to the same charge but did not testify against anyone. Flor, a sickly 68-year-old suffering from multiple ailments, died four months into a five-year prison term.
For a while it seemed that Williams, who rejected a plea deal because he did not think he had done anything wrong and because he wanted to challenge federal interference with Montana's medical marijuana law, also was destined to die in prison. Since marijuana is prohibited for all purposes under federal law, he was not allowed even to discuss the nature of his business in front of the jury, so his conviction on the four drug charges he faced, two of which carried five-year mandatory minimums, was more or less inevitable.
Stretching Williams' sentence from mindlessly harsh to mind-bogglingly draconian, each of those marijuana counts was tied to a charge of possessing a firearm during a drug trafficking offense, based on guns at the Helena grow operation that Williams supervised and at Flor's home in Miles City, which doubled as a dispensary. Federal law prescribes a five-year mandatory minimum for the first such offense and 25 years for each subsequent offense, with the sentences to run consecutively.
Consequently, when Williams was convicted on all eight counts, he faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 80 years for the gun charges alone, even though he never handled the firearms cited in his indictment, let alone hurt anyone with them. This result, which federal prosecutors easily could have avoided by bringing different charges, was so absurdly disproportionate that U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter offered Williams a deal.
Drop your appeal, Cotter said, and we'll drop enough charges so that you might serve "as little as 10 years." No dice, said Williams, still determined to challenge the Obama administration's assault on medical marijuana providers. But when Cotter came back with a better offer, involving a five-year mandatory minimum, Williams took it, having recognized the toll his legal struggle was taking on his 16-year-old son, a freshman at Montana State University.
"I think everyone in the federal system realizes that these mandatory minimum sentences are unjust," Williams tells me during a call from the Missoula County Detention Facility. But for prosecutors they serve an important function: "They were basically leveraging this really extreme sentence against something that was so light because they wanted to force me into taking a plea deal." Nine out of 10 federal criminal cases end in guilty pleas.
The efficient transformation of defendants into prisoners cannot be the standard by which we assess our criminal justice system. If the possibility of sending someone like Chris Williams to prison for the rest of his life is so obviously unfair, why does the law allow it, let alone mandate it?

54 comments:

  1. If you have a right, you should not be able to be intimidated by the state to give it up. If it is a right, it is a right, not a negotiating technique bastardized for the benefit of state coercion in a mismatched legal battle.

    Rights were instituted as a recognition by the founders and their ancestors through British Common Law that states were naturally tyrannical, arbitrary and coercive. An individual that is coerced or intimidated into surrendering his rights, damages the concepts of rights and is destructive to the welfare of all.

    Think not, then welcome to a brave new world.

    It can happen to anyone. The wealthy and connected, a John Corzine, can buy his “get out of jail card”. Some petty drug dealer, selling drugs of choice, popular with the sitting and recently serving US Presidents, cannot.

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  2. There is a case in Washington State where a rapist, having finally been caught, was convicted on one count, and sentenced to 25 years. He certainly deserved this as it is certain he was guilty of about 20 more.

    He has served his 25 years. Now however, they have him indefinitely confined, along with some others of same type, over by Seattle somewhere as a continuing threat to society. I have wondered where the authority to do this comes from. Washington State law seems to be the answer. There was a case that was challenging this, but I haven't heard anything about it lately.

    This seems, at least in my mind, worrisome.

    If indefinite detention can be used in his case, on the grounds that he is a continuing threat, how about that of a bank robber, or a political protester, or you.

    He was found to be a continuing threat by some panel or other, or maybe a judge, I am unclear. It wasn't exactly a trial. I don't know if he had representation before it or not.

    P.S. - I have zero sympathy for Mr. Kevin Coe personally. Just wondering about this procedure.

    He was not released at the completion of his sentence because the State of Washington has been seeking to keep him confined indefinitely under a "civil commitment" statute which provides for indefinite confinement of a sex offender beyond the completion of their prison sentence provided they have been judicially declared a "sexually violent predator".

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Coe

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    Replies
    1. I share that concern.

      Delete



  3. Martha the Farmer Fights Back

    Martha Boneta, the Virginia farmer at the center of the Pitchfork Protest in August that gained national attention, may have found the ultimate way to keep lawbreaking bureaucrats in check.

    http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2013/01/martha_the_farmer_may_have_the_last_laugh.html

    Go Martha!

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  4. Everybody in Montana has "guns." The 2nd Amendment backs up their basic Civil Right to bear arms. There is, also, a prohibition of "cruel, and (or) unusual punishment."

    Now, I'm going to pay to feed, guard, and clothe this asshole for five years for some reason or other.

    The Government is an ass.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Montana also has in its entry into the Union agreement a clause that they can get out, if the Feds f with their guns. We all should have thought of that.

      Delete
  5. Fox News is reporting the deal for the F-16s also includes 200, I think they said, brand new tanks. This was a deal with the Mubarak regime, and we don't have any responsibility to go through with it with the new Sharia regime. And we shouldn't. Obama of course will go through with it, being tight with the MB, and hating Israel. The first deliveries begin later this month. It is unclear whether Congress, or the House, could delay or end this deal.

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    Replies
    1. What do they need tanks and fighter jets for?

      Delete
    2. The threat from those that invaded their territory twice since 1948. Along with the French and Brits. Egypt has been the object of forign invasions since the dawn of history. Now, with the canal foreigners lust for control of that passage.

      While one never know when the Lybians may mobilize. Sudan and Chad both pose a risk to Egyptian stability

      Delete
    3. That's right. Before the Canal, it was always a North/South contest with, primarily, what is now, Chad, I believe.

      Delete
  6. We will do exactly what the Saudis want us to do (vis a vis Egypt.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. .

      Saudi Arabia is trumped by the MIC when it comes to arms sales.

      .

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    2. It gets confusing, opinions differ. Some think we will do whatever Israel wants us to do about anything in the middle east. I think the rules have changed, not sure just how, with our marxist, muslim fraud in the White House.

      Delete
    3. Iran has been reported to be evacuating one of its nuclear sites, where the power plant is to be, I think. If Israel were to attack, I'd be the most surprised man if Obama actually backed them up.

      There is an election going on in Israel, and Netanyahu doesn't seem to be doing as well as he hoped, and might have to form a coalition with some of the smaller, more focused parties.

      Delete
    4. If we did what Israel wanted the USA to do in the middle east?

      America would not have sold AWACS to Saudi America

      America would not have armed Egypt with 200 F16's

      America would pressured Egypt not to allow Iranian warship to pass thru the Canal.

      America would have not broken the agreement made with Eisenhower and allowed the Straits of Tiran to be shut.

      America would not have help Israel back numerous times including allowing the Arafat and his fighters to escape Lebanon, destroying Hezbollah in the 2006 war, going to Cairo in the 1973 war and numerous other examples.

      If Israel called the shots?

      America would live up to it's own laws and moved the embassy to Jerusalem that has been US law for over 2 decades.

      If Israel called the shots?

      America would not have forced the allowing of HAMAS to run for elections.

      So the all powerful Israel control is way over blown

      Delete
    5. .

      America would live up to it's own laws and moved the embassy to Jerusalem that has been US law for over 2 decades.

      Anyone familiar with the Jeruselem Emabassy act of the mid-1990's would recognize that while it may be legal it is very likely unconstitutional. Every president, (Clinton, Bush, and Obama) has judged it so. Since the Constitution has designated that foreign policy falls solely within the purview of the executive, the Congress has obviously over-stepped its constitutional authority.

      And it's likely that Congress recognizes that their feel good effort was overstepping their authority since they wrote a presidential waiver into the text of the act, a waiver that has been utilized every six months since the act was passed.

      Congress still has the power of the purse and nothing is stopping them from defunding any embassy they object to in Israel be that in Tel Aviv or any place else; however, they didn't do it when Teddy sent the Great White Fleet around the world and I doubt they will do it on this issue.

      If the issue ever makes it to SCOTUS, I believe the act will be shot down.

      .

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    6. .

      America would have not broken the agreement made with Eisenhower and allowed the Straits of Tiran to be shut.

      What agreement was that?

      .

      Delete
  7. Somebody smuggled continuing subsidies for the wind business into the Cliff deal -

    http://washingtonexaminer.com/tim-carney-how-corporate-tax-credits-got-in-the-cliff-deal/article/2517397#.UOWtjqycu1v

    " copied and pasted"

    List of freebies.

    ReplyDelete
  8. And, Puerto Rican Rum. Don't forget the Rum.

    The oil companies managed to sneak in there and kill the "funding" for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program at the very last minute, though. Everybody was celebrating the "Win" for Cellulosic Ethanol (it was supported in the bill,) but didn't notice that the FUNDING was gone.

    :)

    Gotta hand it to Exxon, and the boyz; they're relentless.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Also, the money for support of "blender" pumps. These programs were very, very, very small, money-wise, but important (esp. the BCAP.)

      Delete
    2. As for the "Wind bidness," it's been quite the Job Creator.

      Delete
    3. .

      Here is one Rufus will love.

      Included in the fiscal cliff deal,

      General Electric and Citigroup, for instance, hired Breaux and Lott to extend a tax provision that allows multinational corporations to defer U.S. taxes by moving profits into offshore financial subsidiaries. This provision -- known as the "active financing exception" -- is the main tool GE uses to avoid nearly all U.S. corporate income tax...

      and, surprise, surprise, read through the following to see who was actually pushing through all the corporate tax breaks

      They are all dicks

      .

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    4. Sorry, No Account Sons a Bitches.

      Delete
    5. And, Puerto Rican Rum. Don't forget the Rum.

      Only good thing I can see in it, really.

      Who but a grinch would not support Bicardi?

      Delete
    6. That's my cat there, after getting into the Bicardi.

      Delete
  9. I'm quite sure that we have an agreement with Saudi Arabia that we will assure Egypt's military parity with Israel.

    The last thing anyone in the world (except, possibly, Russia) wants is another War over the Suez Canal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Then America is breaking a treaty with Israel.

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    2. .

      If America has any 'agreements' in the ME, they are probably informal.

      America certainly doesn't have any type of formal defense or mutual-defense treaties with Israel.

      .

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    3. Oh yeah, I'm sure they give the term "informal agreement" a whole new parameter. :)

      However, within any sort of "reason," it would be nuts of us to get into a pissing match with, not just SA, but also, Kuwait, The United Arab Emerites, Oman, Iraq, etal.

      Delete
  10. Germany installed 2,367 Megawatts of Solar in the last 4 months for which we have data: Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov.

    We Don't Need No Stinkin' Russian Natural Gas

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Meanwhile, Warren Buffet buys another 579 Megawatts of Solar.

      Just another dummy buying solar

      Delete
  11. A friend with a Democratic source on the Hill says his source has heard the rumor about Boehner....

    This is the kind of reporting I love, getting directly to the heart of things....


    Boehner Out?

    http://hotair.com/archives/2013/01/02/report-group-of-20-republican-congressman-to-block-boehners-election-as-speaker-tomorrow/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Boehner re-elected.

      Never believe the above 'source'.

      Whoever it was.

      Delete
  12. Looks like Boehner won easily.

    It's the worst job in the world right now. Who else wants it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would have reluctantly served, if asked.

      :)

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    2. Defectors from Boehner included Justin Amash (R-Mich.), who voted for Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho).

      Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/house/275419-boehner-re-elected-speaker-with-some-gop-defections#ixzz2GwKuiSuf


      It's a start!

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    3. .

      A start?

      I suspect the only real alternative to Boehner would be Cantor, the smirk in the suit.

      .

      Delete
  13. Federal Revenues for the last 3 fiscal months are up 9.4% from the same three months a year ago.

    I think we're liable to see a deficit of about 4.5% of GDP in fiscal year 2013. That's not too bad when compared to the 10.1% of just a couple of years ago.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Offshore driller Transocean Ltd. will pay $1.4 billion to settle all federal civil and criminal claims relating to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

    Transocean was the owner of the drilling rig that exploded in April 2010, killing 11 workers and triggering the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Oil giant BP PLC had been leasing the Deepwater Horizon to drill an exploratory well in the Gulf and was primarily in charge at the time of the accident.

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  15. In response to toughening language from Buenos Aires, the Prime Minister chaired a meeting of the National Security Council last year to discuss the Falklands, explaining he wanted to “make sure our defences and everything else is in order”.

    Last month Argentina also denounced the decision by the Government to name a huge tract of Antarctica, which it also claims, in honour of the Queen.

    ...

    Douglas Alexander, the shadow Foreign Secretary, said: “The Falkland islanders have an established right to self-determination as enshrined in the UN charter and it is right Britain continues to defend this right. “

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  16. In an end-of-year press release — posted under the banner headline "Accomplishments Under the Leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder" — the Justice Department boasts of charging "nearly 3,000" bankers with lending discrimination and fraud.

    ...

    But none of the race-bias cases highlighted by the administration was litigated in court. Evidence was never presented or tested, nor guilt ever proven.

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  17. Politically, Obama also may find it harder to get any new tax hikes through Congress. He's already boosted them twice on the so-called rich (the first was a $500 billion hike to pay for ObamaCare).

    ...

    Even Democrats might be less enthusiastic about future tax hikes that will, by definition, have to reach further down the income scale, hitting an increasing number of their well-heeled urban constituents.

    At the moment, none of that seems to matter to Obama, whose unquenchable thirst for higher taxes has finally been exposed.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Late Wednesday night, a special panel of the Illinois State Senate passed the bill, and has sent it to the Senate floor to be voted on, bringing the state one step closer to a ban on “assault” weapons. The vote will most likely take place today, January 3.

    ...

    Chicago, the city with the most un-Constitutional gun laws in the United States, stands as evidence that gun bans don’t work. The city won the dubious crown of “the murder capitol of the United States” this summer as it exceeded 500 murders.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Argentina's president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, has written a letter to David Cameron urging the UK, a "colonial power", to abide by a UN resolution to "end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations" and return the Malvinas/Falkland Islands to Argentina.

    ...

    In the light of such actions, and with the ongoing existence of the Commonwealth, as well as the disputed British overseas territories, is it fair to claim, as Kirchner does, that Britain is still a colonial power?

    ReplyDelete
  20. The government has easy access to our tax information, stock trades, phone bills, medical records and credit-card spending, and it is just getting started. In Bluffdale, Utah, according to Wired magazine, the National Security Agency is building a $2 billion, one-million-square-foot facility with the capacity to consume $40 million of electricity a year, rivaling Google's GOOG +0.06% biggest data centers.

    Some estimate the facility will be capable of storing five zettabytes of data. It goes tera, peta, exa, then zetta—so that's like five billion terabyte drives, or more than enough to store every email, cellphone call, Google search and surveillance-camera video for a long time to come.

    Companies like Palantir Technologies (co-founded by early Facebook investor Peter Thiel) exist to help the government find terrorists and Wall Street firms find financial fraud.

    ReplyDelete
  21. There have been those who have mocked the President of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, for publishing an open letter in British newspapers demanding that Britain hand over the Falkland Islands. Eyebrows have been raised about the contents – "delusional and insulting" and "stuffed full of falsehoods", according to some critics.

    ...

    Diplomacy is war by other means. Newspaper ads can be so, too.

    ReplyDelete
  22. It seems very clear to me that Al Gore is one of the biggest hypocrite jackass to ever walk on this earth.

    Bush, Rove, Nixon, Clinton, Pelosi, Reid, Kerry, Obama, etc pale in comparison. Please feel free to add to the list. We are very fortunate he was never president.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why do you say that gag?

      Delete
    2. I mean, like, I can say bush was as dumb as a post, he was a shrub, but that doesn't really tell us much.


      What bugs you so much about Gore's recent actions and why?

      Delete
    3. Ash, you disagreeing with me basically answers your own question.

      Delete
  23. A police officer can't pull you over and arrest you just because you gave him the finger, a federal appeals court declared Thursday.

    ...

    John Swartz and his wife Judy Mayton-Swartz had sued two police officers who arrested Swartz in May 2006 after he flipped off an officer who was using a radar device at an intersection in St. Johnsville, N.Y. Swartz was later charged with a violation of New York's disorderly conduct statute, but the charges were dismissed on speedy trial grounds.

    ReplyDelete
  24. On this day in 1961, the U.S. cut diplomatic relations with Cuba.

    ReplyDelete