About a month ago, Attorney General Eric Holder issued this memo directing US Attorneys to abandon a litigating position they had used successfully in a number of courts. The position tossed overboard was that sentencing judges should refuse to give retroactive effect to a more lenient crack cocaine sentencing statute passed in the last Congress. The AG's change of position was undertaken ostensibly in the name of compassion. "Fairness," you see, needed uniformly to be "restored" to federal crack penalties. The Department's previous position against retroactive application had been, even if correct as a matter of law, so, you know, heartless.
The Department's bottomless pit of compassion for crack dealers seems to have run dry, however, for the family of a federal law enforcement officer cut down in the line of duty. Border Agent Brian A. Terry was murdered last December with a gun illegally obtained by one Jamie Avila. Terry's family has moved under the federal Crime Victims Act to intervene in the case against Avila.
Motions of this type are routinely supported by the US Attorney's Office. But not this time. It seems, or so US Attorney Dennis Burke says, that the family does not meet the specific statutory definition of a "victim." This is so, the government says,
because the family was not "directly or proximately harmed" by the illegal purchase of the murder weapon, it does not meet the definition of "crime victim" in the Avila case. Burke claims the victim of the Avila's gun purchases, "is not any particular person, but society in general."
Well my goodness. So forgiving toward crack dealers, but so tough with an Agent's widow (who doesn't want to push any drugs but just have a chance to speak).
Gads, a suspicious person might detect something odd going on here. Something like, say, politics.
Yes, lan' sakes alive, politics. Who woulda thunk such a thing from Eric Holder's DOJ?
On the other hand, a person might start to wonder upon hearing that the gun Avila used to kill Agent Terry was furnished to him in Operation Fast and Furious, a disastrous failure of a plan to investigate how Mexican drug cartels got their hands on so many automatic weapons.
Operation Fast and Furious has understandably provoked considerable interest by Congress. It's a story unto itself, and I won't attempt to go through all of it here. For the moment I'll say only that there is more than one indication that the Department would like to make Acting ATF Director Ken Melson -- an honorable man -- the fall guy for failures hatched higher up the chain.
And that, I think, is the key to understanding why the Department, while going all gooey for crack dealers, is taking such a remarkably hard line stance against the Agent's widow.
Fox News has the whole sleazy story. Thanks to reader federalist for alerting me to this budding scandal.