On August 12, Eric Holder gave his dishonest speech to the ABA, claiming the criminal justice system -- the one that has seen crime come down by 50% in 20 years -- is "ineffective." In that same speech, he ordered line prosecutors to airbrush indictments to slip around mandatory minimum sentencing. At roughly the same time, Sens. Leahy and Paul introduced their bill to effectively nullify every mandatory minimum sentence in federal law. Ever since then, it seems that I have been the voice in the wilderness arguing the other side.
Today I was displaced by Judge Jack Weinstein of the Eastern District of New York, with a big assist from a unanimous judgment of the Second Circuit.
Two and a-half years ago, Weinstein gave a repeat distributor of the grossest sort of child pornography a 30-month prison sentence. The statutory exposure was at least 20 years; the guideline range was 14-17 years, and the mandatory minimum was 5 years. Judge Weinstein was not impressed. Blowing by the mandatory minimum, and entranced by his own 400-plus page opinion veritably bulging with excuses, he found the mandatory minimum, well, just too mean.
In a unanimous judgment (with a concurring opinion) that blows the doors off Weinstein's mind-boggling high-handedness, the Second Circuit reversed and remanded, directing Weinstein to re-calculate his rigged guidelines score and, at the very least, to impose the mandatory minimum.
Were it not for that settled statutory floor, it's beyond obvious that Weinstein, using what is facetiously called his "discretion," could and would go right back to the travesty of a sentence he gave originally. I thank Judge Weinstein for illustrating better than I ever could why statutory minimums are essential to rein in what is, in some judges, an apparently limitless ability to use sentencing to sing a love song to felons.