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A Leading Advocate of Sentencing Reform Tells the Truth About the Plans for Sentencing Violent Crime

| 23 Comments
One of the leading backers of sentencing reform (i.e., widespread sentence reduction) is Prof. Doug Berman of the Moritz College of Law at the Ohio State University.  His blog, "Sentencing Law and Policy," is widely read, and he frequently appears at academic panels.  A Princeton and Harvard Law graduate, he has been called as an expert witness before Congress.

I therefore think it worth a separate entry to note what Doug acknowledges about the ultimate plans of many of those supporting sentencing reform.  As I have seen it  --  and I've seen it again and again  --  their mantra is that reform is designed for the "low-level, non-violent" offender.  Indeed, this is the principal refrain of the movement. 

"Low-level, non-violent."  Rinse and repeat.

Doug now acknowledges that, in the eyes of many reformers, there's a more ambitious agenda than we usually hear about  -- that lower sentences are to be handed out to violent criminals as well.  

His comment is the third on my earlier entry, "The Mask Slips."  He begins:

I do not think there is much doubt, Bill, that many persons concerned about mass incarceration want to lower sentences for violent criminals. I will be the first to say that I do not think anyone should get LWOP sentences. Also, arguably Weldon Angelos and Chris Williams were both "violent criminals" and I wanted both of them to get less than effective LWOP sentences.

You are right that some advocates will say they are only concerned with reducing sentences for the most sympathetic of defendants, but that is largely because you and fans of toughness do not want to even do that...

Readers are invited, it they care to, to examine the full exchange.  

I sometimes get frustrated with Doug, but I have nothing but admiration for his candor.



23 Comments

Can you provide evidence that those who think mass incarceration is a problem only want to help reform sentence for the "low-level, non-violent" offender? I think you are creating a peculiar straw man here.

Notably, lots of federal reform advocates have been vocal supporters of the Justice Safety Valve Act, which would give judges potentially more discretion in the sentencing of all federal offenders, not just the "low-level, non-violent" offenders. Similarly, most advocates for state sentencing reform vocally want to do away completely with juve LWOP completely in all states even in murder cases (which, notably, Texas did a few years ago).

What I think is clear is that reformer think it makes lots of sense to START with these offenders. Do you disagree that reform should start with the "least worst of the least worse" (to parrot a phrase from capital punishment debates), in part because I think we all agree that the "low-level, non-violent" offenders are most sensibly the beneficiaries of the first round of reforms.

What strike me as more important to make clear is that you and others in the tough-and-tougher crowd are vigorously opposed to any reforms even for the "low-level, non-violent" offender. Am I right that, generally speaking, it is your view that for any and all federal felon (at least those not named Scooter Libby) we need not and ought not worry about whether existing federal sentences are too severe?

Doug --

Let me take your response one paragraph at a time, since I have a jammed schedule today. But I expect to get to all of it eventually.

"Can you provide evidence that those who think mass incarceration is a problem only want to help reform sentence for the 'low-level, non-violent' offender?"

I decline to provide evidence for what I didn't say, and I didn't say "only." What I said, and will repeat, is that the refrain of the sentencing reform movement, intoned again and again and again, is "low-level, non-violent."

That is not open to reasonable debate. Dozens of entries on your own blog prove it.

The reason this has become the anthem of sentencing reform is easy to see. It is to lead the public to believe, without saying directly, that the criminals reformers have in mind for release are non-violent (and non-harmful, which is another, and quite serious, element of their deception).

But it's not true. They have a more ambitious plan -- the one they're much quieter about. The endless bullhorning of "low-level, non-violent" is a loss leader, designed to entice the public into the "Open the Prison Gates Store." Once inside, however, the merchandise is going to be a lot more, uhhh, varied.

Your colleagues should be as honest as you are and say up front, and loudly, that one of the goals they so earnestly pursue is the early return to society of violent criminals. They should say this knowing, as they do, that the recidivism rate for such people is sky high.

Should I wait for the next FAMM or Brennan Center press release bearing the bold-letter title: "What do we want? Released muggers! When do we want it? NOW!!!"

Somehow I think I'll be waiting a long time.

Bill, I just spent 20 minutes on the FAMM website and could not find a single reference to low-level and found very few references to nonviolent. Among other items now on the front FAMM page is a press release praising legislation to reduce gun mandatory sentences and a discussing of a FAMM amicus seeking to have part of the Armed Career Criminal Act deemed unconstitutional. Thus, what you clai. Is being hidden is in fact being broadcast on the FAMM website.

Again, Bill, the issue really is that you and others in the big government, toughness crowd do not even want. sentences reduced for the low-level, non-violent folks. So the FAMM folks and other are eager to highlight through that class of offenders how extreme is your affinity for locking people up despite the economic and social costs of mass incarceration. But, while that is a focal point for getting reform started, I am not aware of any example of efforts to bamboozle. The new Van Jones campaign, for example, seeks expressly to cut the prison population by 50% and that obviously is going to require doing more than just dealing with the low level non violent folks.

I know you like to believe that the other side never plays fair, Bill, but you should not let your own desire to demonize the other side blind you from reality.

Doug --

Very briefly, since it's past my bedtime.

I just spent 10 seconds on probably the leading pro-sentencing reform legal blog in the country, Sentencing Law and Policy. I did a search function for "low level non-violent."

The response was, and I quote:

"About 1,920 results (0.51 seconds)"

The list goes on for 49 pages.

According to my blog template, I have done close to 17,000 posts at Sentencing Law and Policy. I will readily acknowledged that well over 10% of those posts focus on low-level and/or non-violent offenders. But even that data point hardly suggests that the reform mantra is "low-level, non-violent" offender or that this is "the principal refrain of the movement." If it truly was, would you not expect 50% or more of my posts to be on this topic?

Sorry if I kept you up late. As I am sure you know, I think you often make a number of valid points about the modern debate over sentencing reform. I also think you (and others here at C&C) do an important and needed and often effective job at spotlighting problems with the advocacy of others. But in this context, I think you are making claims that are not especially well-founded or astute, especially if you somehow think it is a big "scoop" to report that many eager and advocating for sentencing reforms want those reform to extend beyond just "low-level, non-violent" offenders.

Incredibly weak, Doug.

Many (most?) of your posts are not directly about sentencing reform. They include a melange of topics such as whether Miller should retroactively apply to a 6 year old serving LWOP, whether a Sheriff can prohibit sex offenders from attending a church that doubles as a school, the state of the DP in Ohio, civil rights, prison overcrowding, etc. And those are just your posts from over the weekend. Yes, some of these indirectly have to do with sentencing reform but not in a manner that would likely pop up as a hit when searching your database for "low level non-violent."

Your data (only 10%!!!!) would only have even an ounce of credibility if you remove all that chaff. This is VERY basic statistical analysis that any law professor should be familiar with. I suspect Bill's view of your "candor" is off by many degrees and you are more interested in being lawyerly than truthful.

^16 year old, not 6

Tarls, I am confused about why you would not consider posts about "whether Miller should retroactively..., whether a Sheriff can prohibit sex offenders from attending a church [and] the state of the DP in Ohio, civil rights, prison overcrowding, etc." to be posts DIRECTLY about sentencing reforms/advocacy, and particularly about concerns often expressed by sentencing reform advocates regarding the impact of harsh sentencing rules for violent offenders.

Obviously, debate over Miller and its application is about ONLY the most violent offenders. And many sentencing reform advocates have been repeatedly asserting for decades that juvenile offenders, no matter how violent, should not get LWOP sentences. Similarly, many reform advocates are concerned about the collateral consequences imposed on sex offenders (and its impact on both liberty and public safety), and about the application of the death penalty to the most brutal murderers, and about prison overcrowding (and its racial skew). These concerns find expression in lots of advocacy for an array of sentencing/prison reforms that would obviously extend well beyond just "low-level, non-violent" offenders.

Of course, I am not the one who pointed to my blog as evidence, Bill did. And he did, I assume, because he cannot readily find clear examples on sites like FAMM or The Sentencing Project or NACDL or other progressive sentencing reform organizations which state that their "principal" concern is the sentencing of just "low-level, non-violent" offenders. Most modern sentencing reform movements are concerned with what is seen as excessively harsh sentencing writ large --- and especially excessive use of long terms of incarceration and the modern explosion in the deprivation of liberty in the United States that is of historical proportion.

You Tarls and Bill and others are, of course, welcome to argue about and contest the substantive claims being made by advocates of reform. But I do not see what value is achieved by efforts to strangely accuse reform advocates of hiding their true aims when it seems clear that they advocate various reforms across the board.

The irony, in my view, is that I have long thought (and complained about) the failure of most progressive reformers to not giving enough attention to "low-level, non-violent" offenders. As you likely know from reading my blog, I think far too many liberals (not to mention too many liberal Supreme Court justices) obsess about the intricacies of the application of the death penalty to the worst murderers rather than worry about and work harder to undue the extreme sentences given to the likes of Weldon Angelos and Edward Young and Patrick Lett (to name just a few folks whom I consider much more worthy of advocacy than any murderers).

Douglas stated: "Tarls, I am confused about why you would not consider posts about "whether Miller should retroactively..., whether a Sheriff can prohibit sex offenders from attending a church [and] the state of the DP in Ohio, civil rights, prison overcrowding, etc." to be posts DIRECTLY about sentencing reforms/advocacy, and particularly about concerns often expressed by sentencing reform advocates regarding the impact of harsh sentencing rules for violent offenders."

Because they are not directly tied to the specific sentencing reform acts such as REDEEM, the Smarter Sentencing Act, etc. These are what Bill is referring to. For example, Miller v. Alabama is not about, to use Bill's words, "widespread sentence reduction." It is a very narrow group (a few hundred?) of teens sentenced to LWOP. Again, you are being lawyerly instead of candid.

You stated: "Of course, I am not the one who pointed to my blog as evidence, Bill did."

Irrelevant (red herring). Bill surely knew when he pointed to your blog that he was understating the strength of his argument, that 1,920 hits would be an even larger percentage of your total posts if the chaff was separated out. Likewise, you know that merely citing your total posts overstates the strength of your position. One of these approaches is honest and the other is not. We both know which is which.

Doug --

I thought, and think, that the hundreds and hundreds of references to "low level, non-violent" offenders allegedly in need of lower sentences -- those references being on your own prominent, pro-sentencing reform blog -- were and are quite good evidence supporting my point that the mantra of the movement is indeed the "low level, non-violent" offender.

I have followed the debate long enough, and know its language well enough, so that I will offer you here and now my affidavit to state something to this effect: "The sentencing reform movement makes routine, well-advertised and prominent mention of the 'low level, non-violent' offender while downplaying the violent criminals that its agenda would also, and is intended to, help."

Do you want that affidavit? Would you claim perjury?

Doug --

I should add that, in my November debate with leading representatives of Heritage and Right on Crime -- two conservative/libertarian leaning organizations you often mention -- my opponents made a point that, while it's certainly true that some folks need to remain in prison for a long time, what we're trying to get people to focus on are the low level, non-violent offenders who are serving excessive sentences.

And that is indeed what they were doing. It's one reason I think it's so important for me to point out now that the agenda of the broader movement unambiguously, if more quietly, extends to early release for violent criminals. (And release in numbers that continue to be stashed behind the tree, although if you could tell us how many violent criminals should get early release, it would certainly bring some sunshine in here. Hundreds? Thousands? Tens of thousands?)

Bill stated: "while downplaying the violent criminals that its agenda would also, and is intended to, help."

This nails it and is why Doug's self-defense is entirely weak.

The "low level non violent" mantra is an appeal to emotion, trying to bring tears to the eyes of those who they may hoodwink into believing that they cause no harm to society.

However, that does not mean it is their ONLY appeal to emotion. The perfect example is one that Douglas brings up, Miller v. Alabama. It is the exact same tactic used on another subject. Instead of "non-violent", the appeal to emotion is that these poor "children", failed by their parents and society, (weep, weep) are forced to spend their entire adult lives in prison. In doing so, they ignore/downplay their violent nature and put focus on their age.

Let's look at Douglas's own post on the matter. Did he mention or cite ANYTHING about the kid's crime? Nope. Just tissue grabbing stuff like this:

"[I]f nothing else, prison gives a man time to reflect. Willis slowly came to realize — even though he was expected to die behind bars — that he needed his life to matter. The best way to do that, he decided, was to lean on God and to educate himself. After earning his GED, Willis began taking anger- and stress-management classes and attending prison fellowship seminars.

He earned back-to-back-to-back associate degrees from Western Piedmont Community College and a bachelor's degree from California Coast University. His mother attended his graduation ceremony for his first associate degree. "That's my baby," Brenda Willis yelled as Willis walked down the aisle. She was so proud of her son."

It goes on and on.

http://sentencing.typepad.com/sentencing_law_and_policy/2015/03/profile-of-one-of-thousands-of-the-juve-lwop-stories-full-of-post-miller-uncertainty.html

Here is his headline from another post today:

"Hey, Grandpa: End Mandatory Minimums!"

Same heartstrings, just the other end of the age spectrum. Poor grandpa!

Again, they all do the same thing, minimize violence and societal harm criminals do in favor of an appeal to emotion. If sentence reform advocates were fairly representing their position (the crux of Bill's complaint), The Boston Marathon bomber would be as much a poster child for sentence reform as grandpa or the kid. He isn't because they are smart enough to know they must enter through a Trojan horse. If Bill is wrong in any way, it is not acknowledging that they use OTHER Trojan horses as well.

Tarls --

Correct, as usual.

What you and I are talking about boils down to this: False advertising.

It's like the sales pitches you see on TV for used cars. What they show you for 59 of the 60 seconds is a pretty girl, smiling as she drives some shiny car through some beautiful place on the coastline. The last 1 second consists of a page of fine print that flashes across the screen at a speed so fast, and with printing so small, that no one could actually read it. The one second of fine print is the real skinny the seller feels like he has to put in front of your face (however briefly) but doesn't actually want you to know.

The reason it's there is strictly for cover, so he can say, when challenged, "Oh no! You're all wrong! It was right there in the commercial!!!"

I get a deja vu feeling when I see an article promoting sentencing reform. It will go on and on about how the defendant was just involved with a bit of pot here and there, never hurt anyone, certainly is not a threat -- in other words, that he's a LOW LEVEL, NON-VIOLENT OFFENDER.

That's the poster boy, the one who gets the 59 seconds. The stuff that seldom or never gets put on the poster (but might get included in the 300 page, single-spaced report they're counting on nobody's reading) might, if you study it carefully enough, tell you that the ones in line behind Mr. Poster Boy are, uh, not so nice.

And I guess that's OK if what you're doing is selling used cars. But when you're trying to sell changes in public policy that may have very significant effects on public safety, we should expect -- nay, demand -- something more forthcoming.

Such as:

NOTICE FROM SENTENCING REFORM MOVEMENT: WE WANT THE EARLY RELEASE OF THOUSANDS OF VIOLENT FELONS WHOSE RECIDIVISM RATE IS OVER 70%. BEAR THIS IN MIND WHEN CONSIDERING OUR PROPOSALS.

Think that's about to show up???

I am pleased to see Bill and Tarls enjoying each others' talking points, and now I have time to chime in:

1. I agree 100% that, at a time when there are still a lot of non-violent low-level offenders still incarcerated, advocates of sentencing reform are eager to "make[] routine, well-advertised and prominent mention of the 'low level, non-violent' offender while downplaying the violent criminals that its agenda would also, and is intended to, help." But this is policy advocacy 101 and not considered "false advertising" when, e.g., the NRA and gun rights advocates embrace Dick Heller and Otis McDonald, rather than say Jared Loughner and Adam Lanza, as their poster children for 2d Amendment rights.

Would you, Bill and Tarls, assert that the NRA is guilty of "false advertising" or for trying to "hoodwink" the public when it fails to tell everyone that its agenda would also, and perhaps is intended to, help thousands of dangerous persons have ready access to guns and armor-piercing ammunition without any background checks or waiting periods?

For lots of reasons, there is a lot more reason to believe the NRA is eager to "sell changes in public policy that may have very significant effects on public safety." I am not sure if you are both NRA members, but I do wonder if you both are busy telling them that NRA members "should expect -- nay, demand -- something more forthcoming."

2. Speaking of false advertising and hoodwinking, have either of you complained to Charles Grassley for his floor comments explaining his opposition to the Smarter Sentencing Act? Here is one claim he made about the SSA: "It would cut in half the mandatory minimum sentences for members of Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIS or Hezbollah who deal drugs that fund terrorism." Though I am not familiar with all federal drug prosecutions, I am not aware ONE single member of the "Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIS or Hezbollah" convicted in federal court for dealing drugs that fund terrorism, let alone any case in which such a defendant was sentenced only to the applicable statutory mandatory minimum.

Are you aware of any single case EVER in which "mandatory minimum sentences [were given to any] members of Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIS or Hezbollah who deal drugs that fund terrorism"? Why should Senator Grassley make this point on the Senate floor if not to "hoodwink" his colleagues into thinking the SSA is about something than it is really about.

As I hope you both know, I am very interested in having an honest debate about public safety and sentencing reform using real facts and factors to inform that debate. To the extent you share this interest, I hope you will help me understand why you are so eager to accuse advocates of reform of "false advertising" but seem uninterested in chastising a Senate leader for his "Trojan (terrorist) horse" in this setting.

Doug --

1. So you are NOT claiming the affidavit I offered would be perjury?

Good!

I'll reiterate it: "The sentencing reform movement makes routine, well-advertised and prominent mention of the 'low level, non-violent' offender while downplaying the violent criminals that its agenda would also, and is intended to, help."

2. You dismiss the sleazy used-car-tv-ads that are now the model for selling sentencing reform as nothing worse than "policy advocacy 101."

What that shows is NOT that sentencing reformers are forthcoming (indeed, it pretty directly concedes they're not). What it shows instead is that advocacy standards are woeful (see, e.g., the numerous lies told to sell Obamacare). But just as I am leery of buying used cars peddled with slick ads, I will be at least as leery of buying the sentencing reform agenda peddled with similar slickness. My experience is that meritorious cases don't need to be slick.

3. The old refrain, "BUT JOHNNY DOES IT!" cuts no ice with me, just as it cut none with my parents.

I have taken that same position forever, probably most prominently in the Honest Services case, where some crooked Enron defendants wanted to talk about nothing except what Johnny did.

I really don't care if Johnny does it. I care if the proposals put forward are fully honest and forthcoming. I will count the sentencing reform movement as honest and forthcoming when it prominently posts the following:

NOTICE FROM SENTENCING REFORM MOVEMENT: WE WANT THE EARLY RELEASE OF TENS OF THOUSANDS OF VIOLENT FELONS WHOSE RECIDIVISM RATE IS OVER 70%. BEAR THIS IN MIND WHEN CONSIDERING OUR PROPOSALS.

Of course they're not going to post any such thing, for one simple reason: Telling that truth will be the end of the movement.

For what it's worth, here is an excerpt from the ballot pamphlet argument in favor of California's Proposition 47 last year:

Here’s how Proposition 47 works:

Prioritizes Serious and Violent Crime: Stops wasting prison space on petty crimes and focuses law enforcement resources on violent and serious crime by changing low-level nonviolent crimes such as simple drug possession and petty theft from felonies to misdemeanors.

Keeps Dangerous Criminals Locked Up: Authorizes felonies for registered sex offenders and anyone with a prior conviction for rape, murder or child molestation.

Saves Hundreds of Millions of Dollars: Stops wasting money on warehousing people in prisons for nonviolent petty crimes, saving hundreds of millions of taxpayer funds every
year.

Funds Schools and Crime Prevention: Dedicates the massive savings to crime prevention strategies in K–12 schools, assistance for victims of crime, and mental health treatment and drug treatment to stop the cycle of crime.

For too long, California’s overcrowded prisons have been disproportionately draining taxpayer dollars and law enforcement resources, and incarcerating too many people convicted of lowlevel, nonviolent offenses.

Not only did the proponents say repeatedly that this was to reduce sentences only for "low-level nonviolent crimes," but there is a strong implication of getting tougher on the other kind.

"Not only did the proponents say repeatedly that this was to reduce sentences only for 'low-level nonviolent crimes,' but there is a strong implication of getting tougher on the other kind."

Bingo.

The sentencing reform movement too often goes beyond the passive deception of fronting the "low level, non-violent" offender, and pushes beyond that with aggressive -- if preposterous -- claims that, if we have fewer of the people who commit crime prison and back on the street, this will REDUCE crime.

I believe Doug himself has occasionally made this claim (that prison is "criminogenic"), although I will be happy to see his correction if I'm wrong.

I am not aware of any lobbyists or advocates who could be said to be forthcoming about their weakest claims, nor do I fully understand why you think leading with the chin should be expected of sentencing reform advocates and no one else.

I am not asserting the NRA's (suspect?) advocacy justifies similar advocacy by others. I am just saying if your goal is to highlight when advocates downplay their weakest point, you will have nothing else to do until the end of time. Indeed, in my view this is the heart of advocacy --- stressing your strongest points.

But let us get back to Senator Grassley, who is not a paid advocate but a public servant. Do you disagree that his statement about terrorists getting their sentences reduced due to the SSA is beyond even the bounds of what even an advocate could or should reasonably claim?

Again, I am happy to see in the marketplace of ideas a robust discussion and debate over different spins on reality from advocates. But I hope that public servant are more committed to candor, and I wonder if you share my belief that public servants and paid advocates should be held to different standards. I also wonder if you care to defend or explain how what Grassley said can be justified under any standard.

Doug stated: 1. I agree 100% that, at a time when there are still a lot of non-violent low-level offenders still incarcerated, advocates of sentencing reform are eager to "make[] routine, well-advertised and prominent mention of the 'low level, non-violent' offender while downplaying the violent criminals that its agenda would also, and is intended to, help."

Agree 100%? You spent the entire up thread denying this.

You stated: "But this is policy advocacy 101 and not considered "false advertising" when, e.g., the NRA and gun rights advocates embrace Dick Heller and Otis McDonald, rather than say Jared Loughner and Adam Lanza, as their poster children for 2d Amendment rights."

Please show me a position paper/statement from the NRA indicating that they want mentally ill people to have guns.

Furthermore, the analogy is a poor one anyway. A "right" is a "right" regardless of whether someone will get hurt because another may abuse the right. There is no "right" of a drug dealer to not go to prison for a "victimless" crime. And, the NRA acknowledges quite regularly that people get hurt. It is exactly why they spend millions upon millions for gun training programs and advocate for tough criminal law enforcement.

Not to mention, you are basing your argument on a tu quoque. Another fallacy to show my students!

Just curious, Doug. You went from calling Bill's assertion in his original post a "peculiar straw man" to calling it "policy advocacy 101."

I now know why defense attorneys want stupid people on the jury. You do not want anyone in the box who can see that you were forced to change your position 180 degrees and serve a full helping of Grassley red herring.

Tarls, it was Bill who back away from his false suggestion/assertion that sentencing reform advocates hide (e.g., "hoodwink" or "falsely advertise") the fact that they support sentence reductions for many different types of offenders. When I highlighted how FAMM (and others) have clearly on their website that they support lower sentence for folks other than low-level, non-violent offenders, there was no direct response.

Then Bill changed his tune to say that reformers emphasize the low-level offenders and "downplay" the others. That is a true statement, but to downplay a point is not the same as to hoodwink or to falsely advertise. I think you are being distracted, Tarls, by Bill's own wordplay, and I still think there is a big difference between hoodwink and downplay.

Meanwhile, I am still awaiting a response on Grassley, as his claim strikes me as a false representation, not a "downplay."

We could go on and on, but I think this is getting tiresome and I am still waiting a clear explanation of whether and why you think what Grassley said is sound, but what FAMM does is hoodwinking.

Doug --

I haven't "backed away" from anything or "changed my tune." And my offer of an affidavit, which you have not yet accepted, still stands. It would read:

"The sentencing reform movement makes routine, well-advertised and prominent mention of the 'low level, non-violent' offender while downplaying the violent criminals that its agenda would also, and is intended to, help."

Would you challenge such an affidavit? If so, it's a challenge I will welcome.

One other thing: Why is it that you so often personalize things? This isn't about me, you, TarlsQtr, Chuck Grassley, Rand Paul, etc., etc. It is about an idea, and the forthcomingness and candor with which that idea is advanced.

The idea is that the country will be better off with lower sentences. The forthcomingness of the advocacy for that idea would be enhanced by a full, direct, prominent and explicit statement that it would, and is intended to, benefit VIOLENT CRIMINALS. It would further be enhanced by being explicit about (1) what kind, and (2) specifically how many, violent criminals are going to be released early, and what their rate of recidivism is expected to be (especially given that the current rate of recidivism for violent criminals is slightly over 70%).

P.S. When I attempted to explain the position of Assistant US Attorneys in opposing the SSA, you directly questioned whether I was really just speaking for myself, and maybe one or two other stragglers. http://sentencing.typepad.com/sentencing_law_and_policy/2014/01/are-hundreds-of-career-prosecutors-or-mainly-just-bill-otis-now-in-open-revolt-over-ag-holders-suppo.html

Specifically, you questioned my truthfulness in saying that hundreds of career prosecutors opposed the SSA. You all but called me a liar, and you said you wanted evidence direct from the source (NAAUSA).

Given that experience, my response here is that, if you want to know what Sen. Grassley says or thinks, you should go directly to the source.

How am I personalizing things, Bill? You and Tarls in are accusing sentencing reform advocates of hoodwinking and false advertising, and I am trying to show that these advocates are acting no worse (and no better) than most advocates in most policy debates. The claim that sentencing reform advocates are acting distinctly inappropriately is the idea that I see you to be promoting, and it is the idea that I am challenging.

If you think the way I challenge your questionable representations and claims makes this personal, please explain how I can do so in a better way. I never accused you of being a liar in a prio thread, but I challenged your claim that "hundreds" of prosecutors were in "open revolt" over AG Holder's support for the SSA. I questioned this claim because I could find no evidence to support that there was any revolt that was open involving hundred of prosecutors --- and, over a year later, I still await any tangible information about the NAAUSA survey that you indicated supported your claim.

Similarly, I brought up Grassley's comment because I was hoping you or Tarls could provide an explanation or justification for his claims about the SSA and the sentencing of terrorists. Given that you are seemingly eager to call out those whose sentencing position you oppose for a lack of forthcomingness and candor, I am hopeful you will help me see if such forthcomingness and candor comes from those whose position you support.

As you know, I tried repeatedly to go to NAAUSA for more information about prosecutors and the SSA and I am still waiting for any response. If I had any access to Senator Grassley, I would ask him to explain and defend his advocacy against the SSA. In the meantime, I would still be interested to know if you or Tarls think or expect public servants to be even more committed to forthcomingness and candor than advocates like FAMM and the NRA.

Please understand, Bill and Tarls and Kent, too, I think you do very important work when you seek to highlight weaknesses in the advocacy of your opponents, and I respond because I think it is valuable to have a robust exploration or claims and arguments made by all who work in this important public policy arena. But I am especially interested in facts and data to support claI'm, rather than attacks based on what is being claimed. I am sorry if my efforts to seek for you and other these facts and data seems like a personal attack --- that is not at all what I intend or desire.

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