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BLM, the New Fascism

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It's not like we've never seen shouting down opposing speakers.  We saw plenty of it, circa 1930's Germany.

We saw more of it today, courtesy of Black Lives Matter.  And the person they shouted down was the black, female, liberal Democrat who is the Mayor of the District of Columbia, Muriel Bowser (not that it was any better when they did it to two white men, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley).

The Washington Post has the story:

Dozens of protestors shouting "black lives matter" interrupted D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser's address late Thursday morning on how to stem the rising number of homicides in the city.

Bowser (D) planned to announce a wide-ranging, $15 million plan to boost both community programs and police presence in response to a 36 percent spike in killings this year. But protesters linked to a nationwide movement that has mobilized over allegations of police misconduct erupted at her first mention of putting more officers on the streets. 

Let's do a quick-hitter of what we've learned so far about the top reasons to reject the mass sentencing reduction parading as "sentencing reform," and about why, instead, we should preserve the  system of honest and sober sentencing that has helped reduce crime by half over the last generation. 

It's depressing that we should even have to make an argument to safeguard a huge benefit all our citizens have enjoyed, particularly those most at-risk  --  and those who will disproportionately suffer if we lose focus and slide back to the failed, crime-ridden policies of the past.

But you do what you gotta do.  Here goes.
The Associated Press reports that Nebraska voters have given enough signatures to put the legislature's death penalty repeal bill on the ballot next year.  Indeed, the petition drive gathered tens of thousands more signatures than were necessary to prevent the bill from taking effect at all.

An organization campaigning to reinstate Nebraska's death penalty after lawmakers repealed it in May said Wednesday it has collected more than enough signatures to suspend the law before it goes into effect and place it before voters in 2016.

Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, which was heavily financed by Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts and his family, said it had gathered 166,692 signatures from all 93 of the state's counties. Nebraska's unicameral Legislature had voted to repeal capital punishment over the objection of Ricketts, becoming the first traditionally conservative state to do so in 42 years.

The pro-death penalty group needed roughly 57,000 valid signatures from registered voters to force a statewide referendum, and double that number to immediately halt the death penalty repeal going into effect. They appear to have exceeded the 10 percent of registered voters hurdle needed to block repeal pending a November 2016 ballot measure on the issue.

I contributed to the petition drive, and I look forward to contributing next year to defeat the high-handed legislators, of whichever party, who wanted to trade justice for puff pieces the newspaper.

Along with Ferguson, Mo., Baltimore, Md. has become an epicenter of the Black Lives Matter Movement.  It took root in Maryland in the Freddie Gray case, in which a black drug dealer died in police custody after having been transported  --  under still not clearly known but possibly negligent, or worse, conditions  --  in a police van.  Both black and white police officers have been charged in the death by States Attorney Marilyn Mosby. This was back in April.

Rioting immediately ensued.  The Mayor declared that there needed to be "space to destroy."  Baltimore's rate of violent crime took off.

Six days ago, in mid-August, the Baltimore Sun announced:  "Baltimore records 211th homicide, equalling total for 2014."

It's  not telling tales out of school to observe that the huge majority of Baltimore murder victims are black (it's possible that nearly all of them are, I don't know).  In the wake of the galvanizing of the BLM Movement, and the ensuing fusillade of criticism of the police, there are now dozens more black murder victims in that unhappy city than in decades. 

Is there a lesson here?

Wiping a Server

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Following up on Bill's post, it really is too bad that C&C doesn't have its own server, because I would very much like to use one of these.  We don't do ads on this blog, but I will tell you where to get this one.

The statute Bill referred to is the one involved in the Supreme Court's "fish overboard" case of last term, Yates v. United States.  See this post.

Yates limited the reach of the statute regarding "tangible objects" to those which "record or preserve information," not including fish, but that won't help Mrs. Clinton.  Emails and the servers that hold them are squarely within the statute as interpreted by Yates.

Playing dumb about what it means to wipe a server is about as convincing as the immigrant who speaks fluent English until the questioning gets tough and then suddenly can't understand a word.

Spoilation of Evidence and Secretary Clinton

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CJLF is not a partisan organization, although it's obvious it more frequently sides with Republicans than Democrats, particularly on matters of judicial selection.  I, as a guest contributor, have not been shy about strongly taking on such Republican stalwarts as Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and occasionally my brilliant friend from years ago  --  and a courageous man in my view  --  Sen. Ted Cruz. I have had very little to say about some prominent Democrats, in particular leading presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

This is, however, a criminal law blog, and one of the most important factors in preserving the legitimacy and public repute of criminal law is that it be applied as equitably as possible toward both the strong and the weak.  Thus, when powerful but corrupt Republicans like George Ryan, Duke Cunningham and Bernie Kerick got sentenced to prison, my reaction was:  Fine.  They want to behave that way, they can live with the consequences.  

Same deal with the Democrats.  Today, I could not help but take note of this story, "Clinton Lawyer Says Her Server Was Wiped Clean."  
I hope it has not become controversial that the law should punish intentional behavior that knowingly produces great harm simply for the quick profit of the miscreant.

It has been accepted for years that trafficking heroin, a deadly drug that will ruin your life before taking it, deserves severe punishment.  But that's now all up for grabs, as sentencing "reformers" plan  to dumb down sentencing for heroin (and everything else), and to do so in the midst of a heroin epidemic. It is for this reason that I have suggested that any "reform" legislation be voted on senator-by-senator and drug-by-drug.  Let our legislators say out loud that now is the time to let the sentencing system go easier on smack pushers  --  go easier just as overdose deaths are spiking across the country.

I haven't  heard a peep about attacking the heroin epidemic from such well-known "reformers" as Dick Durbin  (D-IL) or Mike Lee (R-UT).  I am happy to report, however, that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is planning action  --  and, to be fair, is planning it in coordination with Obama Drug Czar Michael Botticelli.

Thus, Politico reports:
Much has been made of the fact that blustering tycoon Donald Trump leads the field of Republican presidential candidates. There have been a number of reasons suggested for this.  Among them is that he (supposedly) says what a large number of Republicans, and I daresay many others, really think:  That Washington is just an insider's game, with a lot of backroom deals and mutual back-scratching among well-funded interest groups that care little or nothing for the public interest.

This got me to thinking about sentencing "reform," the euphemism pasted on proposed mass sentencing reduction.  Such "reform" is all the rage in the press, academia (when not faking "scholarly" papers), much of the legal profession, and Big Money folks from the Koch brothers to George Soros.

In other words, mass sentencing reduction is popular with the inside-the-Beltway interest group culture that Trump has had a field day torching .  The question is whether it is popular with ordinary citizens.

I have never seen evidence that it is.  For months, I have looked for a poll that would ask, "Which comes closer to your view of the problem with our criminal justice system  --  that we have too many people in prison for too long, or that we don't do enough to keep criminals off the street?"

With all the money behind sentencing "reform," that question could have been polled long ago.  Why hasn't it?

I  strongly suspect the "reform" groups don't poll it because they know what the answer is. As do we all.  Our citizens prefer to keep criminals off the street, a strategy that has helped produce huge public benefits for a generation.

Republicans who allow themselves to be bull-rushed into signing onto sentencing "reform" are being hoodwinked.  It's not just that it's a bad idea on the merits, although that should be enough.  It's that it has no political benefit.  It is, to the contrary, exactly the sort of cozy, flush, special-interest, wine-and-cheese  project that has a blowhard like Trump feeling his oats.

The Alternate Universe of Washington, DC

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In a couple of weeks or so, the Senate will return and unveil a bill for sentencing "reform," the liberal and libertarian code for "mass sentencing reduction."  As has recently become clear, "reformers" by no means intend to stop with their fabled "low-level, non-violent" offender, although he is their poster child.  As they have now made plain  --  taking a pre-victory victory lap  --  they seek the mass release of violent criminals.  As so often in Washington, DC, this flies in the face of the ugly, everyday reality "reformers" would see at their doorstep if they cared to look.

Thus today's Washington Post story, aptly if shockingly titled, "Straight up execution: Crime surges across the District."

This is the gist of it.  Violent crime, and violent criminals, are getting back in business in a way we have not seen in years.  This includes, but is scarcely limited to, murder.  At the moment this is happening, many of the people we send to Washington are proposing the first (and understandably half-concealed) step toward restoring leniency to these proven criminals. As we know from decades of statistics, not to mention more recent news, when released, they're going to take up where they left off.

Ordinary citizens often wonder what the heck is going on in Congress's thinking. They have good reason to wonder.

Does Congress want to start down the path to a renewal of the violent crime wave that killed and injured so many thousands of Americans in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties? One would hope not.  But if a sentencing reform bill advertised as principally helpful to "low-level, non-violent" drug offenders gets traction, that is exactly where we're headed. This conclusion is obvious, though (wisely) muffled, in a recent New York Times piece by Erik Eckholm.  Toward the end of the piece, Mr. Eckholm says:

But in many...states, including Michigan, New Jersey and New York, drug sentences are already reduced. There is no avoiding the politically poisonous question of releasing violent offenders or reducing their long sentences. "We need to start what's going to be a long and difficult conversation about violent crime," [Ryan] King [a sentencing reform expert] said.

I was startled by these calculations for New Jersey, for example: Cutting in half the number of people sent to prison for drug crimes would reduce the prison population at the end of 2021 by only 3 percent. By contrast, cutting the effective sentences, or time actually served, for violent offenders by just 15 percent would reduce the number of inmates in 2021 by 7 percent -- more than twice as much, but still hardly the revolution many reformers seek.

New Jersey could reduce its prison population by 25 percent by 2021. But to do it, it would have to take the politically fraught step of cutting in half the effective sentences for violent offenders.

In other words, the real debate over how to deal with criminals has hardly begun. And that debate will inevitably have to be argued state by state on terms that may well cause the bipartisan agreement on the need for change, focused on nonviolent offenders, to break down.

Actually, the real debate has begun, just in disguised terms.  Any bill introduced as designed for non-violent offenders will be subject to floor amendments to take changes in incarceration where the reformers actually want them to go:  To a return of violent crime.

This is what happens when we become obsessed with incarceration per se and oblivious to the reasons criminals get incarcerated to begin with.

During my time as a science officer in the Air Force, I regularly dealt with classified information.  I and everyone else who worked at my lab had drilled into us the great importance of taking great care to safeguard this information and the dire consequences -- both to us personally and to national security -- if we did not.  We had a system of inspections and cross-checks to insure this was done.

In the years since leaving the Air Force, I have been appalled and horrified at the casual attitude of many high government officials in their handling of classified information, and also at the lack of serious consequences for major breaches of security.

A Debate Disappointment

This blog is about crime and not politics, but the next presidential election will have a huge effect on the direction of the Supreme Court and therefore on criminal law, so we have to pay attention to it.
In my most recent entry, I noted that last week's Salon piece accused opponents of mass sentencing reduction of enlisting emotion to trump research and reason (which, so the piece quite directly implied, were the sole province of sentencing "reformers"). Thus, it opined:

Ultimately, the reform movement will have to touch on people's emotions, too. But instead of Otis's reliance on fear, disgust and anger, reformers will need to inspire feelings of empathy, forgiveness, and understanding. They'll need to create a culture where a person like Otis would never speak of a "thug" menacing your "daughter," because he knows that such demagoguery will earn him more opponents than friends.

The proposition that proponents of the present, successful sentencing system  --  the one that has contributed to historic crime reduction  --  rely on emotion is one I see all over the place.

It's false.  In fact, we rely on facts, most of them undisputed or barely disputed:  That crime has fallen dramatically, to the great benefit of our citizens; that increased incarceration has contributed to this achievement; that sky-high recidivism rates all but insure that, if we go down the path of mass sentencing reduction, we'll get more crime; and that the crime increase will disproportionately harm minorities, as ever.

But that's not the end of the story.
Miguel Bustillo reports for the WSJ that Texas AG Ken Paxton has been indicted by a county grand jury.  However, the fact that this case was instigated by the same group that brought the preposterous charge that former Governor Rick Perry committed a crime by vetoing a bill makes the whole matter suspect.  See prior post on that case.

The allegation is violation of disclosure and registration requirements for people selling securities, prior to Mr. Paxton becoming Attorney General.

The group calls itself Texans for Public Justice.  First the case went to District Attorney of Travis County, who said she had no jurisdiction and referred the case to Collin County.  The DA there, a friend of Mr. Paxton's, recused himself.  Two defense lawyers were appointed as special prosecutors.

The Texas Legislature may want to look at the state's special prosecutor system.  People who have not been elected and who are not responsible to any elected executive officer should not be exercising the executive authority of the state.  There needs to be a better way to deal with recusals.

Salon Follows Up on Slate, Blows It

Kent noted that Slate author Mark Obbie published a piece profiling me and my efforts to oppose the plans for mass sentencing reduction, said plans going under the euphemistic label "sentencing reform."  While I do not agree with the bulk of Mr. Obbie's views of the subject, I was impressed that he took considerable time to talk with me and, as his article makes clear, to read a great deal of what I have written.  I appreciate his diligence, an increasingly scarce commodity in journalism.

On Thursday, Salon followed up on the Slate piece with an article by Elias Isquith.  I have not met or spoken with Mr. Isquith, and to my knowledge he made no effort to contact me.

The gist of his article, which I urge readers to judge for themselves, is that my efforts have traded on emotion rather than facts or reason, and that my opponents' failure to understand and counteract my tactics underlies their difficulties in passing sentencing "reform."  I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that the Salon article assumes that any fair-minded person, not sidetracked by emotion, would sign onto "reform" and reject my trailer park blandishments.

I respectfully dissent.

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