Your Guilty Plea or Your Life

How mandatory minimums punish drug defendants for exercising their right to a trial

Last year a New Yorker named Lulzim Kupa was indicted on federal cocaine distribution charges that carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years. He nevertheless declined to plead guilty, even when prosecutors offered to forgo the mandatory minimum and recommend a somewhat shorter sentence.

Kupa remained obstinate until a few weeks before his trial was scheduled to begin, when the prosecution officially notified the court of two prior marijuana convictions that would have raised his mandatory minimum sentence to life. Then he decided to plead guilty after all. The prosecution withdrew its notification, and Kupa received an 11-year sentence.

recent report from Human Rights Watch highlights the tremendous pressure to plead guilty that mandatory minimum sentencing laws put on defendants like Kupa. The pressure is so intense that only 3 percent of federal drug offenders exercise their Sixth Amendment right to a trial, down from about 15 percent before Congress began enacting mandatory minimums in the 1980s.

Prosecutors have long offered lenience in exchange for guilty pleas; that is what makes such arrangements possible. But the huge differences in punishment documented by Human Rights Watch make demanding a trial so risky that almost no one chooses that option.

The prosecutorial power to multiply penalties at will magnifies the injustice that results from rigid sentencing rules tied to drug weight. Even if a 10-year sentence were an appropriate penalty for a cocaine dealer, a life sentence plainly would not be appropriate for the same defendant.

Maneuvers like the one that trapped Kupa reek of arbitrariness. “Just like that,” observed the judge who sentenced Kupa, “a defendant for whom the government, only ten days earlier, was willing to recommend an effective sentence of less than eight years was looking at life in prison without the possibility of parole.”

And Kupa, believe it or not, was lucky. Sandra Avery, a Floridian who in 2005 was arrested for possessing 50 grams of crack cocaine (less than two ounces) with intent to deliver, initially faced the same 10-year mandatory minimum as Kupa. But prosecutors did not offer to shave any time off that sentence, so she refused to plead guilty.

After Avery was convicted (which is what happens to 90 percent of federal drug offenders who go to trial), she received a life sentence under the same prior-felony provision the government had used to beat Kupa into submission. Avery had three prior convictions for possessing small amounts of crack, worth a total of less than $100.

Another powerful source of prosecutorial leverage is a law that prescribes mandatory minimums for possessing a gun in connection with a drug offense. The first such offense triggers a five-year sentence, each additional instance triggers a 25-year sentence, and the sentences must be served consecutively.

That is how Weldon Angelos ended up with a 55-year mandatory minimum sentence for three small-time marijuana sales during which he possessed a gun, even though he never hurt or threatened anyone. Before Angelos was convicted and received what may well amount to a life sentence, prosecutors offered him a plea deal that would have resulted in 40 fewer years behind bars.

Prosecutors used the same firearm provision to punish Chris Williams, a Montana medical marijuana grower, for refusing to plead guilty. Williams, who was offered a five-year prison term under a proposed plea deal, received the equivalent of a life sentence after he was convicted. That outcome was so blatantly unjust that prosecutors essentially renewed their plea deal in exchange for Williams’ promise not to appeal.

Looking at drug offenders sentenced in 2012, Human Right Watch found that, among defendants whose offenses involved guns, those who went to trial were two and a half times as likely as those who pleaded guilty to receive longer sentences under the firearm provision. Among defendants who were eligible for longer sentences based on prior felonies, those who went to trial were eight times as likely to receive such an enhancement.

The overall impact of such prosecutorial discretion is dramatic. Human Rights Watch found that in 2012 the average sentence for federal drug offenders convicted after trials was 16 years, more than three times as long as the average sentence for federal drug offenders who pleaded guilty.

This week the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider bills that would expand the ability of federal judges to bypass mandatory minimums in the interest of justice. The latest Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey finds that 71 percent of Americans support eliminating mandatory minimums for nonviolent offenders. If the fact that people receive absurdly long prison sentences for engaging in peaceful transactions were not enough reason to support reform, the fact that people can be punished even more severely for exercising their right to a trial would clinch the case.

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  • Juice||

    I'd like a constitutional amendment that forbid plea bargaining altogether. Something that simply said that the sentence can't be different depending on the plea.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Do you want to bring the criminal justice system to its knees???

  • Juice||

    Then put a leash on it, a ball gag, maybe a gimp mask.

  • Cloudbuster||

    Considering the current state of our injustice system, that would be "yes."

  • amagi1776||

    Yes.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I honestly think that would harm more defendants than it would help. I think the right to jury is a great one, and I hate to see people pressured into pleas, but most people who take pleas do so because they are convinced the prosecution could prove more against them than they plea to.

    The problems strikes me more in 1. prosecutors 'stacking' charges (which is a symptom of there being so many laws in the first place) 2. bail requirements being too high and 3. gross under-resourcing of defense counsel.

  • John||

    but most people who take pleas do so because they are convinced the prosecution could prove more against them than they plea to.

    That is actually not true. The calculation a defendant makes is not just whether the government can prove the case but also the resulting sentence if they do. For example, you may think there is say a two in ten chance that a jury will believe the government's scumbag witness. But if them doing so will result in a 20 year sentence, pleading in exchange for a year sentence or home confinement would be the smart move.

    It is not just the plea bargains. It is the plea bargains in combination with the insane mandatory sentences. Put the two together and you end up with a lot of innocent or at least likely legally innocent (meaning the government probably can't prove the case) people pleading guilty.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I think in more cases than not (in our current lopsided justice system and average juror attitudes) where a plea bargain is offered the prosecutor, if they go to trial, would be able to get convictions on more counts, more serious charges, and/or for a higher sentence than the plea offered. Prosecutors have tremendous advantages currently, they are going to win more often than not. They offer pleas for the sake of convenience and in order to keep working relationships with defense attorneys they regularly work with. Abolishing plea bargaining by itself would not help defendants overall.

  • John||

    Yes it would. It would help defendants because it would make convicting someone so difficult prosecutors would only bring cases against worthy defendants.

    And DAs give plea bargains to lesser charges because there is some doubt about proving the more serious charges. If you never give away a charge you know you can prove. You bargain away charges you are not sure about. If you can prove the charge, you bargain for sentence relief not for lessor offenses. Even in the minimum mandatory world, a USA can give sentencing relief by agreeing not to introduce evidence that would serve as a sentence enhancer.

    The bottom line is that if the government is confident it can prove a charge, they are not going to let you plead guilty to something else.

  • Zeb||

    The problem with things like this is that lots of things are crimes that should not be. I want drug offenders to be punished as little as possible because they should not be punished at all. If only things that should be crimes were criminalized, I'd be a lot less concerned about the length of sentences people get for crimes that actually hurt other people.

    In a more perfect world, we would get rid of victimless crimes and mandatory minimums and implement John's proposed ban on plea bargains and I think that would be a good thing.

  • Free Society||

    Abandon plea bargains altogether doesn't help defendants. Tightly restricting prosecutorial discretion in criminal law and shifting the burden of proof to governments to force them to prove the legality of their's laws rather than individuals having to prove their illegality.

    Basically, statutory law is garbage. Tying issues of justice to arbitrary political institutions is absurd if justice is the goal.

    All of the best features of our justice system have a Common Law origin. All of the worst have a statutory one.

  • John||

    Exactly. The common law is the greatest example of collective wisdom in human history. The further you get away from it, the worse things get.

    The problem is not statutory law per say. There have always been criminal statutes. The problem is that our statutory law has often abandoned common law principles like mens rea. There are so many strict liability crimes that anyone can be convicted of something.

  • Free Society||

    There hasn't always been criminal statutes as we know them. The politically created laws that did exist, they remained subordinate to the Common Law. But now thanks to the positive image of 'democracy', we have developed a justice system where Common Law is subordinate to political institutions instead of the other way around.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I respect the Common Law, but its origins are firmly in the worst kind of despotism (jurists chosen to 'keeping the King's Peace' at whim). Being able to decide our own laws rather than have a monarch's toadie do it for us was why we fought the Revolution, and I for one stand by it.

  • John||

    but its origins are firmly in the worst kind of despotism (jurists chosen to 'keeping the King's Peace' at whim).

    That is completely untrue. Its origins are just the opposite. The common law began when Henry II enforced a uniform rule of law via circuit riders. The common law was the King preventing his lords from despotic rule over their lands. The common law was originally and has always been a tool against despotism.

  • Free Society||

    No. Common Law developed and existed separate from political institutions. Whether or not there was a king or a duke nearby had no baring on the existence of laws and an individual right to a trial by jury of peers.

    You're citing a late stage anecdotal development of statutory/political law and acting like it's an inherent feature of Common Law. It's not.

  • John||

    Not true.

    http://www.fordham.edu/halsall.....erfine.asp

    English law has always been a mix of code and common law.

  • Free Society||

    The common law began when Henry II enforced a uniform rule of law via circuit riders.

    Common law began long before that as a feature of almost any society descendant of Germanic tribes. Common(Germanic) law long predated Henry II.

    English law has always been a mix of code and common law.

    Maybe English law, since no "English" laws existed until the unification of kingdom to be known as England. But Common Law predates England. To a time when Germanic tribes had leaders but no true king to make decrees or codes. Crimes were determined to have taken places (or exist at all) by juries of social peers.

    Moreover, there exists examples like the Commonwealth of Iceland, which lacked politically created written criminal codes and enjoyed only a form of Common law for nearly 400 years. Turns out you don't need a government monopoly of the judiciary to have justice.

  • John||

    Common law began long before that as a feature of almost any society descendant of Germanic tribes

    That common law is not the common law that served as the basis of the common law we know. No one sites medieval Germanic tribe cases but they do still read medieval English cases in law school today. Henry II is considered the father of the common law. Your view is revisionist to say the least. Those tribes may have had a common law system by some lose definition. But whatever they had or did, it did not evolve to form what we know as the "common law". That came from Henry II and his successors.

    Maybe English law, since no "English" laws existed until the unification of kingdom to be known as England.

    So what? The laws I am talking about and indeed the origin of the "common law" as we know it and rely upon in our judicial system came after the Conquest.

  • Overtaxed||

    The simple rule here, if there's no victim, there's no crime. And the victim cannot be the state, somebody actually needs to be injured (or fear such) for there to be a crime. Start with that basis and you'll find that the laws suddenly start to make more sense. Cops pulling you over for seat belt offenses, and kicking your door in for smoking some pot in the kitchen, not so much.

  • Rich||

    the sentence can't be different depending on the plea.

    How about: You plead guilty, you get the full sentence; you plead innocent and are found guilty, you get more than the full sentence.

  • Zeb||

    Isn't that how it is now? The problem is that you have the right to a jury trial and you should not be punished more because you assert that right. The justice system shouldn't be set up for the convenience of the courts and prosecutors.

  • mtrueman||

    "forbid plea bargaining"

    Bargaining is a little too generous a term. It seems more like 'plea coercion' and though, I'm not a legal expert by any stretch of the imagination, I believe judges have the ability to reject pleas that they have reason to think have been obtained through coercion by the crown.

    Judges taking a stand for what is right is all that is necessary. No need to go through the bother of amending the constitution.

  • Barry Williams||

    What about amnesty for all of the thousands abused in the past? The drug war is a failure. Educate and treat would be at least as effective and likely cheaper considering the long-term damage needlessly done to countless lives.

    It is time this madness stops!

  • Hyperion||

    Well, just look at this guy. He's obviously not a real Murikan. He's some type of dirty brown furener, look at those beady eyes!

    He was obviously guilty by not being a real Murikan, before he even sold that dangerous, children killing, women oppressing, dope.

    Now if we can just get a few more million of those fureners here to incarcerate, where they belong, then we can start building some new prisons. JERBZ for real Murikans!

  • John C. Randolph||

    When the government offers a plea bargain, they're admitting that the penalty offered is an adequate punishment for whatever the defendant is accused of. If the defendant then decides to go to trial, that should be the entirety of the penalty he faces IF he is found guilty.

    -jcr

  • Overtaxed||

    John,

    Those 2 statements cannot be true at the same time. If the plea is adequate punishment than why should the defendant be punished more harshly for trying to defend himself?

    Make the punishment harsh enough and you'll get a lot of innocent people pleading to just about anything. If we beat that confession out, we call it coercion. If we just threaten to take someone and lock them in a box for the rest of their natural lives we call that "justice" or "Monday at the DAs office".

  • The Late P Brooks||

    You have to grind a few peasants under your heel on the way to higher office.

  • DenverJay||

    And THAT is the true way to view prosecutors. I have had a few interactions with these "people", most deserved, but not all. And I have had a few frank discussions with some of them. They could care less about your innocence or guilt (with a few exceptions at the local level). For 90% of them, their job is not justice, it is prosecution. Their raises, promotions, and possible future political goals all depend on the number of wins tht they get. The reason they offer deals is because it is a guaranteed win if the defendant pleads guilty. If you have the nerve to force them to prove your guilt, then that means more time and resources used versus easy wins racked up, so they will punish you, and try to maintain their conviction rate, by adding as much crap as they can. I have also testified before a grand jury, and Hizzonor Saul Wachler's famous saying that a prosecutor can get a grand jury to 'indict a ham sandwich.' is the gospel truth.
    Further, prosecutors suffer from the same bias as juries, i.e., that if the police charged you with a crime, then you must be guilty. Add to this the industries connected with the criminal "justice" system, such as anger management, DUI deprogramming, ankle bracelet monitoring agencies, prison guard unions, etc. ad nauseum, and what this country has is NOT a "justice" system by any definition.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    The pressure is so intense that only 3 percent of federal drug offenders exercise their Sixth Amendment right to a trial, down from about 15 percent before Congress began enacting mandatory minimums in the 1980s.

    They've merely streamlined the system, and made it more efficient.

  • ||

    Um, is there any doubt that he actually did it, given his history? I get that it shouldn't be illegal at all, and that in some cases someone might plead guilty to something he didn't do, but this probably isn't that case.

  • Andrew S.||

    Didn't know that we judged people guilty of current actions due to their past actions. Today I learned...

  • Acosmist||

    How do you judge things when you have imperfect information, Plato? And can you descend from heaven to deal with us peons who aren't omniscient?

  • Zeb||

    What? All he is saying (I think) is that the fact that he has sold drugs in the past is not evidence that he did so in the instances in question that he is charged with.

  • Andrew S.||

    That's exactly what I was saying. Not sure I understand the response.

  • DenverJay||

    He did it for the "Lulz(im)"

  • JohnTheRevelator||

    Threatening multiple charges that add up to galactic prison terms is the symptom. The underlying problem (as it is for a lot of things in society) is the insistance on judging outcomes by metrics. In this case, conviction rate. Of course you will have a higher conviction rate if you scare almost all defendants into a plea bargain. That's also why there are no serious resources in public defenders, and why you have e.g. the 'affluenza defense' for people who can afford a good lawyer, while you have near-automatic convictions for those who can't.

    And note I'm not arguing against the whole notion of measuring outcomes, just that the metrics need to give a wholistic evaluation. Conviction rates alone don't do that, to put it mildly.

  • John||

    All very true. And mandatory minimums are nothing but judging cases on metrics. I think they are unconstitutional. A right to a jury trial I think necessarily implies the right to both a verdict and a sentence determined by your peers. The legislature has no right to take that away and mandate sentencing to judges and jury.

  • JohnTheRevelator||

    Actually, mandatory sentences were originally a reaction to judges handing out different sentences for the same crimes, or more specifically the perception that some judges were handing out light sentences to hardcore criminals either because of jail overcrowding or because they were "bleeding heart liberals". confirmation hearings.

    I was old enough to watch the news when that was a thing, and it was as ridiculous a strawman cage match as there ever has been. Still, at some level someone recognized the problem, because they made it a mandatory minimum, not a mandatory no-more-no-less.

  • John||

    I am old enough to remember that. And like most things there was some truth to the issues that lead to the reaction. Some judges were letting really dangerous people off lightly. The answer to that should have been to impeach the judges, not destroy the criminal justice system. But in the post civil rights era judges are considered to be robed Gods above any sort of accountability. So instead of doing the right thing and impeaching the judges who shirked their responsibility to protect the public, they created a horrible unjust system instead.

  • OneOut||

    You are innocent until proven broke.

  • np||

    Kupa remained obstinate until a few weeks before his trial was scheduled to begin, when the prosecution officially notified the court of two prior marijuana convictions that would have raised his mandatory minimum sentence to life. Then he decided to plead guilty after all. The prosecution withdrew its notification, and Kupa received an 11-year sentence.

    Lovely extortion racket.

    It has been brought up before, just as how war criminals are still prosecuted for perpetrating legal positive acts or pursuing criminal charges according to the law of their regime or the law of the land during their rule, would the same not apply here? Would some karmic justice not be justified?

    War criminals are not excused for "doing their job", so why should prosecutors and law enforcement be? Of course at the top of the list would be legislators.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I get that it shouldn't be illegal at all, and that in some cases someone might plead guilty to something he didn't do, but this probably isn't that case.

    That slut was begging for it.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    most people who take pleas do so because they are convinced the prosecution could prove more against them than they plea to.

    Of course they do.

  • np||

    That, and as John pointed out above, even if they have a chance of winning, they also must weight the penalties of losing. And the penalties if convicted by a jury are extremely severe.

    But prosecutors did not offer to shave any time off that sentence, so she refused to plead guilty.

    After Avery was convicted (which is what happens to 90 percent of federal drug offenders who go to trial), she received a life sentence under the same prior-felony provision the government had used to beat Kupa into submission.

    Also, the 97% plea bargaining rate is not just for drug charges, but for all cases:
    http://prison-justice.org/rese.....ump-trials

  • Free Society||

    But it's not the concept of a jury trial loss that's the problem. It's statutory law that pervades the justice system. Statutes declaring that juries can't nullify crap laws is a problem.

    Statutes that give prosecutors such vast discretion that they can threaten jurors for attempting to nullify a law, or even charge defendants with jury tampering if they ask a jury to nullify.

  • John||

    The problem is not statute. The problem is the minimum mandatory sentence. If I am a sympathetic defendant who has a lot of mitigation evidence, I might be willing to take a chance and make the government prove its case. But thanks to minimum mandatory sentencing, I will get the same huge sentence no matter what. Minimum mandatory sentences allow the government to extort people into giving up their right to a trial.

  • Free Society||

    The problem is not statute. The problem is the minimum mandatory sentence.

    Mandatory minimum sentencing exists only by statute...

    And no juror has ever been convicted of jury nullification. There is no such crime.

    I never said that there is a crime called "nullification". But What I actually am saying, is that there is this crime called "jury tampering" which is inappropriately applied to jurors by threat quite often and with actual convictions from time to time.

    What is happening there is prosecutors are lying and bullying the jury. That is a problem with the judge and the prosecutor not the law.

    Their threats and falsehoods are perfectly legal. That is a problem with the law and that problem is a direct result of statutes designed to give prosecutors this kind of discretion. Statutory law is arbitrary justice because it's created by political decree instead of public demand.

  • John||

    Mandatory minimum sentencing exists only by statute...

    So? They could exist by common law rule too. The problem is the rule not the method by which it is made.

    Their threats and falsehoods are perfectly legal.

    No they are not. They only occur because the judge allows it to happen in his court.

  • John||

    And no juror has ever been convicted of jury nullification. There is no such crime. What is happening there is prosecutors are lying and bullying the jury. That is a problem with the judge and the prosecutor not the law.

  • Mr. Weebles||

    Here's a simple answer: If a plea deal is offered, it stays on the books regardless if the defendant wants a jury trial or not.

    Or even better, let's stop locking people up for drugs.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I wonder if some tiny fear of nullification enters into this. Despite their overwhelming home court advantage and nearly infinite resources, I'm sure prosecutors also are keenly aware of the uncertainty involved when they put the case in a jury's hands.

    The federal prosecutors who went after medical marijuana providers here made a huge deal over disallowing any mention of state laws in the cases where they had to go to trial, instead of getting a plea. And the sentences for those convicted in court were unquestionably vengeful retaliation for those having the audacity to not confess their sins and embrace the Loving Church.

  • John||

    There is absolutely some fear of that. Many of these crimes are insanely minor. Often the government is going after the person from "lying to investigators" or some other minor administrative crime because they cannot prove the underlying crime they originally set out to prove. I have no doubt that at least some juries would refuse to convict in these cases.

    Moreover, doing a jury trial is really hard work and very difficult and easy to fuck up. Your typical US Attorney has neither the fortitude nor the balls to really make his living trying cases before a jury. Much easier to just plead them all out in an afternoon.

  • Almanian!||

    I gave up on Sons of Anarchy last season, but my wife and son are still into it. So he's home from college, so I watched some episodes with him.

    The shitty plea bargaining and constantly-changing positions of the prosecutors turned into an Object Lesson in Reality. "God, that is SO shitty! She sucks!" "Actual prosecutors do this -and worse." "REALLY?" "Really...."

    On the one hand, I'm ashamed I hadn't instilled this into him BEFORE. OTOH - I'm glad he still listens and learns not to trust authoritah!

  • Luddite||

    Kupa remained obstinate until a few weeks before his trial was scheduled to begin, when the prosecution officially notified the court of two prior marijuana convictions that would have raised his mandatory minimum sentence to life. Then he decided to plead guilty after all. The prosecution withdrew its notification, and Kupa received an 11-year sentence.

    The prosecution did it for the "Lulz".

  • The Late P Brooks||

    The shitty plea bargaining and constantly-changing positions of the prosecutors turned into an Object Lesson in Reality.

    I'd rather be in hock up to my ears to some shyster than be in jail.
    NEVER SPEAK WITHOUT ONE is probably the best advice given by anyone, anywhere.

  • Ross Adams||

    Fat pigs on pedestals, what's new? Does anyone really pull back as far as you can and really see the justice system for what it is? There's men in robes banging gavels demanding order, being addressed as 'your honor' by defendants who, despite not hurting anyone, are expected to shut their fucking mouth and show respect unless they want another few DECADES thrown on to an already repugnant sentence.

    What the fuck is that? That's medieval savagery sugar-coated with expensive suits.

  • John||

    It is worse than medieval savagery. In medieval times most of the crimes were actually real. Sure, they had a few bogus crimes like witchcraft but most of the time the crimes were real ones like theft and murder. Our system in contrast, is more often than not prosecuting crimes every bit as bogus as witchcraft and sending people to hellish prisons for decades as a result.

  • Ross Adams||

    Incredible. Sooo, let's go with Neanderthalian savagery then? :)

  • Free Society||

    People can say what they will of a Middle Ages, but it was a time when rule of law was dominant. The greatest injustices of the Middle Age justice system were almost entirely based on religious superstitions and political monopolies on the dispensation of justice.

  • Joe C !!!||

    I know the libertarians are against the drug war, and against minimum sentencing. And the mandatory minimum debate comes up more around drug charges than violent crimes, but...
    This guy isn't a patriot breaking an unjust law because he is trying to make a stand or something. He's not Tony Montana, either. He's a criminal who is taking advantage of the criminalization of a substance, and providing it to people for a price inflated to cover the risks he takes because it is illegal. If drugs were legal, this idiot would be out of a job - which is as good a reason as I need to decriminalize them.
    But you say that he's pushed into a corner because he can take the plea deal and go to jail for some number of years, or go to trial and get life. IF he's guilty! If he's innocent, he doesn't need to take the plea deal because when it goes to trial, he will be exonerated. If he IS guilty, he SHOULD plead guilty. He still has the constitutionally protected right to a trial. And if he is guilty of the crime he's charged with, he can take that enormous gamble of being found guilty and getting life, if he wants a shot at freedom (AKA getting away with it). Maybe he should have thought long and hard about that third strike before committing it. I think three strikes is fair. Come on, how many chances do any of us deserve?

  • John||

    It is not that simple. Just because you are innocent doesn't mean you can't be convicted. What is happening here is that people who are either innocent or legally innocent (meaning the government can't prove their guilt in court) are being forced to plead guilty because of the ridiculous of consequences of losing at trial. The government is using the threat of minimum mandatory sentences as a way to deprive people of their right to trial. And that is a very bad thing. Get rid of the minimum mandatory sentencing so people don't face such draconian and unjust consequences for the crime of making the government prove their case.

  • JohnTheRevelator||

    You're forgetting the very real effect of the huge differential between what the mayor's kids can afford for a lawyer, and what an ignorant ghetto kid scraping a few bucks working as a lookout can afford. Or even has any idea he needs.

    That's why charge-stacking is a problem. Someone who can afford a good lawyer might choose to call the government's bluff, if they're sure that's what it is. Someone with an alcoholic public defender who prepares for the case five minutes ahead of time would be crazy not to take the plea.

  • Free Society||

    Joe C !!!

    Virtually every sentence you wrote contains a logical fallacy. Where does one even begin with you...

  • Zeb||

    I don't care why someone breaks an unjust law. Your personal views about the defendant and his motivations are irrelevant. He sold a product to willing customers at a price they all agreed on. The law is wrong, period. Locking anyone up for producing, selling or possessing drugs is just as just as if I snatched you up off the street and locked you up in my basement for no reason at all.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    If he's innocent, he doesn't need to take the plea deal because when it goes to trial, he will be exonerated.

    You're not from around here, are you?

  • ||

    From:
    Figure7: Average Sentence for Federal Drug Defendants by Drug Type and Plea/Trial (FY 2012)
    An Offer You Can't Refuse: How US Federal Prosecutors Force Drug Defendants to Plead Guilty (.pdf, page 103 (108))

    Lease-squares regression:

    Base Sentence: 226.0 months (Crack & Meth with Trial)
    Cocaine: -12.8 months
    Heroin: -13.0 months
    Heroin & Plea: -8.0 months
    Marijuana: -133.0 months
    Marijuana & Plea: +78.0 months
    Plea: -139.0 months

    Maximum Error:

  • ||

    Maximum Error: less than 2 months.

  • ||

    Link correction:
    An Offer You Can't Refuse

  • Firstname||

    The other issue unmentioned here is that under unfair forfeiture laws they can seize all assets including bank accounts without proving any guilt. This effectively keeps defendants from hiring competent attorneys and railroads everyone into the "public defender plea bargain circus".

  • Ross Adams||

    That's the goal of the whole system though right? Keeping us caught up in the circus? Emotionally strained by the courts to the breaking point, during which time the likelihood of committing further offenses (drug-related) increases exponentially, effectively paralyzing us and making our collective psyche easier to manipulate. I fail to see the issue here.

    Ohhhh, for the CITIZENS you mean!

  • The Unknown Pundit||

    Ike warned us about the military-industrial complex. It seems no one of note warned us about the prosecutor-prison complex.

    With this so-called plea bargaining, the government is once again engaging in actions that if done by non-state actors would be deemed a crime. As others have already said, what is described in this H'n'R post is extortion, pure and simple.

  • Kuch||

    Am I supposed to feel bad about a career criminal?

  • Overtaxed||

    Yes, you are, when, at least as presented in this article, this guy's "career" involved smoking some pot and possibly selling some cocaine. Is he a great person? Probably not. Is he deserving of spending 1/6th of his life locked behind bars? You've got to be kidding me. Show me he forced someone to smoke pot or snort coke, I'll be right there with you putting him behind bars. But, much more likely, he was smoking pot willingly with his friends and selling coke to make ends meet. This is what we deem such a threat that the guy needs to spend a significant portion of his life in prison? If so, refer to my post below, we have become a nation of absolute savages.

  • Overtaxed||

    Reading this article just makes my jaw drop. We are a nation of SAVAGES, mostly at the hands of our insane hatred for some chemicals/plants. People are going to look at what we're doing today (and have done now for almost 100 years) the same way that we look at the Romans and their gladiators. 10 years, 30 years, LIFE in prison for a chemical?? And let's not gloss over what prison is; a life of fear, pain and in many cases, a fate worse than death.

    When are we going to wake up from this self inflicted nightmare?

  • SuperOBD SKP-100||

    Good post.

  • Barry Williams||

    What about amnesty for all of the thousands abused in the past? The drug war is a failure. Educate and treat would be at least as effective and likely cheaper considering the long-term damage needlessly done to countless lives.

    It is time this madness stops!

  • uhclem||

    The system is clearly broken. JD has a plan:
    http://thatswaytoomuch.info/JD.....rships.htm

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