Bush Discovers That Drug Sentences Can Be Too Long

In a column about last week's developments in federal sentencing, New York Times legal writer Adam Liptak notes that even President Bush has come out in favor of shorter sentences for drug offenders. Well, for one drug offender. And not much shorter:

Last week's most curious sentencing decision came from Mr. Bush, who commuted the sentence of Michael D. Short a few hours after the Supreme Court ruled. It was only the fifth commutation of his presidency, and the first involving crack cocaine.

Mr. Short had served 15 years for aiding a crack cocaine ring. Mr. Bush, without explanation, ordered him released in February, a little more than a year before he was to get out anyway.

Margaret Colgate Love, the pardon lawyer at the Justice Department for most of the 1990s, seemed eager to read a lot into the decision.

"The president's personal intervention to cut short Short's prison term sends a clear signal that he, too, is concerned about the excessive length of crack sentences," Ms. Love said. The decision, she said, "puts him on the side of the courts and the angels, and in opposition to Congress and his own Justice Department."

On the other hand, she conceded, maybe it was just a random act of kindness.

I wrote about crack sentences last spring and about Bush's meager clemency record last summer.

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  • Guy Montag||

    See? You guys pick on the prez too much.

  • ||

    Mmmm, compassionate conservatism at its best.
    I think he should follow up with a candygram for all those serving mandatory minimums for pot.

  • murky lurker||

    So the angels are on the side of the courts?

    What about unborn angel? I think she was on the side of the Justice Department.

  • Episiarch||

    Where's the angle here? What, did this guy secretly kill people for Bush or something?

    I didn't RTFA.

  • TLB||

    In other Bush news, there are two people he decided to let rot in jail. That's despite the government - two years later - deciding to arrest the person who testified against them for what he'd done before. If he had been arrested before their trial, it almost certainly would have changed the outcome.

    Of course, don't expect Reason to speak out against this; see this from Reason's own cherished Dave Weigel, in which he took the governments' sides (U.S. and Mexico).

  • VM||

    Dave Weigel ROCKS!!!!

  • Guy Montag||

    TLB,

    I was just thinking about that one and did not even have to click through to know who you were talking about.

  • ||

    Wacko,
    Per your link:
    "This case was not only overzealously prosecuted by the government, [but] it sends a message to every law-enforcement agent that if you shoot in the line of duty and cannot prove you were justified in using deadly force [something that can be very difficult to do when dealing with split-second, life-or-death decisions, to which their are no witnesses other than the parties themselves] you will be prosecuted and receive about 10 years incarceration," argued attorney David Botsford, who represents Ramos. [emphasis mine]

    Sounds about right to me.

  • ||

    Note that anyone who brings up the Ramos & Compean case doesn't go into the details that they tried to kill the guy and tried to cover it up by hiding evidence and lying. The reason that you won't hear "Reason speak out against this" is because the government was (gasp!) correct.

  • ||

    did this guy secretly kill people for Bush or something?

    If he did, I'm pretty sure it won't be in the article.

  • ||

    "Where's the angle here? What, did this guy secretly kill people for Bush or something?

    I didn't RTFA."

    Bush killed Reason's puppy so everything he must do must be sinister. I frankly don't get the significance of this either. Is Bush a hard ass about drugs? Yes, but so was every other President going back to Nixon.

    But REason is incredibly short sighted on this issue. They ought to be praising Bush for granting any sort of commutation on crack sentences and encouraging him to do more. They also probably ought to lay off Huckabee for his pardoning woes. Now, I hate Huckabee as much as the next guy. I think he is a dumb hillbilly who bought into the "Jesus (and 10K to the Arkansas Republican Party) has saved this man and he should go free" theory of clemency. But that said, the piling on the dumb bastard over this is sending a message to every governor in the country "if you ever want to run for another office, you better never grant clemency to anyone because if some dirtbag gets clemency and does something, it will be your ass". That is a terrible message to send. If you want governors to grant clemency, you have to give them a break when the guys they let out occasionally turn out to be dirtbags.

  • thoreau||

    Since this is Bush we're talking about, I have to assume that there's a dark side to this. He wouldn't be trying to set a precedent for lenient drug sentences unless he was expecting some revelations to break in the near future....

  • thoreau||

    First, my previous comment was mostly a joke. I think. Or at least I hope. Some jokes turn out to be true.

    Second:
    Bush killed Reason's puppy so everything he must do must be sinister.

    No, he killed their baby ferret. It was a cute little thing, and now it's dead.

    Third, this post is also a joke.

  • ||

    "No, he killed their baby ferret. It was a cute little thing, and now it's dead."


    I am sure they were keeping the rodent in violation of any number of city ordinences.

  • thoreau||

    I am sure they were keeping the rodent in violation of any number of city ordinences.

    That's no excuse for doing a no-knock raid. The raid was based on false information obtained from a water-boarded suspect.

  • ||

    "On the other hand, she conceded, maybe it was just a random act of kindness."

    Or maybe, just maybe, our President was ON DRUGS!

  • ||

    "That's no excuse for doing a no-knock raid. The raid was based on false information obtained from a water-boarded suspect."

    Whatever it takes to keep the country safe from ferret owners if fine with me.

  • ||

    The fact that Bush is doing it, is pretty strong evidence that it's being done for nefarious reasons. The February release date cinches it. Why such an odd time? Why this guy? and why Feb? If this this guy deserves to be pardoned, he should be set free tomorrow. Otherwise why not let him serve the last year? The "Bush is on the side of the angels" doesn't pass the vomit test.

    *breaks out mop and sponge. Fills bucket*

  • ||

    Whatever it takes to keep the country safe from ferret owners if fine with me.

    I'm with you on this John. Ferret owners (and even worse, ferret breeders) are a particularly dysfunctional group. And I'm speaking as a D&D playing Trekie.

  • ||

    Bush pardoned one person for an offense that shouldn't be criminalized at all. Even if the motivation is all wrong (which at this point we have no evidence at all of), baby steps should be cheered.

    If the story was about Bush refusing to pardon this same person, the same people hating on him here would be still be hating on him for DOING THE EXACT OPPOSITE ACTION.

    There's so much to revile about Bush, why pick on him when he seems to be doing the right thing for once?

  • ||

    I mean, fer chrissakes, maybe Bush pardoned the person because they became a born-again Christian, and he was touched by their personal story. If a few people on drug charges get released by Republican presidents only because they become born agains, and a few people get released by Democratic presidents only because they're gay black vegan environmentalists, it's still an improvement despite the wrong motivation. Better is better.

  • TLB||

    I'm certainly not an expert on the case I mentioned above, but it's my understanding that a) they weren't allowed to file written reports, and b) there were supervisors on the scene who knew about the incident. Oddly, the gov didn't go after them.

  • ||

    "No, he killed their baby ferret. It was a cute little thing, and now it's dead."

    I am sure they were keeping the rodent in violation of any number of city ordinences.


    Ferrets ain't rodents. They are carnivorous polecats. They eat rodents... and probably city ordinances for snacks!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferret

  • <i><b>REASON</b></i>||

    If those border patrol guys weren't in jail
    Balko would be agitatin' to send 'em there for shooting the mexican dope mule

  • ||

    I am sure they were keeping the rodent in violation of any number of city ordinences.

    BZZZZZ!
    Go back three spaces. Ferrets* are NOT rodents. You will note that they are in the order Carnivora. You should apologize to this guy profusely for your slander.

    *I like this website. Lotsa neato stuff therein.

  • ||

    Third, this post is also a joke.

    thoreau,

    While not very practically significant, wouldn't you say this post is somewhat representative of how pathetic Bush's attempts at claiming a legacy really are?

    Obviously, Bush didn't do this out of any moral standing or logic, but simply out of some vague attempt to seem compromising. It's almost condescending when you look at it.

    He took the dinner plate from the anti-WOD folks, then threw them a few crumbs before calling for the valet.

    I, for one, find this wholly disheartening...

  • ||

    I am sure they were keeping the rodent in violation of any number of city ordinences.

    What are you, a fucking park ranger now?

  • ||

    Whatever it takes to keep the country safe from ferret owners if fine with me.

    I think I just spotted a Rudy voter.

    Back on topic, WTF? Is there some backstory that would explain why Bubya picked this case? Not that I'm not glad Mr. Short can have a shot at rebuilding his life; I just can't see why this got the Shrub's attention.

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