Judge Who Imposed a 57-Year Mandatory Minimum Sentence Gets It Reduced to 20



Francois Holloway is less sympathetic than the prisoners typically featured in stories about the injustices wrought by mandatory minimum sentences. He is not a nonviolent drug offender; he is a convicted carjacker. Still, he has already served two decades for his crimes, and he probably would have died behind bars had it not been for the efforts of the federal judge who sentenced him.

Holloway, who was convicted in 1996, got 57 years, more than twice as long as the average sentence for murder that year in the district where he was tried. "Sentencing data suggest that Holloway would have fared much better if he had committed first degree murder instead of robbing three cars," observes U.S. District Judge John Gleeson, who presided over Holloway's trial at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn.

The sentence was dictated mainly by a federal law aimed at criminals who use guns—the same law that sent Weldon Angelos, a nonviolent pot dealer, to prison for 55 years and that would have sent Chris Williams, a Montana medical marijuana grower, to prison for 80 years if prosecutors had not relented after his trial. Holloway was not actually armed during the three carjackings in which he participated, but one of his accomplices was, and that was enough for sentencing purposes. He got five years for the first gun use and 20 years each for the two others, plus 12 for the three carjackings, all to be served consecutively. By contrast, the longest sentence received by his accomplices, all of whom pleaded guilty, was six years. Holloway himself was offered a plea deal that included a recommended sentence of about 11 years. In effect, he got an extra 46 years for exercising his constitutional right to a trial.

Holloway "filed one motion after another trying to get his sentence and his case re-evaluated," The New York Times reports, and last year Gleeson "began his own campaign on Mr. Holloway's behalf," citing "his clean disciplinary record and his participation in prison programs as evidence of his rehabilitation and his prospect of a normal post-prison life." In response to Gleeson's repeated recommendations, Loretta Lynch, the U.S. for the Eastern District of New York, recently agreed to vacate two of the gun charges against Holloway, clearing the way for him to be freed next year (after he serves some time in state prison for a drug offense). Otherwise his release date, allowing for "good time" credit, would have been 2045.

In a May 14 memorandum urging Lynch to reduce the number of gun charges against Holloway, Gleeson said the case illustrates "prosecutors' use of ultraharsh mandatory minimum provisions to annihilate a defendant who dares to go to trial." As I noted in a column last December, the power to invoke such provisions helps explain why 97 percent of federal defendants plead guilty

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  1. You know who else got out of prison early?

    1. This cop?

      …but then he got put back in jail

  2. In effect, he got an extra 46 years for exercising his constitutional right to a trial.

    Maybe the most disgusting reality of the American justice system.

  3. So it’s a libertarian position to want guys who commit three armed robberies/car jackings to not serve hard time forever? Who’d have thunk it?

    I read one news story that blamed the sentencing on the perp’s race…sooooo, it’s okay for minorities to commit armed robbery and car jacking?

    Cloud cuckoo land.

    1. Serving less than the rest of one’s life is exactly the same as serving no time at all.

      1. No, no, you don’t get his point. Lawbreakers of any kind should be put in jail for life. Until he accidentally breaks the law, and then it’ll be too harsh. See? Bloodthirstiness is fun!

        1. It strikes at the issue of just what the purpose of prison should be.

          Is it punitive incarceration that removes undesirables from society for mutual protection or rehabilitative therapy that’s supposed to reform criminals?

          1. Either way, it’s not some trivial thing to put a person behind bars for a very long time. Especially based on the type of offence.

          2. IIRC, criminal justice has multiple purposes: deterrence, punishment, and rehabilitation. I think protecting society by removing criminals is a subset of deterrence.

            This guy, sheesh, the sentence was harsh, but three violent felonies can (and maybe should) put you away for life as a career criminal.

            1. I would like to read more at the “reports” hyperlink that one would think takes you to the NYT article referenced but that link takes me to the Reason admin login screen. I think only the squirrels are supposed to see that.

              From the fact that the guy was sentenced for three carjackings at one whack, I’m assuming he was only caught once but I don’t know how far apart these three incidents were – was it just one single crime spree or did he and his buddies frequently go out carjacking? And he didn’t have a gun, his buddy did and his gun-toting buddy only got 6 years. Was his sentence too long or his buddy’s not long enough?

          3. Deterrence != retribution

            1. I know that. Retribution is under the “punishment” category.

    2. No, I think it more to do with consistency and rationality in sentencing. If putting away all violent criminals is the thing to do, fine, that’s a separate argument. But make that a consistent policy that applies to all who deserve it.

    3. Plus, he used a gun in the carjackings. If he used a knife, baseball bat, or a crossbow, he gets half the time. Because guns are evil magical totems that aggravate the seriousness of the crime.

  4. I never would’ve guessed that that guy was a convicted carjacker.

    1. That’s because he’s the judge.

      1. You know, for someone named “sarcasmic”….

        1. I thought the same thing until I saw the alt-text.

  5. I’m not a big fan of prison. All it really does is teach people how to adapt to living in a cage. I lean more towards pain and public humiliation. Of course in sarcotopia there would be no such thing as victimless crimes, allowing the courts to be quick and efficient. Give that car jacker ten lashes per car and see if he does it again. Save prison as a very last resort for people who have demonstrated that the stockade and the whipping post are not effective deterrents to committing crimes against others. That or hang them. Hanging is cheaper.

    1. Yes, I read Starship Troopers.

      1. Why would you read the novelization when you could just watch the movie again?

        1. Or one of the movie sequels!

          1. Part 3 was tolerable. Never saw 2 or 4.

    2. I’m not a big fan of giving governments the power to kill or to commit unprovoked violence, but that idea has some appeal to me because of just what you say about prison. Prisons are just too awful and often counterproductive. If only the things that should be crimes were considered crimes, I’d be tempted to support the sarcotopia policy.

      1. If you haven’t read Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, I highly recommend it. My favorite parts are Rico’s flashbacks to History and Moral Philosophy class at Officer Candidate School. Here is the money shot.

        A snippet, talking about juvenile crime:

        “Corporal punishment in schools was forbidden by law,” he had gone on. “Flogging was lawful as sentence of court only in one small province, Delaware, and there only for a few crimes and was rarely invoked; it was regarded as ‘cruel and unusual punishment.'” Dubois had mused aloud, “I do not understand objections to ‘cruel and unusual’ punishment. While a judge should be benevolent in purpose, his awards should cause the criminal to suffer, else there is no punishment — and pain is the basic mechanism built into us by millions of years of evolution which safeguards us by warning when something threatens our survival. Why should society refuse to use such a highly perfected survival mechanism? However, that period was loaded with pre-scientific pseudo-psychological nonsense.

        1. Never figured you to be a fanboy of those who promote “duty to nation” and other such gibberish.

          How enslaving, how limiting, how destructive of the human spirit.

          1. There were multiple themes. I never said I support them all.

            1. Okay, maybe I just jumped too quickly on some of those themes and felt the urge to blow off some steam.

          2. In effect, he got an extra 46 years for exercising his constitutional right to a trial.

            He was guilty. He was offered a plea deal of 11 years. He was probably told to take it because admitted, caught red-handed carjackers generally do not fare well in front of a jury.

            He declined.

            And a jury nailed him.

            He did not get 46 extra years for wanting a jury trial–he got 57 years because that’s what his crimes, and the law demanded.

            He could have had 11. And probably a lesser charge on his record. There was no chance he’d walk.

    3. If they ever build that wall on the border, they could take the black.

    4. Well I hope the car jacker is also forced to pay compensation to the victims.

  6. It is amazing the stupidity of people crying about him getting too hard a sentence. Any time you confront somebody up close and personal you don’t know what is going to happen and it could be deadly. There are plenty of stories about people not immediately giving up their stuff and getting killed for it.

    Yeah the 20 years is too hard for the gun change so I would have sentenced him to 15 years for each of the 3 counts of car-jacking and 5 each for each of the 3 gun use charges.

    1. …thus sentencing him to 60 years instead of 57?

  7. And the judge is MORE “sympathetic than… typically featured in stories about the injustices wrought by mandatory minimum sentences.”

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