Sentencing Reform

Chuck Grassley Says Sentencing Reforms Backed by Mike Lee and Ted Cruz Are 'Lenient' and 'Dangerous'

Opposition by the hard-line drug warrior counts as an endorsement.


Office of Mike Lee

Today Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) reintroduced the Smarter Sentencing Act, a major reform bill that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last year but never got a floor vote. This year's version of the bill, like last year's, would make the shorter crack sentences Congress approved in 2010 retroactive, cut mandatory minimums for various drug offenses in half, and expand the "safety valve" for low-level, nonviolent offenders. A newly added provision would eliminate the mandatory life sentence for a third drug offense, replacing it with a 25-year term.

"Reintroduction of the Smarter Sentencing Act confirms that Congress is more committed than ever to reforming our federal sentencing laws and addressing the crisis in the Bureau of Prisons," says Julie Stewart, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. "While we expected this bill to be reintroduced, we are thrilled to see it has even more co-sponsors and that it addresses the appalling life-without-parole statute for drug offenses."

The bill's co-sponsors include Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Reps. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.) are sponsoring the House version.

Although the Smarter Sentencing Act would mean less time behind bars for thousands of drug offenders, it is not as ambitious as the Justice Safety Valve Act, which Paul and Leahy reintroduced last week. That bill would effectively make mandatory minimums optional by allowing judges to depart from them in the interest of justice.

Senate Judiciary Committee

Despite bipartisan backing for both bills, the prospects for serious sentencing reform are decidedly darker now that Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), a hard-line drug warrior, has replaced Leahy as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In a floor speech today, Grassley called the Smarter Sentencing Act—which among other things would reduce the 20-year, 10-year, and five-year mandatory minimums for drug offenses to 10 years, five years, and two years, respectively—"lenient" and "dangerous." How so? Grassley emphasizes that cases in which drug offenders receive mandatory minimums generally involve substantial amounts of drugs and manufacture, smuggling, or distribution. To his mind, that shows it's simply not true that "federal mandatory minimum sentences are putting large numbers of nonviolent offenders in jail for long periods of time at great taxpayer expense."

Grassley seems to be equating the requirements for receiving a mandatory minimum with violence, which is more than a little puzzling. If you are convicted of growing 100 or more marijuana plants, for example, you are subject to a five-year mandatory minimum sentence under federal law. And if you happen to own a gun, five years become 10, which is the penalty that awaits the Kettle Falls Five, medical marijuana patients in Washington who are scheduled to be tried in federal court later this month. If you are convicted of possession with intent to distribute 28 or more grams of crack, that will get you five years the first time around and 10 years if you have a prior conviction. If you plead guilty to mailing more than 10 grams of LSD (counting the weight of the blotter paper) and you have two minor LSD-related priors, you will be sent to federal prison for life, which is what happened to a harmless Deadhead named Tim Tyler.

Contrary to what Grassley seems to think (or wants you to think), no violence is necessary to trigger these or any of the other mandatory minimums that would be shortened by the Smarter Sentencing Act. But in the senator's view, addressing such grotesque injustices would make Congress "lenient." In case his fellow legislators realize that exceeding an arbitrary weight threshold does not automatically make a drug offender violent, Grassley warns that the Smarter Sentencing Act "would cut in half the mandatory minimum sentences for members of the Taliban, al-Qaeda, ISIS, or Hezbollah who deal drugs to fund acts of terror." There you have it: If acid-sharing Deadheads do not go to prison for the rest of their lives, the terrorists win.

Further evidence that Grassley's idea of proportionality may not comport with a sane person's: He says he is open to "lowering some federal mandatory minimum sentences" as long as he can "add or raise new ones." Among the crimes that Grassley thinks are treated too leniently under federal law: possession of child pornography.

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  1. Fuck him. I hope someone catches one of his kids with 100 lbs of pot and the Holder DOJ goes for the Max. You can’t overstate what an evil piece of shit someone like Grassley is. He knows these laws will never be applied to him and he knows he can score cheap political points supporting them. So he just doesn’t give a shit how unjust they are.

    1. Sadly, there are still plenty of people who would agree with him full-voice. It’s something, I think, that it will take a generation or so yet to fully address. Drug war propaganda might be the government’s most successful program in it’s history.

      1. What the War on Drugs has been successful at is fleecing the American people of between one and one and a half TRILLION dollars. In 1937 Harry Anslinger (our first drug czar) testified before congress that 100,000 people had used marijuana just before the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act. Today it is estimated that 100,000,000 of our citizens, including our last 3 presidents have used it. Marijuana prohibition has resulted in a thousandfold increase in use. Legalize and regulate everywhere in 2016!

    2. DOJ would turn a blind eye unless they were caught doing wholesale distribution or something really crazy.

      1. Depends. There are people doing ten or more years in the federal pen for selling ten hits of acid. If he were connected to someone bigger, he would go down for not a lot, if he wasn’t the son of a Senator of course.

        1. …if he wasn’t the son of a Senator of course.

          Well, I think that would depend on whether Grassley voted the way the administration wanted him to.

      2. DOJ was involved in wholesale distribution of guns, and nodoby was prosecuted.

    3. If Grassley was pulled over for driving the wrong way down 495 and they found 100 lbs of cocaine and 500 terrabytes of kiddy pr0n in his car, nothing would happen to him. You’d never even hear about it.

      Laws don’t apply to US Senators. Laws are for the peasants.

      1. As if they would even search the car once they found out who he was. Hell, they might not even pull him over, since he’d probably be in a vehicle registered to the Senate.

        1. You’re right. It would be like ‘Hey Senator, can we give you a 100 car escort home? Sorry that all of these peasants are driving the wrong way, we’ll just close the beltway down until we have you safely home.’

          1. All that assumes he’d agree to vote the “right way”. Otherwise, well, it’s just a real shame that the Senator’s career had to get destroyed like that….

  2. OT: Things getting worse for Oregon’s governor.

    Gov. John Kitzhaber’s office last week requested state officials destroy thousands of records in the governor’s personal email accounts, according to records obtained by WW and 101.9 KINK/FM News 101 KXL.

    The request came as investigations into allegations of influence-peddling involving Kitzhaber and first lady Cylvia Hayes were intensifying.

    Records show the request to destroy Kitzhaber’s emails came from Jan Murdock, Kitzhaber’s executive assistant. She wanted all emails from Kitzhaber’s personal email accounts removed from state servers.

    1. A little background ICYMI.

      Hayes has come under fire for reports that she earned about $200,000 on contracts closely related to her work in Kitzhaber’s cabinet. Most recently, emails released last Friday showed that Hayes lobbied for Oregon to implement an initiative from a policy group, Demos, that had already given her a $25,000 contract.

      Hayes last month acknowledged that she earned a total of $118,000 from the D.C.-based Clean Economy Development Center in 2011-2012 while working as an adviser for Kitzhaber on environmental policy. Less than a month before the gubernatorial election, the alt-weekly Willamette Week reported that Hayes received $85,000 or more in consulting contracts for work related to her duties in the administration

      Hayes is Kitz’s fiancee.

      1. I just caught up with this today. My question is: Why didn’t she just take a gun and rob a bank?

    2. “personal email accounts” on “state servers”. How does that happen?

    3. I love how a station named KINK/FM is doing real journalism while “respectable” journalistic outlets are publishing dreck or reprinting press releases.

  3. OT:

    All i can say is


    Note: I have no idea if this new big bangless theory is true or not. Only that the big bang is bullshit because any theory that relies on creating everything from nothing is bullshit.

    1. All of these theories are beyond comprehension. The one question that I often struggle with, is why does anything exist at all? Where did it come from and why?

      But we are most fortunate here at H&R. We have Tony the rocket surgeon who will be along anytime now to explain what the correct theory is and how if anyone disagrees with him, they are a rat fucking bea tagger extremist.

    2. How is “creating everything from nothing” any different than “its always been here”? They are just two ways of presenting the same paradox.

      And the BBT doesn’t really say something was created from nothing. It just takes the observation that the universe is expanding in all directions at a constant rate and runs it to its logical conclusion. Moreover, the BBT, unlike this, has actually made a prediction confirmed by observation. It predicted exactly what Penzias and Wilson found.

      So get back to me when this set of equations predicts an observation in the real world.

      1. How is “creating everything from nothing” any different than “its always been here”?

        I defer to Tony, real man of science.

      2. But the BBT doesn’t explain to us where this single tiny point of everything came from before it ‘banged’ into the known universe.

        The only thing that makes sense to me is that before the BBT there was another universe that had a super massive black hole in the center that eventually ate the universe into one tiny singularity. And then it became
        unstable and BAM!

        Maybe in the multiverse, this is a common thing that occurs over and over in an endless cycle.

        We don’t know jack fucking shit, humans are primitive, barely more than monkeys, and sometimes I wonder if we are any smarter or more civilized than other primates. We’re just monkeys with cell phones and cars.

        1. Some sci fi novel I read had a character make the comment that we don’t know what happened prior to the big bang because it was a phase change.

          The idea was that if you lived in a universe made up solely of steam, you’d have no observations to tell you how water behaved, and the appearance of steam from a water state would be a mysterious event to you.

          I think that’s as good an explanation as any.

          1. That’s a very interesting idea.

        2. My understanding is that the BBT doesn’t say that the universe was in fact created at the moment of the big bang, just that we can’t possibly know anything about what may or may not have been happening prior to that moment of singularity or near-singularity.

        3. Brane collisions makes the most sense to me.

          1. Alistair Reynolds incorporates those into his Revelation Space series. The series starts out strong but by the third book (Absolution Gap) starts falling apart (this isn’t counting short stories and novellas). Chasm City is fantastic though.

        4. The thing that killed the stable universe theory wasn’t the BBT. It was Hubble’s discovery that the universe was expanding in all directions. If you want to claim there is a stable and infinitely old universe, you have to then explain why it is expanding and when and why it started to do so, because it wasn’t always expanding or it wouldn’t have always been here.

        5. This is what I have always thought since I started really thinking about the BBT. This is cyclic. And will have over and over again forever.

          1. *And will happen over and over again forever.

        6. And then it became
          unstable and BAM!

          Sort of like how observed and theorized black holes don’t ever do….

          One thing black holes do do is evaporate. Everywhere in the universe particles and their anti-particles blink into existence then cancel themselves out. On the edge of event horizons though sometimes one falls in while the other does not..over time this can lower the mass of the black hole until all mass has escaped the event horizon.

      3. How is “creating everything from nothing” any different than “its always been here”? They are just two ways of presenting the same paradox.

        Occums razor: BBT requires something happening that has never been observed and no known mechanism in the universe can explain. This new theory requires only what is observed. The universe does exist there is strong evidence that it has existed for a long long time and is likely to continue to exist.

        And the BBT doesn’t really say something was created from nothing

        Err yeah it does. I don’t know how many times i have heard or read how during the start of the big bang “THE VERY LAWS OF THE UNIVERSE, SPACE AND TIME WERE FORGED”

        Anyway I can see how a soft theory of the big bang is plausible ie there was an explosive like event and everything is moving away from that explosion….but please don’t tell me that you have never heard that “the big bang created everything and defined the very laws of the universe” strong version of the big bang theory.

        1. An explosion, that much makes sense since the universe is expanding. It’s not really expanding at a uniform rate though, since we’re going to collide with Andromeda in a few billion years.

          So one question is, does it eventually stop expanding and start contracting again? And if so, does it wind up back to one singularity again?

          Or is it just sort of like a super massive blackhole ejecting matter out into one direction, like we know super massive blackholes do. Only this one would be a super super massive blackhole which ejected an entire universe of matter into being.

          1. We can only see what we can see and have only been systemically observing it for a hundred years or so.

            I mean when we look out with high powered telescopes we see galaxies farther out in light years then the universe is old. How the fuck are we seeing light that is older then the universe again?

            I think it is more likely we just are not seeing the whole thing to say one way or the other. Our universe could very well just be a cluster of matter (much like a star cluster in a galaxy or a galactic cluster in the observable universe) in a much larger universe that we just can’t see.

            1. I suspect that when we see beyond a certain point, we’ll see other things that might be galaxies, but are in fact, other universes.

              But if the government gets control of the entire thing, there will soon be a shortage of matter.

              1. Although an infinite universe should excite them greatly. Look, there’s really no end of stuff to tax!

    3. Not a fan of the comedic style of Jim Parsons?

      1. I saw the first season but once the sexual tension was released between the short nerd and the blond hottie neighbor I just stopped caring.

  4. Grassley warns that the Smarter Sentencing Act “would cut in half the mandatory minimum sentences for members of the Taliban, al-Qaeda, ISIS, or Hezbollah who deal drugs to fund acts of terror.”

    Because so many of the people that we send to prison for drug offenses in this country are member of the Taliban, al-Qaeda, ISIS, or Hezbollah. What a fuck-tard this cockstain is. I hope he has grandkids who get popped for drugs and end up in prison for 25+.

    1. Scions of senators don’t do hard time, even for murder. See Kennedy, Ted.

      1. Scions of senators go to the Senate for murder.

    2. That is the dumbest thing I have read all day. I am pretty sure the drug dealing charges will be the least of the ISIS member’s legal problems.

      Our government really is filled with morons. Grassley is that fucking stupid.

      1. I’m sure the only thing keeping a judge from sentencing a terrorist who plants car bombs in a city to unsupervised probation is the mandatory minimums established by Congress.

      2. It’s filled with criminals is what it’s filled with. DC has become no more than the world’s larget organized crime gang.

    3. That sounds like a Hannity talking point

  5. You know, for a man named Grassley……….

  6. Soft. On. CRIME.

    BA BOOM!

  7. a major reform bill that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last year but never got a floor vote.

    Those damn Republikkkan SoConz!

    1. You’re really gonna pull that in an article about Chuck Grassley?

  8. Federal laws are absurdly draconian

    I have seen two cases in Superior Court in WA where over 100 plants first offense got PROBATION

    the difference between federal and state sentences are often geometrically wide

    I’ve seen people with half dozen priors get under a year for possession w/intent

    Our county automatically diverts all first time drug possession cases (cocaine, whatever) to misdemeanor court and probation unless offenders have violent priors etc

    And of course so many innocents plead guilty in the federal system because the risk is too great

    1. Fuck off slaver


  9. Grassley seems to be equating the requirements for receiving a mandatory minimum with violence, which is more than a little puzzling.

    Only if you’re laboring under the delusion legislators actually read and comprehend the shit they vote on.

    1. I think most of them understand and consider any legislation or law in one particular way only. Does this give me more power, or not?

  10. Ok, we need a maximum age and maximum cup size for Congressional eligibility. I want Grassley and Schumer out. And I hope there’s no special place in hell for Grassley. I don’t think anything could be worse for him than being thrown in with the hoi polloi.

    1. How about a minimum IQ?

  11. You’re really gonna pull that

    I quoted the part about not making it to the floor of the Senate LAST YEAR for a vote. Who was the majority party in the Senate, last year?
    Who was the guy deciding what got voted on?

  12. Humans through the span of time have largely punished with a mindset most totalitarian and convoluted.

    Evolution has managed to drag humanity out of the base and naked world of animalistic brutality but it is thoroughly clear that evolution has been powerless to remove the animalistic brutality from humanity. Grassley and his billions-strong ilk are mercenaries for the macabre who lurk breathlessly alive in clouds of heady morals and expensive suits.

    Streaming storms of do-gooders are staunch in the belief that their fucking empty mercy and weblike hope be represented by those who can rule with a violent reprisal for even the most mundane infraction.

    A deadly orthodoxy writhes beneath the arrogant civilized, progressive, and religious.

    ‘Just’ punishment can only be described as ‘lenient’ if you have the rotten brain of a goddamn executioner.

  13. Assuming Chuck Grassley isn’t simply a sociopath who enjoys destroying the lives of many thousands of human beings, the overwhelming majority of whom are men, the question becomes: Who is paying him to behave like one?

    Grassley has access to all the research any of us has, and a staff to summarize it for him, yet he regularly lies about the need for and consequences of drug sentencing. Why?


    It’s also impossible not to notice that Reason is once again employing its usual method of slanting its reporting. If Grassley was a Democrat, Reason’s writer would be tying this to larger issues of the left trampling on rights. Since Grassley is a Republican, the linkage to the right’s war on minorities and the poor through the War on Drugs is left unexplored, even unmentioned.

    Shape up, Reason. You’re better than this. When you treat politics like team sports and root for one side’s laundry, we all lose.

    1. The Mexican drug cartels do a 64 billion dollar annual business in the US in drugs. They are losing money because many states in the West have chosen either to legalize and regulate or to allow medical marijuana. In the Mexican state of Sinaloa the Washington Post recently reported that the price paid to farmers for marijuana has dropped below $25 per kilo. The price is low enough that many farmers are refusing to grow marijuana. If you owned a business with 64 billion dollars in drug sales annually where 60% of your sales are in marijuana, how much influence would you buy to keep marijuana prohibition going? Have you noticed that we are not allowed as voters to know just who contributes to those PACs that now determine many of our elections?

  14. In Iowa they arrest Blacks for marijuana possession at a rate over 8 times that of Whites even though both groups use marijuana at equivalent rates. Grassley is a racist. He is protecting his Policing for Profit scheme to fleece both the people of Iowa and through congress to make all of us pay. Marijuana is not illegal because it is dangerous rather, it is dangerous because it is illegal.

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