Federal Judges Slap Down Eric Holder For Illegally Instructing Prosecutors To Ignore Drug Laws

Judges: ‘Law Provides Executive No Authority’ to Cut Drug Sentences As Holder Did – CNS

Two federal judges on the U.S. Sentencing Commission said Thursday that Attorney General Eric Holder stepped “outside the legal system” and exceeded the authority of the executive branch by sending “improper instruction” to federal prosecutors to reduce drug sentences before they were officially approved by either the commission or Congress.

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“I have been surprised at the attorney general’s steps taken to proceed with this reduction outside of the legal system set up and established by the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984,” Judge Ricardo Hinojosa, the commission’s vice chair, said during a public hearing in the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building in Washington.

“As you all know, the commission in the act is given the authority to promulgate and amend guidelines on a yearly basis. And in the act itself, Congress has preserved its right to reject any potential promulgation of, or amendment to, any guidelines made by the commission itself after the commission has acted.

“Meaning that if Congress does not reject a guideline amendment, it will not go into effect until November 1st of this year if we vote in favor of this amendment.,” said Hinojosa, who is also the chief judge of the Southern District of Texas.

“When the attorney general testified before us, he failed to mention that the night before, at around 11 pm, the department had ordered all of the assistant U.S. attorneys across the country to (and it’s not clear to me whether it was supposed to be not oppose or to argue for, in fact the U.S. attorneys in front of my court have said they’ve been asked to argue for) the two-level reduction in all drug trafficking cases before the commission has acted and before Congress has had the opportunity to vote its disapproval of the commission’s actions, if Congress is so inclined, which is certainly the right that they have preserved for themselves in the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984,” Hinojosa said.

“It would have been nice for us to have known and been told beforehand that this action had been taken, so any of us who would have liked to have asked the attorney general under what basis under Title 18… the courts were being asked by the Justice Department to follow this request.

“If it was because the attorney general had spoken in favor of this proposal ,that is a dangerous precedent because attorney generals in the past have consistently expressed opinions to the commission on guideline promulgation and amendments, many times for an increase, and sometimes for a lowering of the penalties.

“But none have ever then asked the courts to proceed with increases or decreases simply because the attorney general has spoken in support of them before the commission has acted and before the Congress has exercised its statutory right not to act,” the vice-chairman said.

Judge William Pryor, who sits on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, also rebuked Holder for preempting the commission.

“Like Judge Hinojosa, I regret that, before we voted on the amendment, the attorney general instructed assistant United States attorneys across the nation not to object to defense requests to apply the proposed amendment in sentencing proceedings going forward,” Pryor said.

“That unprecedented instruction disrespected our statutory role ‘as an independent commission in the judicial branch’ to establish sentencing policies and practices under the Sentencing Reform Act and the role of Congress, as the legislative branch, to decide whether to revise, modify, or disapprove our proposed amendment.

“We do not discharge our statutory duty until we vote on a proposed amendment, and Congress, by law, has until November 1st to decide whether our proposed amendment should become effective. The law provides the executive no authority to establish national sentencing policies based on speculation about how we and Congress might vote on a proposed amendment.

“I appreciate the attorney general’s personal appearance before the commission last month, and his helpful comments in support of this amendment,” Pryor added. “But I hope that we can avoid int the future the kind of improper instruction that he sent federal prosecutors before we voted on the amendment.”

Pryor also pointed out that a previous amendment to the Fair Sentencing Act included a “safety valve” that allows low-level offenders to plead guilty and receive reduced sentences. The Justice Department estimates that lowering sentences will reduce the federal prison population by 6,500 inmates over the next five years.

The commission had been deliberating since last summer on recommendations to amend federal sentencing guidelines in an effort “to reduce the costs of incarceration, and reduce prison populations without endangering public safety.”

Commissioners voted unanimously on Thursday to recommend the reduced sentences the Justice Department supported, which would shave an average of 11 months off the prison terms of some drug offenders. Both Hinojosa and Pryor voted for the amendment, which Pryor pointed out “maintains all statutorily mandated minimum sentences” and “respects the primary role of Congress in establishing the boundaries for sentencing drug offenders.”

Several other amendments, which were published in the Federal Register on Jan. 17, 2014, were also passed, but the one reducing sentences for drug offenders, who make up nearly half of the federal prison population, elicited more than 20,000 responses from the public, commissioners said.

Holder testified at the commission’s previous hearing on March 13th, telling commissioners that low-level, non-violent offenders should “face sentences appropriate to their individual conduct, rather than strict mandatory minimums.” (See sentencing cmsn.pdf)

“The system was not perfect as it existed before, and it is not perfect as it exists now and under the reforms that I have implemented,” Holder testified. “But what we want to do is to work with the commission,” he said a day after sending his sentencing memo to federal prosecutors.

“For those committed to the rule of law, the question now goes beyond whether reducing sentences for dealers in dangerous drugs is wise. It’s whether the Attorney General, the chief law enforcement officer in the United States, is committed to following the law as it exists, or, instead, as he wants and speculates it might become,” said William Otis, adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center.

Under federal law, Congress, has six months to vote the amendments down. In the absence of congressional action, they will become law on November 1st.

Click HERE For Rest Of Story

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Nine Current And Former Traffic Court judges Charged With Conspiracy, Fraud

Nine Current And Former Traffic Court judges Charged – Philadelphia Inquirer

Nine current or former Philadelphia Traffic Court judges were charged today with conspiracy and fraud after a three-year FBI probe into ticket-fixing in the beleaguered court.

A 77-count indictment, returned Tuesday but sealed until Thursday, said judges and their assistants routinely shredded documents, used code words and practiced “a well-understood conspiracy of silence” that turned the court into two systems: One where the average citizen paid for their infractions, while the connected saw tickets disappear, costing the Commonwealth an untold amount.

“For years, even beyond the conspiracy charged, there existed a culture of ticket fixing at Traffic Court,” the indictment said. “The ticket fixing was pervasive and frequent.”

Charged were two of the court’s three sitting judges, Michael Lowry and Michael Sullivan, as well as seven former judges: Fortunato Perri Sr., Robert Mulgrew, Willie Singletary and Thomasine Tynes, elected by Philadelphia voters.

The other three were former suburban district judges who were appointed to serve for a period of time in Philadelphia Traffic Court: Mark A. Bruno of a Chester County, H. Warren Hogeland of Bucks County, and Kenneth Miller of Delaware County.

Unlike those who were indicted Thursday, Hogeland, Miller and Perri were charged separately by informations. The process is typically used for defendants who have agreed to plead guilty.

Also indicted were Traffic Court administrator William Hird; and two local businessmen, Henry P. Alfano and Robert Moy. Alfano owned a towing service that won a no-bid contract from traffic court.

Each are scheduled to appear before a magistrate judge Thursday afternoon. U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger will hold a news conference later today.

Hird declined to comment as he left the federal building this morning, but his lawyer, Greg Pagano, told reporters: “My client is a taxpaying, hardworking citizen who goes to work every day and who is being indicted essentially for doing his job.”

Singletary, who also turned himself in, told reporters only: “My God is able.”

Traffic court has for decades been seen as a patronage mill. Judges earn at least $85,000, and must win election but none do so without the blessing of the local political parties. The court has twice before been the focus of federal probes.

The latest conspiracy and fraud charges uncorked a case that had been bubbling for at least three years, and included raids and, apparently, secret FBI wiretaps.

U.S. Attorney Zane D. Memeger said the system in Traffic Court not only deprived taxpayers of fines that should have gone to the city and state, it completely undermined public confidence in the institution.

“Those who seek to game the system by refusing to follow the rules need to be held accountable by the rule of law they swore to uphold,” Memeger said in a press release.

A preview emerged last fall, when a consultant commissioned by Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille, concluded there was a pervasive culture of corruption within Traffic Court.

That report, prepared by former city prosecutor William G. Chadwick, cited eight former or current judges, and described Hird as the central coordinator for ticket-fixing, or, as the judges called it “consideration.”

The indictment went farther, spelling out in detail how friends, associates and ward leaders arranged to get cases dismissed or fines dropped.

In return, the judges allegedly got more than good will. According to the indictment, Perri accepted free auto services, towing, landscaping, and even a load of shrimp and crab cakes from Alfano, whose company, Century Motors, ran a towing service.

“I see Century on it, it’s gold,” Perri once told Alfano, according to the indictment. “When you call, I move, brother, believe me.”

In February 2010, the indictment said, Alfano called on behalf of a truck driver who faced $442 in fines and court costs after being ticketed along I-95 for not clearing the snow and ice off his tractor-trailer. Twice the drive got notices that his license would be suspended.

“It will be alright, don’t worry about it,” Perri allegedly assured Alfano.

Two months later, the case landed before Sullivan. The driver didn’t even attend the hearing, and was deemed not guilty, the indictment said.

Hird and Singletary are accused of lying to FBI agents, while Mulgrew, Tynes and Lowry are charged with perjury before the Grand Jury.

“You don’t give out special favors, is that right?” a prosecutor asked Lowry before the grand jury in fall 2011, according to the indictment.

“No, I treat everybody the same,” he replied.

Singletary resigned last year in an unrelated scandal, after a court staffer accused him of showing her a picture of his genitals on his cellphone.

Mulgrew was indicted in a separate federal corruption case, charged with defrauding an neighborhood nonprofit.

The Republican floor leader of the state Senate, Dominic Pileggi of Delaware County, said the Traffic Court indictments boosted his resolve to pass legislation abolishing the court.

“They confirm my opinion that the Traffic Court is not an institution that has any reason to continue to exist,” Pileggi told reporters in a conference call. “They accelerate the urgency of enacting the reforms that I proposed.”

Since proposing the court’s abolition three weeks ago, Pileggi said, he had yet to hear from a single state lawmaker or other public official defending the court.

“I would have expected at least a handful of people who would have tried to present some defense of the status quo,” Pileggi said. “I’m pleased with that, because I think the status quo is indefensible.”

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Supreme Court affirms right to keep and bear arms, Liberal columnist goes ballistic

Here we go kids. We all knew this type of hyperbole was coming didn’t we? This guy has all the Liberal talking points covered too.

Let us dive in to this pool of stupidity shall we?

There’s one group of District residents absolutely unfazed by today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling shooting down the District’s strict handgun ban: the dudes who have been blowing away their fellow citizens with abandon since the law was put on the books 32 years ago.

Hmmm, somehow this pinhead thinks that striking down a gun lasw, that by his own account has not done a damned thing to reduce violence, will benefit violent thugs? Pretty stupid, but wait, it gets MUCH worse!

Operating under the notion that it’s better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission, our shooters long ago decided not to wait for the high court’s thoughts on the matter. They simply arrogated to themselves the right to keep and bear arms and, with that right, license to shoot and kill, with impunity, whatever and whenever the evil spirits moved them.

What? Is he saying that citizens armed themselves and just went around shooting each other willy-nilly? No, the CRIMINALS ignored the gun ban, and PREYED upon DISARMED innocent citizens, and all the while, this Marxist said nothing I would wager. But now, when the right to defend themselves is restored to the citizens, he accuses them of being murderous thugs?

Read the whole thing, if you can stomach such outright ignorance and smugness.