30 days in jail for taking a cell phone photo of sentencing in federal court? Damn right!

Over at SL&P there is a discussion about the propriety of a federal judge sentencing a kid to 30 days in jail for using his cell phone in the courtroom.  The cell phone user took a photo of his friend during a sentencing hearing.  The cell phone photographer had a criminal record.  Some commentators wonder about the First Amendment and that sort of thing.

Why would a federal district judge throw someone in jail for using his or her cellphone to take a photo during sentencing?  Here’s a clue:  As I write this post,  there is a concerted and nationwide effort by “shot callers” in the federal prisons to identify defendants who cooperate with the government.  Being identified as a snitch in federal prison puts your life at risk.  This is a much bigger problem than those on the outside might imagine.

Welcome to the reality of federal sentencing.


3 responses

  1. I’m curious about the hard evidence about retaliation for cooperators. In more than 15 years of federal practice, many of my clients have either cooperated, wanted to cooperate, or wished they had cooperated. I’ve never heard of any client facing retaliation. I’m not saying it never happens, but, if it was rampant, federal prisons were be pretty dangerous places.

    I always warn clients that cooperating will rarely remain confidential in any meaningful way in most cases.

  2. Bryan,

    Not to be too cute, but I don’t think it would be wise to give you specifics. I do have one suggestion, however, and that is to contact the Federal Public Defender for the federal court(s) in which you practice. Ask them, for example, whether they are seeing an uptick in requests for copies of plea agreements, docket sheets, and sentencing transcripts by someone allegedly acting for the defendant cooperator.

    All the best.


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