The Holder Memo and sentencing disparity

The Attorney General has issued a Memorandum to his prosecutors that sets out the government’s new approach to whether prosecutors will use language in indictments that trigger statutory minimum sentences.  The Memo also tells prosecutors about when to charge prior crimes that trigger particularly harsh sentencing consequences. Additionally, the Memo emphasizes that prosecutors must be entirely candid with judges and probation officers about the true nature of the offender’s conduct. For example, prosecutors are not to “swallow dope.”

If the Holder Memo is interpreted strictly by line prosecutors, it is a very good thing. If, however, the Holder Memo is interpreted loosely by prosecutors and they stretch the boundaries of the government’s new-found leniency policy to do deals that do not conform to the spirit of the policy, then the Holder Memo will be a very bad thing. It will result in even greater sentencing disparity in drug cases.

In the District of Nebraska, we already have significant sentencing disparity in drug cases between Lincoln as compared to Omaha.  In other words, it is now true that 60 miles can make a big difference for similarly situated offenders.  I hope the Holder Memo doesn’t make that disparity worse.

I trust that the very able United States Attorney for the District of Nebraska and her experienced and knowledgeable First Assistant, will carefully monitor the situation and insist that all drug prosecutors apply the Holder Memo honestly and strictly. Among other things, this means holding the OCDETF chief and his or her deputy accountable. Equal justice before the law is at stake.

I, for one,  will be watching.


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