Attorney General John Ashcroft Monday ordered federal prosecutors to pursue maximum criminal charges and sentences whenever possible and to severely limit the use of plea bargains.
The policy directive is the latest in a series of steps the Justice Department has taken in recent months to combat what it sees as dangerously lenient practices by some federal prosecutors and judges, reports the New York Times.
The move also effectively expands to the entire gamut of federal crimes the attorney general’s tough stance on the death penalty, which he has sought in numerous cases over the objections of federal prosecutors.
“The direction I am giving our U.S. attorneys today is direct and emphatic,” Ashcroft said in Cincinnati. Except in “limited, narrow circumstances,” he said, federal prosecutors must seek to bring charges for “the most serious, readily provable offense” that can be supported by the facts of the case, the Times reports.