Should Presentence Reports Be Made Public?


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Baltimore Sun have asked a federal judge to make public a presentence report on Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis. Lewis is due in court today in his home town of Atlanta to find out how much time he must spend in prison for his role in an attempted cocaine deal more than four years ago. Lewis pleaded guilty in October to one count of using a cellphone to facilitate a drug transaction. Under terms of a plea agreement, he would spend four months in prison and perform 500 hours of community service.

The pre-sentence report was prepared by a U.S. probation officer. The newspapers argued that releasing it would reinforce public confidence in the judicial system. “The public has a legitimate interest in understanding the information available to the government and the court in considering Mr. Lewis’ sentence, not just because Mr. Lewis has selected a career that makes him a public persona and a role model, but also because the circumstances of this drug crime remain in sharp dispute,” the newspapers said. Don Samuel, an attorney for Lewis, said, “Why the newspaper thinks an exception should be made for Mr. Lewis –when no exception whatsoever has been made for any state legislator, governor or any other public official sentenced in any state or federal court – is beyond me. Not even Martha Stewart’s pre-sentence report was made public.”


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