Phila. Courts Lax in Gun Cases, Federal Courts Are Tough


While accused robbers in the Philadelphia court system enjoy great odds of beating their cases, the rules are different in federal court, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Since 2001, federal prosecutors have targeted about 2,000 local defendants and initiated firearms and robbery charges in federal court, where a 95 percent conviction rate and tough sentencing laws routinely lead to prison terms of 20 years or longer.

Said federal prosecutor Robert Reed: “We want to get this message out: If you come into federal court, you will face up to life in prison.” About 200 Philadelphia cases a year end up in federal court under the Justice Department initiative, known as Project Safe Neighborhoods. Many of these involve defendants who have repeatedly won their cases in city courts, where an Inquirer analysis found that even in the most basic gun-possession cases, only 56 percent of defendants charged in 2007 were found guilty of any crime. University of Pennsylvania law Prof. Stephanos Bibas said the federal firearms law is so tough that it encourages defendants to plead guilty in an effort to win at least some reduction in sentence.

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