Ex-DOJ Leaders Back Mandatory Minimum Terms, Oppose Smarter Sentencing Act


Former Attorneys General Michael Mukasey and William Barr and 27 other former leaders in the Justice Department, U.S. Attorney’s offices, and the Drug Enforcement Adminstration are opposing the proposed Smarter Sentencing Act, which could ease federal mandatory minimum penalties in drug cases, says the Crime & Consequences blog. Other signers include former Deputy Attorneys General George Terwilliger and Paul McNulty, and former “drug czars” William Bennett and John Walters. Mukasey also is a former federal judge.

In a letter to U.S. Senate leaders, the opponents contend that “strong mandatory minimums are needed to insure both that there is a degree of consistency from judge to judge, and that differing judicial ideologies and temperaments do not produce excessively lenient sentences. In addition, and of central importance, prosecutors use strong mandatory minimums, along with safety-valves built into the current system, to induce cooperation from so-called ‘smaller fish,’ to build cases against kingpins and leaders of criminal organizations.” The opponents argue that “existing law already provides escape hatches for deserving defendants facing a mandatory minimum sentence … Even if convicted under a mandatory minimum charge, however, the judge on his own can sidestep the sentence if the defendant has a minor criminal history, has not engaged in violence, was not a big-time player,and cooperates with federal authorities. This ‘safety valve’ …has been in the law for almost 20 years.”

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