Some Crack Defendants Still Getting Mandatory 5-Year Prison Terms


Eric Brewer of Pittsburgh pleaded guilty in a crack cocaine case dating from 2009. When he was sentenced last week, he got a five-year prison term under a defunct federal law, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Last year’s law eliminated the 5-year mandatory term for cases like Brewer’s but the law was not declared retroactive.

Brewer’s crime occurred in West Virginia, where a judge invoked the old law, but Brian Kornbrath, a federal public defender in West Virginia, says dozens of other federal judges are basing their current sentences the new law. Last fall, federal judge D. Brock Hornby of Maine said the new law should apply to any defendant not yet sentenced, saying, “understandably, Congress might not have wanted a large volume of previously sentenced offenders to be released from prison immediately, but what possible reason could there be to want judges to continue to impose new sentences that are not ‘fair’ over the next five years while the statute of limitations runs?” Kornbrath hopes the Supreme Court will address the issue.

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