How will Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ policy that federal prosecutors “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” play out in a place like Manhattan? City Limits reports that some defendants as recently as three weeks ago accepted plea offers that may not occur again under the new directive. Last year, then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara charged 32 people narcotics trafficking, the result of an investigation into drug dealing at the Lincoln Houses that began in 2008. He boasted, “All of the defendants face mandatory minimum prison terms ranging from 10 years to 15 years, and maximum terms of life in prison.” Actually, many of those charged were low-level dealers, and they were offered plea deals much lower than the mandatory 10 years.
Rasheed Bailey, 22, was charged with conspiracy to distribute more than 280 grams of crack cocaine, which carries a mandatory minimum of 10 years and a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. At a rehab program called the Fast Forward Project, staffers praised his “descriptive articulation and insight.” Nine days before President Trump’s inauguration, prosecutors offered him a deal that if he pled guilty to dealing a lesser amount of drugs, he’d face a sentencing window of 41 to 51 months. A judge gave him the minimum 41 months. He may be one of the last to get that leniency now that the Sessions memo is policy. “If somebody who has had the same experience with the same conduct that Mr. Bailey has, gets 10 years on a forced mandatory minimum, that would be [an] absolute miscarriage of justice,” said Bailey’s attorney, Gregory Morvillo. He added that a “practical reality of [the Sessions memo] is that prosecutors’ offices can’t believe that most people are going to plead for the mandatory minimums, therefore a potential problem is that it would back up the courts.”