Justice Department Calls for Probe of Federal Sentencing Patterns

Prosecutors see disparity in fraud, child pornography punishments

, The National Law Journal


In the five years since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the mandatory nature of federal sentencing guidelines, prosecutors' experiences and data suggest "federal sentencing practice is fragmenting into at least two distinct and very different sentencing regimes," according to the Justice Department, which wants the U.S. Sentencing Commission to investigate, with special attention to guidelines for fraud and child pornography. But some experts say it may be something that the commission doesn't want to examine too closely.

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What's being said

  • Gloria Grening Wolk

    I have done extensive research about sentencing disparities in federal court. Many legal scholars emphasize the power of prosecutors, which appears to be the greatest influence on judges. For example, in the ED KY prosecutors Molloy and Van Tatenhov recommended no jail time for a slew of people who committed fraud when they applied for life insurance, then sold the policies for cash. And they did not report these people to IRS although, in trial testimony, they admitted they did not declare this income on tax returns. At least two of these men were career criminals and have since been prosecuted for fraud in other jurisdictions. One of the two again received probation and was not ordered to return the illegal funds. Prosecutors are not held accountable when they defraud defendants or the public. One good example are the prosecutors in the Ted Stevens case. They were reshuttled to other taxpayer-paid positions within the DOJ, and continue to receive all their health, vacation, and retirement benefits. In TN the court ordered Anne DiLeo to reimburse three of the victims of her fraud. She served 18 months in prison and then did not reimburse these individuals. The retirees who entrusted her with their life savings continue to suffer but the prosecutors, who were alerted to this, choose to ignore this non-headline grabbing issue. Prosecutors have no cause to worry about being held accountable for anything they do (other than homicide, of course). But Federal judges have gone to jail for violations of law. The real problem is not judges but prosecutors.

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