Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Trump demands SCOTUS justices step aside

President Donald Trump launched a new attack on the judicial system, targeting the nation’s high court by demanding that two liberal Supreme Court justices recuse themselves from any case involving him or his administration, reported The Huffington Post.
Trump claimed associate justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg couldn’t be fair to him: 
Trump has a history of attacking prosecutors and judges. Earlier this month, he slammed U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who presided over the case against longtime Trump ally Roger Stone. Jackson also handled a case that concluded last year against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. 
Trump earlier tried to insult U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was born in Indiana, by describing him as a “Mexican.” He also called U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar a “disgrace” and an “Obama judge” for ruling against his administration in an immigration case.
Trump’s latest attack seems to be in response to a dissent Sotomayor wrote last week in which she accused the Supreme Court’s conservative wing of being biased toward the administration, saying they’ve been “all too quick to grant the Government’s ‘reflexiv[e]’ requests.” She warned that such actions could “erode the fair and balanced decisionmaking process that this Court must strive to protect.” 
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Monday, February 24, 2020

People Serving Life Exceeds Entire Prison Population of 1970

To place the growth of life imprisonment in perspective, the national life in prison population of 206,000 now exceeds the size of the entire prison population in 1970, just prior to the prison population explosion of the following four decades, according to a recent report released by The Prison Project. In 24 states, there are now more people serving life sentences than were in the entire prison population in 1970, and in an additional nine states, the life imprisonment total is within 100 people of the 1970 prison population.
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Sunday, February 23, 2020

Tennessee executes convicted killer by electric chair

The 4th Execution of 2020
Tennessee executed death row inmate Nicholas Todd Sutton in the electric chair Thursday night, marking the fifth time the state has used the method since 2018, reported The Tennessean.
Sutton, 58, was pronounced dead at 7:26 p.m. CST, according to the Tennessee Department of Correction.
He was 18 years old when he killed his grandmother Dorothy Sutton, his high school friend John Large and another man, Charles Almon. Sutton didn't receive a death sentence until he fatally stabbed fellow inmate Carl Estep six years later, in 1985.
When the curtain to the death chamber opened Thursday, Sutton looked forward with a solemn expression and made eye contact with media witnesses on the other side of the glass. 
Asked by the prison warden if he had any last words, Sutton spoke at length about his Christian faith. He thanked his wife, his family and "many friends for their love and support as they tried so very hard to save my life."
He spoke about the "power of Jesus Christ to take impossible situations and correct them."
“I’m just grateful to be a servant of God, and I’m looking forward to being in his presence,” Sutton said. "And I thank you."
Nicholas Sutton's last words: 'I’m just grateful to be a servant of God'
A prison chaplain and Sutton's spiritual adviser had served him communion — Welch's grape juice and a wafer — at 3:30 p.m., just before he ate his last meal.
Seated in the electric chair, Sutton closed his eyes as prison officials doused sponges attached to his body with saline solution. Salt water ran down his face before a pair of officers draped a shroud over his head, which had been shaved hours earlier.
Then his body lifted up as jolts of electrocution twice coursed through his body.
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Saturday, February 22, 2020

GateHouse: Interference in the failed administration of justice

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
February 21, 2020
Last week, prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York submitted a sentence memorandum in the case of longtime President Donald Trump associate Roger Stone. The recommendation, based on the federal sentencing guidelines, proposed a sentence of between seven and nine years in prison.
Within hours of the recommendation, President Trump took to Twitter suggesting, in no uncertain terms, that the Department of Justice, ”(C)annot allow this miscarriage of justice!”
Although, Attorney General William Barr denied the president asked him to do anything, the Department of Justice swiftly intervened. All four career prosecutors handling the case withdrew and one resigned. New prosecutors submitted a second, more lenient, recommendation.
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced Stone to three years and four months in federal prison.
Barr’s capitulation to Trump’s, not so veiled, demand has spurred talk of the demise of the rule of law.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi accused the Attorney General of having “deeply damaged the rule of law.” Professor Joyce White Vance wrote in Time, “If Barr truly believes in the rule of law, this is his moment.”
The Atlantic suggested, “Indeed, given our national faith and trust in a rule of law no one can subvert, it is not too strong to say that Bill Barr is un-American.” In fact, none other than William Barr himself said in 2019, “Nothing could be more destructive of our system of government, of the rule of law, or Department of Justice as an institution, than any toleration of political interference with the enforcement of the law.”
Although the term “rule of law” has been tossed around a lot lately, especially in these turbulent political times, what exactly is the rule of law that has so many, so concerned?
The rule of law is defined as: The restriction of the arbitrary exercise of power by subordinating it to well-defined and established laws.
At its core, the rule of law means that the law applies to everyone equally - no one is above the law. The rule of law is embodied in the maxim “a government of law, not of men,” a phrase President John Adams included in the Massachusetts state constitution 240 years ago.
Some will argue President Trump has every right to intervene with the Department of Justice. The attorney general is appointed by the president and serves at the pleasure of the president. The Department of Justice is an executive branch office. In response to Barr saying the president asked for nothing, Trump tweeted, “This doesn’t mean that I do not have, as President, the legal right to do so.”
There is a difference between being able to do something, and it being the right thing to do. One principle of the rule of law is the equal enforcement of laws.
If the President of the United States calls for, and gets, favorable treatment for his friend Roger Stone; while demanding a foreign country investigate his political rival Joe Biden; or continually call for his former political opponent Hillary Clinton to be “locked-up” - the trust and confidence in our system of laws begins to erode.
That is why nearly 2,500 former federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials, from across the political spectrum, have called on the attorney general to step down. In an open letter that began circulating after Barr intervened in the Stone case, the signatories adopted the following language, “Each of us strongly condemns President Trump’s and Attorney General Barr’s interference in the fair administration of justice.”
It is easy in politics to overstate the urgency of a given situation. This is not one of those situations. There is more at stake than meets the eye. CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin warns in The New Yorker of “creeping authoritarianism.”
We are living at a time where it appears that the president doesn’t merely want to flex his muscles, he wants to destroy American institutions, by breeding distrust, creating doubt and eroding confidence in one of our most cherished values - the rule of law.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino.
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Friday, February 21, 2020

Trump dangles clemency for Stone after berating the justice system

President Trump once again berated the “dirty cops” of the law enforcement establishment on Thursday, accusing the Justice Department of going after his friends but not his enemies in an outburst that flouted Attorney General William P. Barr’s pleas to stop publicly intervening in prosecutions where he had a personal interest, reported The New York Times.
Speaking out hours after his friend Roger J. Stone Jr. was sentenced to more than three years in prison for lying to protect the president, Mr. Trump belittled the case and hinted broadly that he would use his clemency power to spare Mr. Stone if a judge did not agree to a retrial sought by defense lawyers.
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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Trump friend, Roger Stone, gets sentenced to 3 years and 4 months in prison

A federal judge sentenced Roger Stone, President Trump’s longtime friend, to serve three years and four months in prison for impeding a congressional investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, reported the Washington Post.
The penalty from U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson comes after weeks of infighting over the politically charged case that threw the Justice Department into crisis, and it is likely not to be the final word. Even before the sentencing hearing began, Trump seemed to suggest on Twitter he might pardon Stone. With the proceedings ongoing, Trump questioned if his ally was being treated fairly.
In a lengthy speech before imposing the penalty, Jackson seemed to take aim at Trump — saying Stone “was not prosecuted for standing up for the president; he was prosecuted for covering up for the president.” She also appeared to call out Attorney General William P. Barr, whose intervention to reduce career prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation she called “unprecedented.” But she said the politics surrounding the case had not influenced her final decision.
“The truth still exists, the truth still matters,” Jackson said. “Roger Stone’s insistence that it doesn’t, his belligerence, his pride in his own lies are a threat to our most fundamental institutions, to the foundations of our democracies. If it goes unpunished it will not be a victory for one political party; everyone loses.”
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Why Roger Stone's sentence recommendation should never have been amended

The President asked the DOJ, through a tweet, to adjust his friend, Roger Stone's, sentence recommendation.  The DOJ complied. The original recommendation by the Assistant U.S. Attorneys was spot on--Lawfare.com explains why.
For those readers not familiar with the sentencing guidelines, the guidelines work by assigning a numerical base level to the underlying offense and then adding to or subtracting from that number based on a variety of different factors. In its initial brief, the government concluded that Stone’s total offense level is 29 and that his criminal history category is I, yielding a sentencing range of seven to nine years under the advisory sentencing guidelines.
The government reached this conclusion using a calculation that runs as follows. Under the guidelines, the base offense level for “Obstruction of Justice” (counts 1-7, combined) is 14. Pursuant to the guidelines, eight levels are added because the offense “involved causing or threatening to cause physical injury to a person, or property damage, in order to obstruct the administration of justice.” The sentencing memorandum recounts Stone’s threats, in writing, to keep his longtime associate Randy Credico from testifying truthfully to Congress. The prosecutors contend that although Stone might argue that he did not have a serious plan to harm Credico, Credico testified that the threats concerned him. Regardless, the memorandum emphasizes, the threat itself––not the likelihood of Stone’s carrying out the threat––triggers the enhancement under the guidelines.
In addition, the prosecutors add three levels to Stone’s offense level because the offense “resulted in substantial interference with the administration of justice”: the House Intelligence Committee did not receive important documents and testimony because of Stone’s conduct. And two more levels get added because the offense was otherwise “extensive in scope, planning, or preparation”: Stone engaged in a multi-year scheme that involved making false statements in sworn testimony, concealing important document evidence, lying in written submissions to Congress, and engaging in a “relentless and elaborate campaign” to silence witnesses, the government argued.
Finally, two more levels are added because Stone “willfully obstructed or impeded, or attempted to obstruct or impede, the administration of justice with respect to the prosecution of the instant offense of conviction.” The memorandum recounts an occasion in which Stone posted an image of the presiding judge with a crosshair next to her head and a pretrial release hearing in which Stone gave testimony that was not credible. It also notes that Stone repeatedly violated the judge’s order by posting on social media about the case.
Adding the above levels together, the memorandum concludes that Stone’s total offense level is 29. Under the guidelines, the prosecutors argue, this should translate into a sentence of seven to nine years.
Lawfare.com also explains in detail why defense attorney's will be taking advantage at the DOJ change in the Roger Stone case.
To read more CLICK HERE