portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reposts united states

9.11 investigation

The Plea-Bargaining is (Almost) Over?

Ashcroft Reducing Plea Bargain Discretion...
You know what's really ironic, is that I was about to post something on Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's lavish confessions under "The Miracles of Plea Bargaining"-- would you really want to admit that the 9-11plot was so much bigger and called for 10 planes originally, unless that's exactly what you were doing is plea bargaining?-- but the article had been replaced by the one below...

The state of neo-con denial seems almost as swift as thought... there wasn't really even any hurry to milk Mohammed before this went up, since the first exception below may cover people like Mohammed or anyone being "cooperative"... not to mention that the first expection alone may negate the point of the reduction in discretion, as far as the big scary "t-word" things that Almight Ashcroft has to face down every day go... can still get all kinds of people to confess to all kinds of things that never happened, although it would be so much better for the Bush regime if someone said they did...

But lest they be accused of plea-bargaining those confessions out of people, let the sheeple be advised...

****

Ashcroft Reducing Plea Bargain Discretion...

By CURT ANDERSON, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Federal prosecutors were ordered Monday by Attorney General John Ashcroft (news - web sites) to pursue maximum criminal charges and sentences whenever possible and to seek lesser penalties through plea bargains only in limited circumstances.

An Ashcroft memo sent to all 94 U.S. attorneys' offices supersedes policy during former Attorney General Janet Reno (news - web sites)'s tenure that allowed prosecutors greater individual discretion to determine if the charges and potential punishment fit the crime.

Ashcroft said his intent is to bring greater consistency to criminal prosecutions around the country.

"It's a direction for the way we prosecute criminal behavior at the federal level," Ashcroft said Monday after a speech in Cincinnati. "If you violate a federal law, punishment will be uniform."

The policy change is the latest example of Ashcroft's attempts to bring greater symmetry critics say inflexibility to the federal justice system. During the summer Ashcroft instructed U.S. attorneys to seek the death penalty whenever applicable, overruling some who would not, and to vigorously oppose sentences imposed by judges that are lighter than recommended by federal guidelines.

Critics predicted the new plea bargain policy will severely limit prosecutors' options, forcing more defendants to face costly, time-consuming trials instead of pleading guilty and adding to prison overcrowding problems through harsher sentences.

"No two crimes, and no two defendants, are exactly alike," said Marc Mauer, assistant director of The Sentencing Project, a research group that advocates alternatives to prison.

Gerald Lefcourt, past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said the change "creates a system that is not only inflexible and problematic, but becomes a sort of immovable object. You're adding more unfairness to the system."

The order by Ashcroft marks a return to the spirit of the original instructions for prosecuting cases under federal sentencing guidelines developed in 1989 by then-Attorney General Richard Thornburgh. Those instructions were rewritten by Reno in the 1990s.

Justice Department (news - web sites) officials said the policy, developed by a 15-member advisory group of U.S. attorneys, provides enough flexibility to deal with differences in defendants and still ensure that all prosecutors pursue the same brand of justice.

"The whole purpose is to eliminate the disparity between similarly situated defendants," said U.S. Attorney Bill Mercer of Montana. "It's very hard to deter crime if there's a perception that a person isn't going to be held accountable for his or her actions."

The Ashcroft memo said prosecutors will have a "general duty" to pursue the most serious crimes they feel confident of proving in court. Plea bargains involving lesser charges should be limited there are six specific exceptions and would frequently have to be approved in writing by a supervisor.

The plea-bargain exceptions are:

_When a defendant agrees to provide "substantial assistance" in an investigation. Ashcroft said the message is, "if defendants will cooperate, the green light is on for negotiation."

_Under so-called "fast-track" programs aimed at unclogging court dockets in which certain types of defendants are given a preset charge and sentence lower than that called for under federal guidelines. These programs, which will be reviewed individually by the Justice Department, are popular for common immigration and drug violations in the Southwest.

_When prosecutors decided that the original charges will be tough to prove in court because of witness access problems, suppressed evidence or some other reason.

_If the possible sentence would be unaffected by a charge under a lesser offense.

_When "enhancements" that could result in a longer sentence, such as a defendant facing multiple charges connected with the main crime, remove any incentive for the defendant to plead guilty. Enhancements for firearms offenses, however, would generally have to be included. _On a case-by-case basis for other reasons with written approval by a supervisor.

___

Associated Press Writer John Nolan in Cincinnati contributed to this story.

 http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=514&e=13&u=/ap/20030922/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/ashcroft_plea_bargains_3