It would be laughable, were it not so outrageous, to see the hyperpartisanship of the day dictating, strictly along party lines, the reactions of former Massachusetts US attorneys to the Justice Department’s decision to withdraw its line prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation for former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone (“Ex-prosecutors say revision on sentence will hurt morale,” Page A1, Feb. 14).
Donald Stern and Carmen Ortiz, top federal prosecutors during the Clinton and Obama years, respectively, deemed Trump’s tweets — that the sentencing recommendation (seven to nine years in prison) was excessive — to be a product of the president’s thinking that “he is completely above the law” (Ortiz), and troublesome because they “undercut the integrity and independence of the prosecution” (Stern).
But Republican Michael Sullivan, who served during the George W. Bush presidency, applauded Barr’s overruling his line prosecutors’ recommendation, which he said was excessive.
Lest the emerging pattern not be sufficiently obvious, I will point out that these former federal prosecutors judged the recommended sentence as either too lenient or too harsh depending upon party affiliation.
This is a real problem, not just because of the hypocrisy and partisanship demonstrated by such comments by former prosecutors — all of whom became known for their own harshness that caused defense lawyers to dub the federal courthouse the “house of pain” — but because all of this posturing avoids a long-overdue debate about how to decrease federal sentences across the board, in order to lessen the human wreckage they cause for those sentenced and for their families. It is long past the time that our “land of liberty” reduces what are generally considered the longest prison sentences in the civilized world. Making a political football out of the process is not helpful.
Harvey A. Silverglate
The writer is a criminal defense and civil liberties lawyer. He is the coauthor, with Sidney Powell, of the forthcoming “Conviction Machine.”