- Islamic State opens ‘marriage bureau’ for single jihadists
- Drone almost blocks California firefighting planes
- Tornado rips off roofs, downs trees near Boston
- GOP: Environmental rules keeping agents from accessing border
- John Kerry: Millions displaced by religious fighting in 2013
- Federal appeals court rules against Virginia’s gay marriage ban
- White House says Russia ‘losing’ war in Ukraine
- Hamas turns to North Korea for weapons deal, Iran for money
- Syrian casualties surge as jihadis consolidate
- U.N. rights chief: Flight MH17 downing possible war crime
Antwuan Ball’s harsh drug sentence spurs petition to Supreme Court
Question of the Day
Two prominent civil libertarian groups have filed a joint petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case of a D.C. man serving nearly 19 years in prison after his conviction on a $600 drug deal, citing concerns about “carte blanche” powers given to federal judges.
The amicus brief by the Cato and Rutherford institutes comes as the Justice Department faces a July 28 deadline to file its brief in the appeals case of Antwuan Ball and two others convicted of drug charges in a federal trial in the District in 2008.
Sentencing judges are permitted to take into account charged conduct against defendants that jurors rejected or never considered at trial. But the appeals lawyers say all three defendants received “unreasonably lengthy” sentences based on charges that jurors rejected and that the judge accepted.
Ball was acquitted of murder, racketeering, conspiracy and other felonies, but he was found guilty of a lone hand-to-hand drug deal. At Ball’s sentencing, however, U.S. District Judge Richard Roberts said he felt the evidence showed Ball belonged to a conspiracy — a key finding that led to a much longer sentence than what Ball would have faced otherwise.
“Sentencing then becomes the real trial, with the judge being given carte blanche to engage as fact finder,” the civil liberties groups wrote. “This is constitutionally improper.”
Sentencing expert Douglas Berman, a law professor at Ohio University, also has filed an amicus brief on behalf of Ball, Thurston and Jones. He wrote that Judge Roberts embraced the Justice Department’s position that all three belonged to a conspiracy “despite a jury verdict directly to the contrary,” a finding that tripled or quadrupled their sentences.
Sentencing Ball more than three years after his trial ended, Judge Roberts said he respected the jury’s verdict but still couldn’t ignore what he called “clear and convincing” evidence that Ball was part of a conspiracy to deal crack cocaine in the Congress Park section of Southeast Washington.
The Ball case was the subject of a series of articles in The Washington Times in recent years. The case was notable because it offered a rare glimpse into the perspective of a juror on sentencing. Retired federal economist Jim Caron wrote a letter to Judge Roberts after he found out prosecutors were seeking lengthy prison sentences for the defendants.
“It seems to me a tragedy that one is asked to serve on a jury, serves, but then finds their work may not be given the credit it deserves,” Mr. Caron wrote in his letter.
The Supreme Court challenge comes months after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit turned down the defendants’ appeal. All three men are serving sentences between 15 and 18 years.
Steve Leckar, an attorney for Ball, said the appeals team is pleased it’s gotten support from the Cato and Rutherford institutes and Mr. Berman, “who filed briefs urging the Supreme Court to take the case and find it fundamentally wrong to punish an offender based on an offense that a jury didn’t conclude had been violated.”
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Jim McElhatton is an investigative reporter for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- House federal records plan would prevent repeat of IRS email scandal
- Whistleblowers flood VA with lawsuits despite apology
- Outrage over $190M deal for troubled federal contractor USIS
- IRS seeks help destroying another 3,200 computer hard drives
- White House warned about 'antiquated' VA scheduling system 5 years ago
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
By Scott Pinsker
- Illegal immigrants demand representation in White House meetings
- Hillary Clinton: Forget Obama, George W. Bush made her 'proud to be an American'
- D.C. seeks to stay judge's order allowing gun owners to carry in public
- Babson College, BYU win top spots in Money magazine's college rankings
- Tennessee Gov. Haslam slams White House for secret dump of illegals in his state
- Iraqi Christians rally at White House: 'Obama, Obama, where are you?'
- White House defends Kerry failure to broker Middle East cease-fire
- White House says Russia 'losing' war in Ukraine
- Romney would win popular vote in rematch against Obama: CNN poll - Washington Times#.U9ZSgi7-CXU.twi
- Ohio sheriff sends bill to Mexico for cost of jailing illegals
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq