- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 16, 2002

John Walker Lindh's guilty plea and minimum actual time in prison sentence of 17 years fully meet the demands of justice and the rightful anger of patriotic Americans. At this point, only the prosecuting attorney has been in a position to fully assess all the elements of the case against the despicable Lindh. Those who were expecting full prosecution on all counts and a minimum life in prison sentence should be assuaged by the reputation and track record of the prosecuting attorney, U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty. He is a known and admired quantity in activist conservative circles. As a former senior legal policy adviser to House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, Mr. McNulty has been well-known as a tough, intellectually rigorous leader of conservative legal activism. If a better result were legally available, Mr. McNulty was the man to see that process through.

The plea agreement locks in convictions on the core of the indictment, which, stripped of legalese are that :1) Lindh was with the bad guys; and 2) he was armed, ready, and, in fact, did fight with them. One of the dropped charges that has been grumbled about since the announcement yesterday the conspiracy to kill was peripheral to those core charges.

While the Justice Department was prepared to use whatever of its resources were necessary for a successful trial, the prosecution team was mindful of the demands that a long series of pretrial hearings and trial would place on more than 30 of their military personnel witnesses. These potential witnesses are currently at the center of actual anti-terrorism efforts around the globe. Pulling them away from their dangerous and vital duties to hang around courtroom corridors for months was correctly included in the prosecution calculus. Whether ideologically treasonous conduct can be deterred by any threatened penalty is questionable. But the negotiated minimum sentence of 85 percent of 20 years (17.04 years of actual incarceration) is a gratifyingly destructive bite out of John Walker Lindh's life.

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