- - Monday, February 17, 2020

The Justice Department was right to disavow the prosecutors’ draconian recommended sentence of seven to nine years of prison for Roger Stone (“EXCLUSIVE: Edwin Meese backs Trump’s ‘legal right’ but says intervening in criminal cases not ‘wise,’ Web, Feb. 16). Even anti-Trump former prosecutors agree that sentence was excessive and have predicted that Judge Amy Berman Jackson will likely impose a lower sentence.

The revised submission indicated that a proper calculation of the sentencing guidelines would be more in the 37- to 46-month range, about half the original calculation, but properly reminded the judge that any sentence must not be disparate to other sentences meted out in similar cases, which are lower still.

The Stone case illuminates the structural flaw with the sentencing guidelines, where its wooden application routinely calls for excessive prison sentences. The auidelines were a product of the 1984 Sentencing Reform Act, which eliminated parole and provided for definite sentences. Before the guidelines, prisoners were routinely released after serving one-third of their prison time. Thus, a three-year sentence resulted in actual prison time of one year.

Congress mandated that the newly established Sentencing Commission devise guidelines that reflect the average actual time served by prisoners. Accordingly, the original recommended sentence for Roger Stone is equivalent to a pre-guideline sentence of 21 years to 27 years. Even the revised calculation of 37 months to 46 months is equivalent to an excessive nine-to-12-year pre-guideline sentence.

Thankfully the Supreme Court ruled that judges were free to depart from the guidelines. Whatever sentence Judge Jackson imposes on Thursday, it should be multiplied by three to properly gauge its severity.


Chevy Chase, Md.

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