US judge blasts DOJ over drug sentence disparities

AP News
Posted: Aug 28, 2013 2:03 PM

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A federal judge in Iowa has sharply criticized the U.S. Department of Justice for creating massive drug sentencing disparities by not having a policy advising prosecutors on when to double the prison time for repeat offenders.

In an Aug. 16 opinion that's drawing attention in legal circles, U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett blasted the "deeply disturbing, yet often replayed, shocking, dirty little secret of federal sentencing: the stunningly arbitrary application" of sentencing enhancements for repeat offenders.

He said that until Attorney General Eric Holder issued new guidelines this month, prosecutors had little direction on when to double the mandatory minimum sentences for offenders with prior felonies.

Bennett says national data reveals a "jaw-dropping, shocking disparity" where prosecutors in some districts almost always seek them, while those elsewhere never do.