Sunday, August 28, 2016

Pivot Back to Clemency - Fulfill the Promise of Mercy and Compassion

When Good News may be Very Bad

 Craig is a first time nonviolent marijuana offender who received a sentence of Life without Parole in the 11th Circuit, Northern District of Florida.  Craig has been incarcerated for 14 years and is 57 years old.

This week Craig Cesal's sentencing Judge made his own motion and reduced Craig's sentence from life to 30 years.  Craig was told that the judge reduced his sentence in light of the "drugs minus two" reduction that took effect in 2014.  Craig was told this by his case manager.  

A little over a year ago Craig filed a petition for Presidential Clemency.  As part  of the process to receive  clemency, the Office of the Pardon Attorney must send a copy of his petition to his prosecutor and his judge.  Under Eleventh Circuit law, Craig is not actually eligible for drugs minus two reduction because his computed guideline offense level was beyond the  pot limit of the chart.  

Other circuits allow a judge to start at level 43, the top of the chart and move downward when calculating a reduction.  Craig was waiting to file until the Eleventh Circuit adopted this rule.  If the Eleventh Circuit adopts this Craig could be eligible for a sentence in the 20 year range.  

One of the main reasons for granting  clemency is that there is no other option for sentencing relief as the patitioner does not qualify for sentencing relief from legislation that has passed or legislation that is pending.  Craig clearly did not qualify, but did fit into the category for clemency with a hopeless sentence of life without parole for a nonviolent marijuana offense  - He was charged with conspiracy and chose to exercise his Sixth Amendment right to trial. 

It appears that the Pardon Attorney sent Craig's clemency petition to the AUSA in the Northern District of Georgia for comment prior to granting clemency.  Apparently, the AUSA made the request to the judge as Craig did not make the request for sentencing reduction.  Additionally,  in the 11th Circuit Craig would not be eligible for a reduction in sentence based on drugs minus two.  If Craig does not take this he is not allowed to petition for relief under drugs minus two again even when the 11th Circuit adopts the sentencing chart of other Circuits.  

Craig now may be denied clemency because he was granted sentencing relief through drugs minus two, but Craig is a diabetic and reducing his life sentence to 30 years will give him a release date when he is 74 years of age.  This is beyond his life span.  Thus - Craig will be a statistic - An inmate who was granted a sentencing reduction through sentencing reform legislation, but still will most likely be incarcerated till death.  

This was all done in an irregular and not at the request of Craig.  This is a sentence that does not fit the crime for a first time nonviolent marijuana offender.