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AG Sessions tells prosecutors to seek 'most serious' charges

27 May, 2017, 00:11 | Author: Melody Ballard

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is directing federal prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges possible against the vast majority of suspects, a reversal of Obama-era policies that is sure to send more people to prison and for much longer terms.

"The policy is not tough on crime".

Holder says the Sessions memo will spend money on incarceration rather than more pressing needs. During remarks at the Sergeants Benevolent Association Awards presentation in New York City on Friday, Sessions said his new approach is simply the "right and moral thing to do", noting upticks in violent crime in several cities across the USA and linking those surges to drugs.

On Friday, Holder issued a statement calling the new actions "an unwise step" in the wrong direction. And he outlined exceptions for not pursuing mandatory minimum sentences, including if a defendant's crime does not involve violence or if the person doesn't have a leadership role in a criminal organization.

Never mind that there has been an explosion in opioid and heroin addiction under the Obama administration's soft policies that treated drug crimes as non-violent offenses.

Rep. Cedric Richmond, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus: "Our biggest concerns about Attorney General Sessions are becoming reality", he said in a statement.

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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will oversee the new policy's implementation and issue any additional guidance or clarifications, Sessions wrote. But as defense attorney firm Perlmutter & McGuiness points out, simple possession can often induce "intent to distribute" charges regardless of the drug amount involved. "Because millions and millions of people want to do drugs", he said.

He painted a portrait of American cities under siege by an epidemic of violent crime - though the nationwide murder rate is at record low levels.

Sessions told the nation's United States attorneys in a memo to pursue the most serious charges possible against most suspects.

But Holder said Friday that since he gave prosecutors more discretion four years ago, the number of cases carrying mandatory minimum sentences have dropped and the prosecution of high-level drug offenders had increased ─ without impacting the rates at which people cooperated with authorities or pleaded guilty. Many experts say those laws and sentencing rules led to drug offenders spending decades in prison or even receiving life behind bars, when lesser sentences would have been adequate. This policy utilizes the tools Congress has given us. In some cases, mandatory minimum and recidivist enhancement statutes have resulted in unduly harsh sentences and perceived or actual disparities that do not reflect our Principles of Federal Prosecution. "Sessions is leaving little to no room for prosecutors to use their judgment and determine what criminal charges best fit the crime".

The Sessions memo marks the first significant criminal justice effort by the Trump administration to bring back the toughest practices of the drug war, which had fallen out of favor in recent years with a bipartisan movement to undo the damaging effects of mass incarceration.

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