Judges Consider New Factor at Sentencing: Military Service

Discussion in 'Cop Talk' started by ronduke, Dec 31, 2009.

  1. ronduke

    ronduke

    Messages:
    3,077
    Likes Received:
    190
    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2007
    Judges Consider New Factor at Sentencing: Military Service
    By AMIR EFRATI
    A small but growing number of judges say U.S. military veterans should be treated differently from nonveterans when they are sentenced for crimes.

    As more soldiers return home from combat overseas and end up in the criminal-justice system, a number of state and federal judges are deciding to show former soldiers leniency in light of their service. Some veterans are receiving probation coupled with psychological treatment, generally for nonviolent crimes that normally would land them in prison.

    That is raising concern among some legal experts, who say singling out veterans for special treatment indulges criminal behavior and risks establishing a two-tier system of justice.

    Many veterans returning from war zones develop behavioral and psychological problems, which in some cases leads to alcohol and drug abuse -- and crimes.

    "We dump all kinds of money to get soldiers over there and train them to kill, but we don't do anything to reintegrate them into our society," says John L. Kane, a federal judge in Denver. Earlier this month, Mr. Kane sentenced an Iraq war veteran convicted of bribery to probation instead of prison.

    Most U.S. courts don't have rules on giving veterans special consideration, says Doug Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University. But in North Carolina, if a defendant was honorably discharged from the military, judges must use that fact as a mitigating factor at sentencing. And in several states, including Tennessee and Louisiana, courts have ruled that judges are allowed to use prior military service to lessen a sentence.

    There are no special courts for veterans in the federal court system. Current sentencing laws allow federal judges to take into account a defendant's "history and characteristics," though some judges choose not to.

    But momentum for special treatment is growing. Since last year, about 16 counties and cities -- from California's Orange County, to three cities in western New York, have started veterans courts, according to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. Three counties in and around New York City launched similar programs in July, and state legislatures have approved the formation of such courts in places such as Harris County in Texas and the state of Nevada.

    The goal of the courts, which serve veterans of any era, is to keep defendants out of prison. Veterans are put into treatment programs for war-related illnesses, among other problems, that aren't available in the prison system. Their probation includes rigorous drug testing.

    After veterans complete treatment, some prosecutors' offices drop the criminal charges as long as the veterans didn't have a prior felony conviction.

    Many veterans who get probation in special courts would almost certainly have faced prison time under normal circumstances, says Mark Kammerer, a psychotherapist for the Cook County State's Attorney office in Illinois and the coordinator for the veterans court in the Chicago area.

    Some legal experts worry the movement could result in special consideration for all veterans, regardless of whether their criminal conduct was influenced by their military service.

    "What we think goes over the line is the creation of two separate systems based solely on somebody's status," says Allen Lichtenstein, the general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union in Nevada. "Police are under particular stress -- should there be a court for them?"

    Some prosecutors argue that defendants shouldn't be able to use military service as an excuse for committing crimes.

    John Cherry, a federal prosecutor in Mobile, Ala., who served in the military in Iraq, objected to a sentence of probation handed down earlier this year to a defendant who also served in Iraq. The defendant, Patrick Lett, had pleaded guilty to distributing illegal drugs in the U.S., during a brief period in 2004.

    "I, too, lost soldiers," Mr. Cherry said at a 2006 hearing. "I didn't come back and sell drugs."

    The federal judge in the case, William Steele, who also is a military veteran, said at the hearing that Mr. Lett "is to be credited for his contributions to the United States Army, to his unit and, in turn, to this country."

    Taking military service into account at sentencing isn't a new tradition. In the Civil War era, members of the military were routinely shown leniency by judges, notes Carissa Hessick, a law professor at Arizona State University. During the World War II and Vietnam eras, certain judges allowed criminal charges to be dropped if defendants enlisted in the armed forces. That practice is no longer allowed.

    Sympathy for new veterans aided John Brownfield of Cañon City, Colo. The former U.S. Air Force firefighter pleaded guilty to accepting a bribe as a public official for illegally selling tobacco to federal prison inmates while working as a correctional officer in 2007, two years after he returned from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The federal prosecutor and Mr. Brownfield's lawyer agreed to recommend to the judge that he serve a year in prison. But the judge, Mr. Kane of Denver, instead ordered a psychiatric evaluation and earlier this month sentenced Mr. Brownfield to five years of probation.

    The judge said: "It would be a grave injustice to turn a blind eye to the potential effects of multiple deployments to war zones on Brownfield's subsequent behavior."

    Write to Amir Efrati at amir.efrati@wsj.com
     
  2. SPDSNYPR

    SPDSNYPR Zippy's Friend.

    Messages:
    6,658
    Likes Received:
    169
    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2006
    Location:
    OK, USA
    If there's any group that deserves some special consideration, this is it. I have no problem with this.
     

  3. Napalm561

    Napalm561

    Messages:
    569
    Likes Received:
    5
    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2009
    Location:
    Oklahoma
    Except the Ft. Hood ******bag!
     
  4. SPDSNYPR

    SPDSNYPR Zippy's Friend.

    Messages:
    6,658
    Likes Received:
    169
    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2006
    Location:
    OK, USA
    No - difference between a vet and a traitor/terrorist.
     
  5. GPalmer

    GPalmer CLM

    Messages:
    10,521
    Likes Received:
    0
    Joined:
    May 20, 2006
    Could wind up being the gang leadership fast track. Join the military, learn the tactics, get lenient sentences... I generally favor it but that loophole would suck...
     
  6. silverado_mick

    silverado_mick

    Messages:
    1,143
    Likes Received:
    0
    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    I do agree with SOME leniency toward vets, however the misnomer that there is no help for re-intigration to society is disturbing. There is all kinds of help available, and I seem to recall spending hours upon hours in "be nice" classes upon our return.

    That being said a lot of what's out there for vets depends on the individual seeking the help for themselves.
     
  7. silverado_mick

    silverado_mick

    Messages:
    1,143
    Likes Received:
    0
    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    That douschebag is not a veteran, he's a traitor and a terrorist who should be executed by firing squad ASAP.
     
  8. steveksux

    steveksux Massive Member

    Messages:
    22,071
    Likes Received:
    3,896
    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2007
    Firing squad is too honorable. I prefer hung by the neck until dead myself.

    I like the idea in general, nobody deserves a break more. The only problem is seperating those who deserve a break vs those using it for an excuse... someone is going to abuse it if its an option.

    Randy
     
  9. walkin' trails

    walkin' trails

    Messages:
    1,302
    Likes Received:
    188
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    I encountered a couple of former military and relatitively recent combat vets a while back who got caught doing something they shouldn't have been. They were the most respectful felons I've ever encountered. Nevertheless, they knew better.
     
  10. Dukeboy01

    Dukeboy01 Pretty Ladies!

    Messages:
    3,250
    Likes Received:
    1,528
    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2000
    Location:
    Lexington, KY
    I disagree. It's a well- meaning, but misguided philosophy that ultimately infantilizes our service people. If they qualify for some sort of mental incapacitation defense due to documented trauma during their tour of duty that they are/ were being treated for, then they should use it the same as anyone else. This is awful close to the shameful "Deerhunter" mentality that was so pervasive among the elites in the '70s that says that "all" or "most" veterans are sociopathic killers and reprobates incapable of turning it off when they get back stateside.
     
  11. Blitzer

    Blitzer Cool Cat

    Messages:
    12,111
    Likes Received:
    3
    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2004
    Location:
    The communist's play ground of OHIO
    Drawn and quartered then smeared in pig fat! :steamed:
     
  12. Trigger Finger

    Trigger Finger

    Messages:
    2,316
    Likes Received:
    2
    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2008
    Location:
    Northern California
    Overall I think this is good and and I have no problems with it. In fact I think under some circumstances this should apply to some police officers.
     
  13. WarCry

    WarCry

    Messages:
    9,595
    Likes Received:
    1,090
    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2009

    The difference there is Hassan wasn't RETURNING from combat. He can't claim PTSD when he wigged out BEFORE deploying....
     
  14. matthewa5

    matthewa5

    Messages:
    220
    Likes Received:
    0
    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2009
    It's a cuddley feel good idea, but it really isnt right. For every Vet that commits a crime, there are countless Vets that do NOT. All criminals should be treated equally.

    The same goes for police officers to. They argueably already do get special treatment when they commit crimes anyway.

    I'm sure i'll be called unamerican and unthankfull, etc.. I appreciate greatly the service they've given to the country and myself. But the law is the law and there should be no special treatment.

    its more sissification of our country and unwillingness to take responsibility for your actions.
     
  15. JK-linux

    JK-linux

    Messages:
    4,098
    Likes Received:
    837
    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2009
    Location:
    North Star State
    Personally, I would hold them to a higher standard, not a lesser one. It's insulting to the millions who serve(d) that don't act like jerks.
     
  16. bharen

    bharen

    Messages:
    222
    Likes Received:
    23
    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2005
    Location:
    Georgia, USA
    Twenty three year veteran and retired warrant officer here. I respect the opinion of those who say the justice system should give veterans a break, but I strongly disagree. We need to stop excusing bad behavior, regardless of the history, circumstances or influences.

    The military spends a lot of time and effort teaching service members right from wrong and instilling in them a sense of respect and honor. If anybody should know how to behave, it is ex-servicemen and women.

    Not only would I not offer them special consideration, I'd come down on them harder. They should know better.
     
  17. blueiron

    blueiron

    Messages:
    11,258
    Likes Received:
    203
    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2004
    As a veteran, I disagree with it. Veterans are no better nor worse than public that they come from and it is discriminatory to treat them as a special class in criminal sentencing.
     
  18. lawman800

    lawman800 Juris Glocktor

    Messages:
    38,472
    Likes Received:
    118
    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2002
    Location:
    It just keeps getting better, don't it?
    There are as many idiots and criminals in the military as there are outside the military.

    I agree with leniency in the other order like they did in the 70s and 80s with a criminal being given the choice to enlist or go to jail, then we send them to Iraq!

    I don't agree on leniency on the other end after they come out.
     
  19. Gulfcop

    Gulfcop Glockaholic

    Messages:
    272
    Likes Received:
    3
    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2004
    Location:
    Texas
    All should be treated equally under the law. That is my thought on the matter.
     
  20. AngryBassets

    AngryBassets Jagenden Übel

    Messages:
    2,085
    Likes Received:
    500
    Joined:
    May 26, 2003
    Location:
    NJ: Our fatty governor hates cops.
    A person's criminal history is taken into account when sentencing, so why shouldn't something someone did willingly to help society?