Former AG Mukasey: Holder Has Wrong Approach on Mandatory Sentences

Tuesday, 13 Aug 2013 06:21 AM

By Greg Richter

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Former U.S. Attorney Gen. Michael Mukasey agrees with current A.G. Eric Holder's goal to end mandatory sentencing, but he thinks it should be done through passing new laws, not by just ignoring the current ones.

"Mandatory minimums impose a certain rigidity in sentencing that's not appropriate in the individual case," Mukasey said Monday on CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper."

Congress has already passed a law that says judges don't have to follow mandatory minimums if certain criteria are met, such as the defendant having no criminal history and if there was no violence involved, Mukasey explained.

But that law applies at the sentencing stage, he said. Holder is ordering prosecutors to apply it at the charging stage "when you know very little about a defendant, right after he's arrested, and many of those criteria may not be met."

Mukasey said that when he was attorney general under President George W. Bush he discussed eliminating mandatory minimums with Congressional committees. But it was a "non-starter at that time," he said, "I think because politicians, let's face it, get elected by being tough on crime."

Holder announced the new policy Monday in a speech to the American Bar Association in San Francisco. The move is a major policy shift against the "War on Drugs" begun by President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

Mukasey said he would be happy to work with Holder to find proper ways to change mandatory sentencing laws.


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