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March 9, 2019


Professor Kennedy in her blog today took a cue from a column written by a New York Times columnist to the effect that politicians are saying that we have to get back to the good old days when things were normal but that those good old days set the stage for the emergence of a Trump and were therefore not so good. Other contributors to her blog pointed out the lenient time in prison the federal judge gave Manafort yesterday as proof of our decline in civic grace and responsibility to treat white collar crime and other crime alike. My response, slightly edited, was as follows.

The new normal and the old normal are much alike. White collar crime in my day was punished more leniently than today, too, but that doesn’t make it right, either then or now, and I applaud the Times writer for suggesting that a return to the old is not necessarily a good thing. Truth is, we can improve on both, having been burned by both the Nixon era corruption and now with the Trump era corruption, and with other corruption awaiting us unless we act in view of the judge’s lenient decision yesterday.

I had guessed that the judge would not give Mueller all the time he wanted within the sentencing guidelines and that he would hang a 10 or 12 year term on Manafort. I was wrong. He only hung 47 months with time served on this terminally corrupt dictator-loving fraud, though in the judge’s defense those offenses were not within the purview of the specific charges before his court.

Aside from the leniency of penalty, I thought the judge’s unnecessary commentary for the record that Manafort except for these crimes had led a “blameless” life was not justified by the record and here observe that the same could be said of serial killers like Hitler, i.e., that between gas chambers and other such offenses he too had led a blameless life.

I think, finally, that while a judge has discretion within sentencing guidelines the Congress should take a new look at the guidelines and identify a minimum sentence for specific crimes, after which a judge’s discretion would come into play. While the rule of law is always to be observed, we should not allow it to be subverted by too much discretion afforded the judiciary, thus seeing to it that it is rationally applied in courtrooms across the country.     GERALD        E

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