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New Orleans looters get 15 years
Posted by: McQ on Thursday, June 29, 2006

In sentencing 3 looters who had taken beer, wine and liquor during Hurricane Katrina, the judge said he was sending a message:
The judge said he wanted to send a message that looting would not be tolerated when he gave the maximum sentence to Coralnelle Little, 36, Rhonda McGowen, 42, and Paul C. Pearson, 36, all of Kenner.

A jury convicted the trio May 2 on a portion of the state's looting law that took effect two weeks before the Aug. 29 storm. The amended law set a three-year minimum sentence, and a maximum of 15 years in prison, for looting during a declared state of emergency.
Heck, if the three had been smart they'd have simply applied for their $2,000 debit cards and bought the stuff. And frankly 15 years seems a little excessive for what was essentially a non-violent crime. While looting is a serious offense, I think a couple of years would have made the point very satisfactorily

No word on what message other judges plan to send when those who defrauded FEMA and other relief agencies are caught and brought to trial.

Oh wait, yes there is:
Two men each have been sentenced to a year in prison, a $5,000 fine and two years of supervised release in a Hurricane Katrina fraud case, U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton said.

Mitchell Glen Kendrix, of Memphis, Tenn., and Paul Darrell Nelson of Lisbon, Maine, pleaded guilty on March 21 in U.S. District Court in Hattiesburg. Lampton said sentencing was done Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett in Hattiesburg.

Kendrix and Nelson were charged in December with conspiracy to commit bribery of a federal official for allegedly making a deal to falsify debris removal documents after Hurricane Katrina.

The two could have been sentenced each to up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Anyone, do you see any difference in the intent of the two groups to steal? Different circumstances, different approaches, same intent. And the second group which got off lightly sure stood to gain more than the liquor thieves. So why is one group getting the maximum penalty and the other getting the minimum? Essentially because of the whim of the judges.

This is what I don't like about our justice system. I wish I had a solution, but I don't. But I'm certainly willing to listen to yours.
 
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Put sentencing into the hands of juries, along with information as the average sentence for those guilty of the crime, and let prosecution and defense explain why they should deviate from that average.

It will always be someone’s arbitrary decision. Make it a decision of twelve people (who are theoretically chosen randomly and evenhandedly).

Better for obviously poor decisions to be the fault of such randomness than a result of the political process.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
I’ve always thought it was odd that the "prescribed" term for various offenses was so vague. I mean
The amended law set a three-year minimum sentence, and a maximum of 15 years in prison,

So, the judge has wide discretion, based on his personal feelings about the defendant and the circumstances, to award from 3 to 15 years. What if the range was only 3-6 years?

That said, part of the discrepancy involved in the two stories you cited is due to the different ranges for the different crimes involved. Even if the defrauders had gotten the maximum sentence for that crime, it’s still only 5 years, while the looters got 15. That disparity seems to be based on the whim of the legislature.
 
Written By: jinnmabe
URL: http://
That disparity seems to be based on the whim of the legislature.
A whole lot of satisfying whims in the entire procedure then, huh?

I don’t know, it just strikes me as so arbitrary considering the crimes involved.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Also, looting is a more physical and tactically dangerous act. It invites the armed intervention of the state, passersby, and property owners in a way that clerical fraud does not.

I think on balance it is more serious crime, although the specific circumstances of this case may make it less so.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Message to whom? Potentitial future looters from his jurisdiction?
The place to deal with looters is on the spot, then you are sending a message. Now, it’s just a couple of guys who did a B&E (during a time of crisis).

 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Traditionally, sentencing in the U.S. has been at the discretion of the sentencing judge, bound only by what had been large ranges set by the legistaures (5 to 15 years was not uncommon). This was knwon as indeterminate sentencing. The trend in the past couple of dceades has been to more tightly circumscribe the discretion afforded the presiding judge. Initially, this came in the form of manadatory minimum sentences; eventually Congress (and many state legislatures) promulgated sentencing guidelines, which proscribe a narrow sentencing range from which the judge may depart only for defined reasons. (Legislatures also continued enacting mandatory minimum sentences, particularly for crimes that engendered notable uproar, e.g. narcotics, child pornography, etc.) Presumptive sentencing guidelines, however, were declared unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court last year. Legislatures have not yet reacted much to the SCOTUS decision, presumably awaiting the practical results on sentencing decisions. To date, there has not been a return to indeterminate sentencing (at least in the Federal system). Instead, there has emerged a semi-determinate sentencing regime, where the sentencing guidelines are treated as significant, though not presumptive.

As for the disparities between the legislatively-mandated penalties for various forms of theft, well, Tom Perkins’ explanation is sensible and plausible. Would that so much thought actually went into such decisions. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, these things seem to be determined much more by politics than they are by policy.
 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://dsthinkingloud.blogspot.com/
The place to deal with looters is on the spot, then you are sending a message.
Shoot ’em all and let God sort ’em.
 
Written By: DCB
URL: http://
I was thinking more along the lines of detention and quick trial.
But it does bring to mind the reason that historically looters (and arsonists) are threatened with shooting during times of crisis.

I don’t see how sentencing these guys now spreads any different message than the one already sent for people who burgle a liquor store on a quiet Sunday morning.

If he wants to sentence them to the max, that’s his option, but let’s not pretend it sent some special message to people that they’re going to recall during the next hurricane spawned looting opportunity.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
I was thinking more along the lines of detention and quick trial.
But it does bring to mind the reason that historically looters (and arsonists) are threatened with shooting during times of crisis.

I don’t see how sentencing these guys now spreads any different message than the one already sent for people who burgle a liquor store on a quiet Sunday morning.

If he wants to sentence them to the max, that’s his option, but let’s not pretend it sent some special message to people that they’re going to recall during the next hurricane spawned looting opportunity.
It all depends on when the next hurricane spawned looting opportunity is, now doesn’t it? In case you missed it, it’s hurricane season again. Plus, burglars are frequently shot and the victims not prosecuted in Louisiana.

Kinda takes all the fun out of it if there’s no one home to shoot them and all they get is one year in the hoosegow as punishment for essentially the same crime. Hell, boy - that’s REWARDING looting!

And in conclusion, I live in Kenner. F*ck ’em.
 
Written By: Jeff
URL: http://
But it does bring to mind the reason that historically looters (and arsonists) are threatened with shooting during times of crisis.
And that’s the reasoning. I’ma just doing my part for a kinder gentler America, if possible.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Over at Wizbang! their resident N’awlinner, Paul, talks about this. The three were convicted over a recently passed anti-looting law. Also, he mentions that there is a no-prosecute statute for a property owner who shoots a burgler.
 
Written By: Ted
URL: http://rocketjones.mu.nu
Heck, if the three had been smart they’d have simply applied for their $2,000 debit cards and bought the stuff.

What? Did you think there was a store anywhere near Kenner that was open at the time? Like it or not alcoholics need drink.

Did you think there was a working phone or an internet connection to apply for a FEMA grants?

Don’t you realize that most of the fraud committed against FEMA came from FEMA? My guess is not, but let me explain. When FEMA announced it was going to issue debit cards I was horrified. I gave them my bank account number and they deposited my grant in a few days. I had to wait, but I was able to buy life sustaing things with it. Oh yes, I even bought beer!

Let me ask you a question, "Have you ever heard of a single purchase that was considered fradulent that was paid by check?" No, of course not. That would be illegal. No one but myself can disclose my private purchases. So how does Dom Perion purchases make it to the evening news? Simple they were bought with debit cards easily tracked by the govt. But did they track the people who made the purchases? Hell no. Why? Same reason. They are entitlted to their privacy.

Ok, let me tie it all together for you. If someone who worked for FEMA could allow just one case of debit cards to disappear, fall off a truck, miss a shipment, whatever... and let’s say that a case of debit cards totals 5000 units, then that would be one million dollars. Wow, with that kind of money I guess they did buy the Dom, a Humm-vee, and all kinds of stuff that would make the average tax payer scream if they saw it on TV.

So I have to beg the question of what is worse, an alchy stealling a bottle or FRAUD commited by the very people who are given high paying jobs to help tax paying citizens, like myself, in a time of need?

Please think before you blog, if you want to be taken seriously.
 
Written By: the real deal
URL: yahoo.com
Please think before you blog, if you want to be taken seriously.
Heh ... I guess sarcasm is just lost on some people.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Being from Louisiana, I’m seeing this a little differently.

Seems to me that what this judge did was impose a cost upon taxpayers of roughly $1.5MM dollars so HE could set an example! (i.e. avg cost of $35K/yr to house an inmate in state prison times 15 years times 3 persons.)

As an earlier commenter pointed out, this was a non-violent crime, a crime against property, so why should they be put in jail at huge taxpayer cost as opposed to other forms of punishment, e.g. fines, work programs, etc.?

 
Written By: pencarrow
URL: http://
Having moved out of Katina ravaged Louisiana. I can believe that discrepancy in sentencing. They should have all gone up before the same judge maybe the sentencing would have been a little harsher on the ones who got a slap on the hand.

I am betting that the looters were black while the others were white. The money that changed between politicians in Louisiana and the money paid out to politicians get the contracts to clean up was a lot.

The looters were lucky that someone did not shoot them. I thought that all looters should be shot. If they were there would not be so much looting. Now I can see if they took food or water or something necessary to sustain life. Well maybe beer and liquor was necessary at that point.

The stress certainly drove me to a little more drinking. We were in the manditory evacuation of the city north of New Orleans. Many who did not evacuate were white and very dead. Floating in the lake Ponchetrain. Men, Women, Children, Babies a bad sight to see. Worse for those collecting the bodies.
 
Written By: M. Wilson
URL: http://

 
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