Harsh Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Law Example December 11, 2012Posted by FairSentencing in : Effects of Measure 11 , trackback
Here is an update from Julie Stewart:
If the case of Chris Williams does not convince you that mandatory minimum sentencing laws are cruel and stupid, nothing will. Williams operated a marijuana dispensary in Montana after voters in that state legalized the medical use of marijuana in 2004. Federal law still prohibits marijuana distribution, however, and Williams and his partners were indicted by the federal government in 2011 on drug charges. (The states’ rights issue in this case is huge and very important but for the moment not what I want to tell you about.)
Williams wanted to exercise his constitutional right to a trial because he thought Montana’s law protected his activity. But on September 27, a federal jury convicted Williams not only of drug crimes, but also of four counts of possessing firearms “in furtherance of” those crimes. Williams kept legally registered pistols and shotguns at his marijuana operation. He didn’t use them to hurt anyone. In fact, he never even wielded them. He just had them.
Alas, being convicted of just having guns condemned him to the notorious gun “stacking” mandatory minimum: a five-year mandatory prison sentence for the first gun charge and 25 years in prison for each subsequent offense. Even worse, the law requires that the sentences must be served consecutively, one after the other!
As a result, Chris Williams, who was running a state-authorized marijuana dispensary in Montana, will get at least 80 years in prison when he is sentenced in January. (Five years for the first gun + 25 + 25 + 25 for the other three.) Killers, kidnappers, and rapists don’t get sentences that long, but the judge who sentences Williams will not be allowed to consider that fact. Or any facts, really, because mandatory minimum sentences blindfold judges to the facts and circumstances of a crime and the defendant.
So when people ask you why you support FAMM, you can recite all kinds of very important statistics and facts about how counterproductive and destructive mandatory minimums are.
Or you can answer them with two words: Chris Williams.
And when they learn about this absurd case, they will get it. And they’ll want to join you in supporting FAMM so we can kill mandatory minimum sentences like the one Chris Williams is likely to receive.