This won’t take long.
There’s no denying that American justice is not dispensed equally — or justly — among Americans, especially when it comes to sentencing.
The rich fare better than the poor. Women are treated more leniantly than men. Blacks are treated more harshly than whites.
Generally speaking. This is well documented.
Less so are the sensibilities of judges.
First, I state my bias. I support law and order, and by that I mean laws that are fair and evenly enforced.
It’s no surprise they are not.
The Wednesday Inquirer front-paged a story reporting that the sentences requested by federal prosecutors for the local George Floyd rioters were cut so drastically by judges it seemed like a GM Red Tag sale.
When then-U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain brought federal arson charges against those who had set fire to police cars during the riots, he wanted them sent away for as much as seven years.
But the sentencing, the Inquirer reported, “resulted in significantly lighter punishment.” None of them got anywhere near seven years.
The Inquirer focused on remarks made by Judge Joel M. Slomsky, appointed to the federal bench in 2008 by President George W. Bush.
“Nobody’s saying that this was not a serious offense,” Slomsky said as he sentenced the last of the defendants — Marquise Williams, 29, of Philadelphia — to 14 months behind bars, the Inquirer reported.
“The events that happened that day were tragic in many, many ways — beginning with the death of George Floyd,” Slomsky added. “Mr. Williams, like many, got caught up in the emotion of that day.”
He concluded that the defendants’ behavior during the riot was in most cases an anomaly stoked by communal outrage over Floyd’s death. Slomsky sounded more like a defense attorney than a judge.
“In looking at this situation, I really come away thinking we won’t see her again in a criminal courtroom,” said U.S. District Judge Barclay Surrick as he sentenced a 37-year-old massage therapist who firebombed a police car, one of two destroyed. (Philly police cars cost $60,000 each, $120,000 for the two.) “I think she’s learned her lesson,” the Inquirer reported.
Now — couldn’t those same remarks be applied to most of the Jan. 6 rioters at the Capitol?
Each riot was an attack on an institution of society — the police, government. The attack on the Capitol was more severe, no doubt, but couldn’t what the federal judges said about the Philly rioters be applied to the D.C. rioters, who — in the main — got very harsh sentences? Would Judge Slomsky have been as magnanimous if the Social Justice Warriors had done $120,000 worth of damage in his courtroom?
No remarks about the communal outrage they felt about a (not) stolen election, the emotion of the day, and, really, how many of them would be in court again?
Mostly they were ordinary citizens, bedazzled by the lies of their leader, swept up in the moment to commit crimes of trespass, breaking and entering, and even assault on police.
Don’t get me wrong. I have little sympathy for them. The same for the Philly rioters. Grievances do not write a permission slip for violence.
I am merely drawing your attention to a vast disparity of sentencing between a riot that judges seemed to forgive, George Floyd, and one they won’t, Jan. 6. Is that even-handed justice?