Friday, May 23, 2014

"Mr. President: Plenty of Applications in Hand !"

Megan Quattlebaum
Megan Quattlebaum, co-counsel for one Michael Keating, with Blair Brown of Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, has an interesting editorial at Huffington Post. She summarizes her client's case as follows:
Shortly after high school, Michael Keating fell in with a bad crowd in his rural hometown in Missouri, and began experimenting with meth. By the age of 20, he was hooked and using the drug on a daily basis. He met a man who said that if Michael allowed him to use the woods behind his house to produce drugs, he would give the young addict some of what he made. Soon thereafter, police officers received information that meth was being made at Michael's home. They searched his property and found a bucket of waste water in the backyard. Although the waste water contained less than a gram of methamphetamine, pursuant to the Eastern District of Missouri's practice (which has been rejected by the majority of federal circuit courts and the U.S. Sentencing Commission) Michael, the sole defendant in the case, was charged as though the entire weight of the water in the bucket -- more than 2,700 grams -- was a marketable drug. He was sentenced to serve more than 11 years in federal prison. 
Quattlebaum finds the DOJ's recent announcement to re-tool the process for commutations of sentence "a laudable initiative" but laments that fact that it will probably not help Mr. Keating, who has only served seven and a half years in prison (not ten, which, at present, is the number the DOJ's initiative appears to require). Quattlebaum argues there is a real need to "go even further to right the wrongs of failed sentencing policies." Or, more specifically, there is a need to give "a hard look at individual cases."

Keating, for example, has completed an in-patient rehabilitation program, has "a perfect disciplinary record," has completed "thousands of hours of apprenticeship and vocational training," and:
[his] record inside is so good that the federal prison in which he is incarcerated frequently lets him out: Michael serves as a town driver for the facility, running errands outside the prison in an official vehicle. He could try to escape, but he doesn't. That's what it means to be rehabilitated. 
Finally, Ms. Quattlebaum argues what we have now argued here, many times: While bills are pending in both houses that would "move sentencing policy in the right direction," the President "should not wait for the legislature to act in cases of manifest injustice." Indeed, "the clemency power is not an invention of an activist president but a guarantee of Article II of the United States Constitution." BRAVO !

Michael Keating's clemency application has been pending for over two years and is one of almost 3,000 upon which the Pardon Attorney has not yet acted. Quattlebaum notes, "In addition to seeking out new submissions, the President should take a close look at those he has in hand." See the complete editorial here.

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