Sentencing/Post Conviction

Federal judge uses blog to advocate clemency for woman he sentenced 21 years ago

But for the office and background of the man who wrote it, a pointed blog post about the Justice Department’s new clemency effort to get nonviolent offenders out of prison perhaps wouldn’t carry such power:

“Sorry Ms. Hasan. Time flies. In your absence, your children have grown up and had children of their own. Why did it take us so long? It’s complicated. Shit happens,” wrote Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf of Nebraska on his blog Hercules and the Umpire.

Twenty-one years ago, Judge Kopf reluctantly sentenced Hamedah Ali Hasan, a pregnant mother of two young children with no criminal history, to what amounted to life in prison under sentencing guidelines for distributing crack cocaine. In the interim, as detailed in a lengthy blog post Wednesday, the judge has worked hard to get her sentence reduced.

In 1998, after sentencing guidelines changed, Kopf granted Hasan’s motion to reduce her sentence. An 8th Circuit panel upheld him; but the en banc court, with four dissents, did not, using an intricate measure based on how the original sentence was crafted.

Since then, Judge Kopf has personally sought clemency for Hasan. President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder “have known for a long time that the clemency process was a sham,” wrote Kopf. Even now, “they deserve no credit for doing the right thing at this late date.”

On Wednesday, the DOJ sent letters to all U.S. attorneys, asking for assistance with a sweeping initiative to remove from prison thousands of nonviolent drug offenders who have already served more than 10 years.

In Thursday’s post, Kopf asked whether Nebraska’s U.S. attorney Deborah Gilg will notify the DOJ’s Pardon Attorney’s office that Ms. Hasan is a “meritorious candidate” for commutation of her sentence. “Mrs. Gilg, are you listening?”

Kopf, whose blog was featured in the ABA Journal’s 2013 Blawg 100, had briefly retired from blogging in January, but resumed in March after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

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