Criminal Justice

Federal, State Judges in Sentencing Spat

A career criminal’s almost-successful effort to circumvent a lengthy federal sentence by persuading a state court judge to vacate an earlier conviction has been foiled after the state court judge changed her mind about doing so.

But U.S. District Court Judge William Young obviously was still irked about the incident yesterday, reports the Boston Globe. Before lecturing the defendant, as he awaited sentencing, Young lectured the other judge, although she wasn’t present and he didn’t mention her by name, the newspaper says.

The incident apparently reflects, at least in part, a disagreement about the appropriate sentence to give a small-time drug dealer who reportedly refused to cooperate with an investigation of police officers.

William Leahy, who serves as chief counsel for the state public defender agency, was not involved in the case but had a strong opinion, too. He said state judges should indeed consider vacating relatively minor convictions to prevent federal prosecutors from going overboard.

“The sentencing system currently in effect in the federal courts is disgraceful,” Leahy says.

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