Prison jail generic.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
President Barack Obama had no reservations attempting to block the execution of
Humberto Leal Garcia, a Mexican man that was convicted in 1994 of the rape and
murder of a 16-yearold girl in San Antonio. On July 5, 2011, The Guardian
reported that: “The White House has asked the US Supreme Court to put the
execution of Humberto Leal Garcia on hold while Congress passes a law that would
prevent the convicted rapist and murderer from being put to death along with
dozens of other foreign nationals who were denied proper access to diplomatic
representation before trials for capital crimes.”
Of course we all also
remember the president’s public comments regarding allegations of police
misconduct in the arrest of Henry Louis Gates on July 16, 2009.
case Obama seized the opportunity to point out that “[r]ace is still a troubling
aspect of our society” and implored all Americans to calmly ponder ways to
improve race relations “between police officers and minority
While Obama did not intervene in the local matter, he did
use the moment to reflect on wider concerns of addressing police-community
COMPARE THAT to the president’s silence regarding the case of
Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, who was convicted of bank fraud and sentenced by
District Court Judge Linda Rae Reade to 27 years in prison for his mishandling
of a revolving loan from First Bank Business Capital of St. Louis, as well as
Aside from the fact that Judge Reade’s extrajudicial
ex-parte secret meetings with the prosecution were wholly inappropriate and
undermined the fairness of the trial, a sentence of 27 years should be reserved
for the most hardened criminals in our society, not a first-time, nonviolent
offense. The ACLU, the Washington Legal Foundation and the National Association
of Criminal Defense Lawyers filed supporting briefs in the
District and appellate courts have repeatedly imposed and
approved single digit sentences in higher-dollar-loss white-collar
But the White House has not reacted to those appeals.
White House petition documented that over 75 law professors, including three
former deputy attorneysgeneral, and 47 members of the House of Representatives
separately and independently wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder calling for
an investigation into prosecutorial misconduct surrounding Rubashkin’s
A staggering 52,226 signed that petition – the
president promised he would respond to any petition garnering 5,000 signatures -
but Obama has yet to reply to the specifics of Rubashkin’s case or even address
the broader policy concerns surrounding sentencing disparities.
administration said only that “[w]ith respect to law enforcement matters, the
Department of Justice is charged with investigating crime and enforcing our
laws” and that there are already “mechanisms in place to investigate allegations
of prosecutorial misconduct.”
Sentencing disparities are well documented
in our criminal justice system. A substantive response addressing the merits of
Rubashkin’s claims may not be expected, but the Obama administration’s deafening
silence failed to even acknowledge the bigger policy issue surrounding
sentencing disparities in cases of prosecutorial misconduct.
particular case a Jewish man received a punishment that does not fit the crime,
but a majority of unfair sentences in the United States are handed down to black
people, Hispanics and members of other minority groups. It’s shameful and
insensitive that Obama would not even take the time to acknowledge sentencing
disparities in our system, even if he reserved comment on the merits of this
particular case due to understandable separation of power concerns.
was quick to attempt to prevent an execution of a man convicted of the rape and
murder of an innocent 16-year-old girl and comment on a local police incident
that he believed had racial undertones. In the first three years of his
presidency he has granted clemency 17 times, including for several drug-related
convictions. In light of those examples, his silence in the case of a nonviolent
first-time offender with widespread public support speaks volumes.
we can only hope the Supreme Court grants certiorari, or even for the less-likely
scenario of a presidential pardon for Rubashkin.
We can only hope and
pray for one of these remedies to remove this stain of injustice.The
writer is a graduate of the City University of New York School of Law, where he
served as an executive editor of the law review. He has advocated for gender
equality in voting rights, sexual abuse awareness and better police-community
relations in Crown Heights.