Time Magazine:HBO’s The Sentence Shines a Light on the Devastating Effects of Mandatory Minimum Sentences

As you read this, keep in mind that the people sentenced in the Mueller probe, people who pled guilty of subverting democracy, received weeks in prison.  We are not prosecuting white collar and corporate crimes.

October 16, 2018

Rudy Valdez at first thought the 15-year prison sentence given to his sister Cindy Shank was a clerical error. The judge had probably meant to give her 15 months, he reasoned. Shank, whose sentence was later commuted, had been found guilty of conspiracy on drug charges, related to the crimes of an ex-boyfriend who had died years ago. Valdez says he thought he’d be able to fix it.

But, Valdez says, a quick Google search showed there hadn’t been a mistake. Shank was one of thousands of people in the U.S. sent to prison under mandatory minimum sentences — automatic prison terms mandated by the government. Roughly six years before her conviction, Shank lived in Lansing, Mich., with a boyfriend who dealt drugs and was later killed. She initially faced state charges in 2002 for conspiracy to distribute cocaine, but the case was dropped. In 2007, Shank was married and had two children, with a third on the way, when she was arrested on revived charges of conspiracy in the federal government’s investigation into her boyfriend’s drug enterprise. After a trial that same year, Shank was sentenced to 15 years, the mandatory minimum for her charge, and sent to federal prison after the birth of her third daughter.

Butina reported to be negotiating a plea agreement


NBC (Winter, 11/16/18) is reporting that Mariia Butina is negotiating a plea deal with prosecutors.   Lawyers for Butina and prosecutors asked the judge for two more weeks before going ahead with scheduled hearings because they were negotiating “a potential resolution.”  Butina is facing charges of conspiracy and failing to register as a foreign agent.

On Thursday, Butina’s lawyers asked the court to dismiss the charges against her.  They argued that one of the statutes under which Butina is charged is unconstitutionally vague.  They also argued that she was being charged with two crimes for the same act.  They say the charge of conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government is duplicating the failure to register charge (Hsu, 11/15/18).

Butina is being charged with helping her ex-boss, Alexander Torshin, “infiltrate politically powerful US. Organizations, including the NRA…”  It is thought that she served as a special assistant to Torshin, a “former Russian senator and deputy head of Russia’s central bank…”  Torshin was sanctioned by the Treasury Department in April of 2018 for having links to organized crimes (Winter, 11/16/18).

Her colleague and domestic partner, Paul Erickson, introduced Butina to influencital people in the Republican Party.  He also sought to organize a meeting between Trump and Alexander Torshin at a May 2016 NRA convention.  Troshin and Butina briefly chatted with Donald Trump Jr. during a dinner at the convention (Hsu, 11/15/18).

The Russian government has been active in trying to get Butina released.  There have been six consular visits to her in jail, four diplomatic notes, two personal complaints by Sergey Lavrov to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and the official Kremlin Twitter account made Butina’s face its avatar (Hsu, 11/15/18).

Hsu, Spencer S.  (11/15/18)  Maria Butina, alleged Russian agent, asks U.S. court to dismiss charges as unconstitutional.”  The Washington Post.

Winter, Tom  (11//16/18)  “Alleged Russian operative Mariia Butina negotiating with prosecutors.  Washington Post.


Podcast Commentaries: Trump, Inc. and Intercept, Chris Hedges, House Investigations and Christian Fascists


Commentators on the podcast, Trump, Inc., are saying that high level Democrats feel that it is necessary to take it slowly and carefully when they start investigating Trump.  Evidently, they are afraid of looking like the Republicans conducting Bengazi.  What is the matter with Democrats?  How did they become so gutless?  Doesn’t anybody care anymore what’s right?

As I said days ago, I didn’t vote for the Democrats so they could be nice.  I didn’t vote for them so they could compromise with the Republicans.  There is no way to compromise with the Republicans.  I want Trump et. al. investigated.

Podcast: Trump, Inc. “The Emolument Suit Against Trump That is Moving Ahead.”

This is an essential podcast.

Podcast: Intercepted.  Chris Hedges on elections, “Christian Fascists” and the Rot Within the American System.”  November 7, 2018.

I just recently made a yearly contribution supporting the Intercept.  If you’re tired of listening to the same old rehash of stories on Cable News, try the Intercept.  Always interesting, always challenging, always a different take.

Just Posting from Yesterday: November 13, 2018

The Washington Post is reporting that hate crimes rose 17% last year.

The New York Times is reporting that shortly after the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, one of the kill team phoned and instructed his superior to “tell your boss.”  They are not certain that this was Prince Mohammed bin Salman, but it is likely.

One of the suspects identified by Turkey in the murder, has been closely identified with bin Salman, three others are linked by witnesses to bin Salman’s security detail.  A fifth man, the doctor, “holds senior positions in the Saudi Interior Ministry and medical establishment.” (NYT, 10/17/18)

CNN has filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court to reinstate the White House credentials of Jim Acosta (NYT 11/13/18).

Jerome Corsi, a conspiracy theorist and associate of Roger Stone, and said that he expects to be indicted by Mueller for lying to investigators.  In a UTube live stream, he whined about his age and asked listeners for money to cover his legal fees.  Corsi has said that he believes he committed no crime.

Some Thoughts on Sunday: Matt Whitaker, Nancy Pelosi, Democrats, Indictments, Voter Suppression



Voter Suppression.  We wouldn’t have all these voter suppression efforts had the Supreme Court not eviscerated the Voting Rights Act.  The situation in Florida is turning out to look very much like the phony “riot” that took place when the Republican Party sent their operatives into Florida in 2000 to intimidate people out of continuing to count votes.

Joe Scarborough in a typical delusional rant last week, argued that in 2000 Republicans sent people to Florida to make sure all the votes were counted.  Sorry, but that’s just a lie.  This lie rivals Scarborough’s refusal to admit that he and the dreadful Mika helped Trump get elected.

Please remember that people like Elise Jordan who tries to pass herself off as a moderate supported Kavanaugh and during the hearings, retweeted a tweet asserting that the Ford accusation was a matter of mistaken identity.

Matt Whitaker should have never been anywhere near the Justice Department in an official capacity.  He should have never been Sessions’ Chief of Staff much less Acting Attorney General.  This man is a political operative (like Kavanaugh), a scam artist,  someone who feels (like Trump) he is above the law.  Whitaker was part of a company that was closed down and fined millions for defrauding people (including vets who they targeted).  He also ignored a ruling that he return profits from this company.

The Trump Administration is a daily example of the bias in the criminal justice system.  Scam artists and thieves like Matt Whitaker, Donald Trump and Paul Manafort  violated the law for years without being prosecuted.   They think they can get away with it because they have all their adult lives.  We cannot continue to have a country where white collar and corporate criminals are allowed to operate without consequences or are given slap-on-the-wrist sentences.

Mike Pence, Matt Whitaker and others in the Trump Administration are dangerous right wing religious zealots.   They do not believe in the separation of church and state, one of the foundations of the constitutional system in this country.  They must be removed from office.

Rep. Brian Higgins of New York, soon to be a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, is soft peddling (as is Nancy Pelosi) the resolve of the Democrats to investigate Trump.  Pundits on Cable News are all saying that the American people don’t want the congress to spend their time investigating, they want compromise, bi-partisanship.  I’m sorry, but I don’t think that’s correct.  I did not vote for, work for, contribute to the campaigns of Democrats for them to cave in to an out-of-control right-wing set of Republicans.  I didn’t vote for them to compromise.  I voted for them to fight for us, to fight for regular people.

Donald Trump needs to be indicted.  We cannot have a criminal running the country.

Well, that’s not it, but it’s enough for one afternoon.  I’m going to walk my cat.


The Continuing Push Back onWhittaker

whittakerFBI Is Investigating Florida Company Where Whitaker Was Advisory-Board Member

Active case is being handled by FBI Miami office; acting attorney general oversees FBI

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is conducting a criminal investigation of a Florida company accused of scamming millions from customers during the period that Matthew Whitaker, the acting U.S. attorney general, served as a paid advisory-board member, according to an alleged victim who was contacted by the FBI and other people familiar with the matter.


Wall Street Journal story on the centrality of Trump in directing violations of campaign-finance laws

Donald Trump Played Central Role in Hush Payoffs to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.

Federal prosecutors have gathered evidence of president’s participation in transactions that violated campaign-finance laws,

Whittaker’s Appointment is Illegal, Excerpts from the Kaytyal/Conway Op-Ed

whittaker“…Mr. Trump’s installation of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general of the United States after forcing the resignation of Jeff Sessions is unconstitutional. It’s illegal. And it means that anything Mr. Whitaker does, or tries to do, in that position is invalid.”

“It defies one of the explicit checks and balances set out in the Constitution, a provision designed to protect us all against the centralization of government power.”

“For the president to install Mr. Whitaker as our chief law enforcement officer is to betray the entire structure of our charter document.”