Kevin Sharp, now a former Federal judge of Tennessee, gave a speech at the Cato institute on why he was unable to preside with a clean conscience. I’ll skip most of the speech to focus on two examples Sharp gave during the speech to explain his decision to give up a lifetime appointment after six years of service. By way of Instapundit.
Ultimately, President Obama nominated me, and the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed me. When I took the bench in 2011, I was a former military, God-and-country, middle-of-the-road guy. I took my job very seriously. I understood the importance of the judiciary. …
Early on, I sentenced a young man, Antonio, who was 27. He was charged as a felon in possession of a firearm. He had been convicted of two armed robberies at 17 years old. At 27, Antonio is doing what we all hope a criminal defendant does after being convicted: he gets a job. He is in contact with his family. He does not do drugs. He does not drink. But Antonio had been doing one thing that he should not have been.
Antonio was driving down the street and, without being too graphic, he and his girlfriend were engaged in an activity that caused him to cross slightly over the double-yellow line. The police saw it and pulled him over. The police suspected his girlfriend was a prostitute, so they split Antonio and his girlfriend up and asked them questions. The police realized based on her answers that she in fact was Antonio’s girlfriend. Then, the police said, “OK, we are going to let you go. Oh, by the way, do you mind if we search your car?” Antonio, forgetting that he had an unloaded pistol under the front seat of his car, responded, “No, go ahead.”
Antonio was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Because he was convicted as an adult in his prior crimes, his mandatory minimum sentence was 15 years. I read his case and thought this could not be right. Fifteen years? What are “mandatory minimums”? I did not fully understand what they were at the time. I spent the next several days trying to figure out how to get around the minimum sentence — it cannot be done.
Two points. One, I can accept a judge with limited experience with criminal law; civilian oversight is an American tradition; but I cannot accept a judge with deficient knowledge of criminal law. Sharp not understanding sentencing guidelines indicates Obama didn’t select him for his competence.
And two, why is he upset that a convicted armed robber, who obviously served less than ten years in prison for two armed robberies, is going down hard for possessing a firearm that he knew he was not allowed to have? If he’s impulsive enough to fuck his girl while driving a car then he’s impulsive enough to do another armed robbery with the handgun he kept ready. Thank God the police searched his car and caught him early.
There are real sob stories about minimum sentencing but this is not one of them.
Several years later, I had the same conversation with myself. This time, the case involved a 22-year-old kid, Chris Young. He was caught up with a group of members of the Vice Lords, a gang known for running cocaine and crack through middle Tennessee. Chris was not a member of this gang. He was an aspiring rapper who would hang out with members of the Vice Lords because one of the gang members had a studio. He was occasionally asked to make crack, but he did not know how.
Chris was arrested as part of a 30-person indictment for drug conspiracy. Chris was such a minor player in the drug conspiracy — he did not even know how to make crack. I think the only reason the DEA arrested him was because he happened to be at a gas station when they took down the Vice Lords’ leader. He was at the wrong place with the wrong group at the wrong time. The only evidence showing Chris’s connection to the gang were tapes from their wiretaps where Chris is talking to the gang’s leader about how he cannot figure out why the crack he has cooked did not turn out right. The leader gets frustrated and finally says, “I’ll just come over and do it myself.” That was basically the extent of it.
The prosecutor told Chris, “You can plead guilty, and we will give you twelve years.” Chris is 22 and thinks, “12 years, no! I’m so minor in all of this, I will go to and win at trial.” His lawyer convinces him that he should not go to trial, given his two prior drug convictions (one for less than half a gram of crack, which is about a sugar packet of crack) and the penalty he could face if convicted again — a mandatory life sentence. At this point, the prosecutor changes his mind and says, “12 years was last week’s price — this week’s price is 22 years, and if you turn this down, next week’s price may be higher.” A 22-year-old, Chris thought, “22 years is life! I’ll take my chances at trial.” Only three people of this 30-person group arrested, by the way, went to trial. Everybody else pled guilty. At trial, these three people, who happened to also be the lowest members of this conspiracy, all got life in prison. Every single one of them. Yes, the Vice Lords were selling a lot of drugs, but not Chris, and not the other two defendants who also decided to go to trial. They all are behind bars for life.
A young man aspiring to the thug life with two convictions for possession of cocaine runs with a notorious drug-trafficking gang and is recorded trying to cook crack for the bosses… how is he a sympathetic figure?
Before being sentenced, Chris was asked, “Do you have anything to say?” He responded, “Yes, I do.” Chris gave a speech that he clearly had worked on for a long time. It was very articulate. He showed his understanding of economics, philosophy, and history. Here was a kid who had such great potential. I told you about my background because I recognized some parts of Chris in me. Chris was self-taught. He had taught himself Greek philosophy — and Greek names are not pronounced the way they are often spelled, so he is pronouncing these names phonetically, “SO-craits?” “YOU-rope-ides”? I struggled to understand who he was talking about. Then I realized, I know who Chris is talking about because I did the same thing when I started reading in the military. I would go to the library and pick up books and pronounce these names the way kids are taught in elementary school. I listened to Chris make the same mistakes I had made — the difference being I had opportunities that Chris Young did not have. I convinced myself then and there that “I cannot do this, I am not going to do it anymore.”
Textbook care-based morality. This is maddening. First, men like Sharp destroyed fathers via the divorce courts. Then they destroyed the backup fathers–the military (which Sharp himself credited with raising him), the Church, the Boy Scouts and so on. And then, they want to see crooks go unpunished because the crooks didn’t have the chances they did… the very chances they destroyed.
A liberal is someone who treats people unjustly because he wants the world to be more just.
Judges like Sharp are why we had to create minimum sentencing guidelines in the first place. He did a good thing by resigning his cushy, lifetime appointment. He was clearly unfit. Care to guess how he’s now trying to give fatherless young men the chances he himself had? Spoiler alert, it doesn’t involve a vow of poverty:
From http //sanfordheisler.com
Judge Sharp is the Managing Partner of Sanford Heisler Sharp’s Nashville office, which opened in the spring of 2017. He joined Sanford Heisler Sharp after serving as a judge on the U.S District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee from May 2011 through April 2017, serving from 2014 to 2017 as the Court’s Chief Judge. …
In 2004, David Sanford and Jeremy Heisler founded Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP, in an effort to litigate public interest and social justice cases that add a significant value to individuals in society as well as improve the community on a whole. Since opening its doors, Sanford Heisler Sharp has achieved unparalleled success securing extraordinary systemic changes in corporate America. In addition, the employment law firm has recovered more than one billion dollars for individual clients and the United States government.
Leopards and liberals can’t change their spots. Sharp took the judgeship thinking he could use it to force outcome-equality upon society. When the rules thwarted his efforts, he opted out for work in the lawfare-industrial complex.