Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sal Magluta resentenced



Sal Magluta was resented yesterday to 195 years in prison. The case was set for resentencing becasue the 11th Circuit had reversed one of his counts of conviction. Magluta had asked for a de novo sentencing hearing, which the judge denied. There were also some late fireworks as Magluta's lawyers filed a motion to recuse the night before sentencing, which was also denied. Here is the Herald article about the sentencing.

This decision will certainly be appealed. It will be interesting to see how the 11th Circuit deals with the Booker issues on appeal where Willie Falcon, Magluta's partner, was sentenced to 20 years as part of a deal and Magluta got 195 years for proceeding to trial. Is this reasonable?

Here is an op-ed that Milton Hirsch and I wrote, which was published in the Herald, after Magluta's first sentencing hearing -- but before the Supreme Court breathed life back into the 6th Amendment in Blakely and Booker:

Miami's last cocaine cowboy rode into the sunset last week. Salvador Magluta, considered one of Miami's most notorious narcotics dealers, was prosecuted in federal court for having witnesses murdered and for laundering millions of dollars in drug proceeds. A federal judge then punished Magluta with a 205-year sentence. Magluta, 48, will live in prison till the day he dies. But Magluta was never convicted of the homicides for which he was sentenced. A jury of his peers found Magluta not guilty of the murders, and guilty only of the nonviolent money-laundering charges -- crimes that carry a maximum sentence of 20 years.

The jury's verdict notwithstanding, the judge decided that Magluta was responsible for the homicides and sentenced him accordingly. In a watershed 1997 opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal judges, in imposing sentence, may ignore jury verdicts of acquittal and determine whether defendants have done wrong. The Herald applauded the punishment, and the new U.S. attorney claimed that such a sentence sends a message about justice. It does indeed: The message is that prosecutors can lose and still win, that a jury no longer stands between an accused American and a life sentence.

The jury is a special American institution and has been, until recently, the heart and soul of our criminal-justice system. The jury stands between arbitrary rule and the citizenry, and is a shield against overzealous government. Our Founding Fathers recognized that even an independent judiciary was not enough to protect us against abuses of power. They didn't trust judges to mete out justice on questions of guilt or innocence. To determine the answers to these questions, the Founders wanted the commonsense judgment of citizens. Acting upon the court's 1997 ruling, prosecutors and judges have found ways to end-run jury verdicts and the jury system itself. Judges sentence defendants convicted of lesser charges as though they had committed other, more-serious crimes, even in the face of a not-guilty verdict by a jury. Based on inconclusive evidence, or even rejected evidence, a judge is free to send a man to jail for life. Not guilty doesn't mean anything anymore. Conviction is optional. It is the jury verdict that separates America's legal system from that of so many other nations. All countries, even the worst, have laws, judges, lawyers. Most have trials -- or what are called trials -- and many even have juries. But in too many of those countries a verdict is a foregone conclusion: the prosecution having indicted, the jury is simply a rubber stamp. In Magluta's case the jury's verdict was treated as irrelevant, and because it was Magluta no one cared.

As Justice Felix Frankfurter famously warned: ``It is easy to make light of insistence of scrupulous regard for the safeguards of civil liberties when invoked on behalf of the unworthy. It is too easy. History bears testimony that by such disregard are the rights of liberty extinguished, heedlessly at first, then stealthily, and brazenly in the end.''

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is it reasonable for a Judge to met out 180 years for laundering money to pay for legal fees?

Anonymous said...

disgrace.

Anonymous said...

Was there a written opinion to justify this sentence and the aquitted conduct used to punish the maglutta? Why are there so few written criminal law opinions from judges from the Southern District of Florida?

Anonymous said...

JUSTICE!

Anonymous said...

to my career prosecutor friend above, 195 years is not justice, it's just silly.

FedCURE.org said...

Dear Friends:

Re: Sal Magluta re-sentenced to 195 years.

This is the kind of sentencing that makes us sick. Christ! U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz reduced Sal's 205 year sentence to 195 years. A huge 10 year reduction. So kind? A $63 million fine and a $15 million forfeiture? No parole. For a non-violent offender. Why? Because he allegedly "corrupted the justice system"? What a crock!

Sal Magulta has been in the hole for most of the last 15 years. He will die in prison. His only hope is that Rep. Danny Davis and FedCURE succeed in getting H.R. 3072 - "A bill to revive the system of parole for Federal prisoners," passed into law. http://www.fedcure.org/alerts/07April2004UrgentActionAlertFundraising.shtml

This is the classic case of how the up front sentencing practices, of the last two decades, are an absolute atrocity of justice. Sentencing, in the hands of a single person (a judge), without the possibility of parole, is nothing more then "lock em up and throw the key away." No chance for redemption. No second chance. In Sal's case and some six thousand other federal inmates serving life sentences, as first time offenders, without the possibility of parole, this is a death sentence.

Whereas, reinstating a system of parole offers redemption and the possibility of a second chance--for those offenders who earn it. Or in the words of Judge Patricia Seitz, may have gone through a ''St. Paul's conversion.'' Surely, inmates who serve sentences within a guideline range, established by the U.S. Parole Commission, who have substantially observed all the rules and in no way pose a danger to the community, deserve a second chance. Depending on offender characteristics, generally, current parole guidelines can range from 4 to 180+ months. To examine these guideline in detail see: http://www.usdoj.gov/uspc/rules_procedures/uspcmanual8-15-03final.pdf, starting at page 28.

A record seven million men and women, or about 3 percent of the adult U.S. population, were incarcerated, on probation or parole or under some sort of supervision at the end of last year. That's 1 out of ever 32 adults in this country. http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/press/pripropr.htm. As the most powerful nation in the world our deficiencies in our federal criminal justice system deprives us of our ability to influence the world as an example.

We pray that our new Congress has the wisdom and the courage to pass this smart legislation in the coming new year.

Please see the FedCURE December 2006 Newsletter, available at: http://www.fedcure.org/newsletters/FedCURE-Newsletter-December2006.pdf.

Best Regards:

FedCURE
P.O. Box 15667
Plantation, Florida 33318-5667
USA

Web Site: http://www.FedCURE.org
E-mail: FedCURE@FedCURE.org

E-fax: (408) 549-8935

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Anonymous said...

Sal Magluta a "non-violent offender"? are you kidding? talk about a lack of credibility. save your concern for some poor kid who is caught up in the system but is redeemable, not for a brutal drug kingpin

Anonymous said...

Watching the the hearing was indeed a Kafkaesq expierence. " I wanted to give you a life sentence because you avoided life in prison when you corrupted the system in 916060..." After the conclusion of the hearing, the Government dismissed count #8 (jury bribery)which was the basis for the Court's rational. But if the Court was so offended, why allow the Government to dismiss?
Now don't get me wrong, Sal Magluta should have been punished. But 180 years for paying Roy Black and the rest of his defense team seems a bit over the top unreasonable.

Anonymous said...

Over the top unreasonable? 180 years for bribery, money laundering, drug trafficing and assisting in polluting the U.S. oh and of course ordering murders. Think of all of the families who lost someone becuase of this guy and his partner OR almost lost someone because they ordered a hit. He got at least what he deserved.

Anonymous said...

11:51
1. never convicted of being a drug dealer.
2. You all dismissed the jury bribery count.
3. And you guys LOST the murders. He was found NOT GUILTY of murder.
What is left? 180 years for paying a dream team.

Anonymous said...

Personaly,
I would in addition like to detach each opposing pinky fingernail while i sever each toe with the roughest, coursest largest segmented rusty knife I could find as I make him swallow controlled amounts of the dope that he helped import that made its way to the streets where he destroyed the lives of american citizens. while the world spins aroud him I would enjoy breaking every bone in his drug trafficking face with my bare fists even as my fists tear I would continue striking with my elbows. Yes this is what I feel drug traffickers and thugs deserve a taste of their own medicine. I do not care if some think this makes me no better than them- at least it makes us all even!

-Batman

Anonymous said...

hang michael vick!

opey said...

I'm not going to hide my IP for this post because i know this man. i did time with him at the age of 19, yes 19 yrs old and doing fed time with people like this. but i can tell you one thing he is a good man he looked out for me wan i was doing my time. i think for everything he did he should pay for it. but i think as a man he is a good one at hart. so just think when you say something about some one you just see on tv think Y did he do all this what type of man is he and what you may find is some one trying to make do for himself and his family. im not saying he did the right thing but he did the fast thing for his own life. oh BTW i was there for a "class B Misdemeanor" driven with
a license suspended. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criminal_justice LMFAO

Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting subject to me, I had the chance of knowing Sal Magluta and his two friends Falcon & Lorenzo in the early days of his incarceration in Miami. I think the sentence given to him for money laundering is more than Bin Laden will get if we ever find him alive, not to mention while he was being tried for what he was accussed of doing wrong he did a lot of good for many people. The Judge in this case made it personal and forgot the guidelines and should be force by the Attorney General to answer for this disregard of the Jury.

Anonymous said...

He is NOT the BEAST you make him out to be ! Yes, some crimes were committed, however NOT murder and NOTHING to warrant this sentence. OJ got less so very very sad. The system has FAILED us again. I know him personally and have never been in trouble. He is a Father..a SON..and a great man. Noone is perfect and He has paid way more than he deserved. It is a PERSONAL vendetta at this point SO SO VERY WRONG.