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Another Federal Judge Blasts Mandatory Minimums


January 1993

After being forced to sentence a first-time drug offender to a decade in prison, a Los Angeles federal judge harshly denounced federal mandatory minimums as unprincipled and unjust (Jim Newton, "Judge Denounces Mandatory Sentencing Law: Jurist Gives First-Time Drug Offender 10-Year Term But Calls System That Imposes the Federal Guidelines 'Barbaric'," Los Angeles Times, 12/19/92, B1).

Angry U.S. District Judge J. Spencer Letts, a Reagan appointee who favors serious criminal sanctions for drug crimes, said the current system is so unjust that it "is worse than uncivilized, it is barbaric."

As he reluctantly sentenced Johnny Patillo to 10 years in prison for his role in trying to ship a package containing 681 grams of crack cocaine, Letts said that "as a matter of law" he was being forced to violate the notion that "the punishment fit the crime. I am no longer willing to apply this law without protest," said Letts.

Critics of mandatory minimums, including California Rep. Don Edwards (D-San Jose), who has introduced federal legislation that would end mandatory minimums, praised Letts for his comments.

Note: For accurate information about the status of mandatory minimum sentences, contact FAMM, 1001 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., Suite 200-So., Washington, D.C. 20004, telephone (202) 457-5790.