NewsBriefs BUTTONS

Judge Reluctantly Follows Guidelines, Apologizes to Defendants


January 1996

"I know it's no justification or solace to you, but I am saying to you there is no justification to this sentence," U.S. District Court Judge Lyle E. Strom told two defendants on November 20 after giving them the sentence provided in the Sentencing Guidelines for crack cocaine offenses, "I apologize to you on behalf of the United States Government" (Associated Press, New York Times, November 27, 1995, p. B6).

Strom then sentenced Delano Maxwell and Hassan Majied to 30 years each for distribution of crack cocaine. He had granted them a downward departure, sentencing them to 20 years in the case, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ordered Strom to resentence them according to the Guidelines.

Judge Strom, who serves in the District Court for Nebraska in Omaha, has been outspoken in his opposition to the disparity in sentences between crack and powder cocaine. He had postponed the men's resentencing in hopes that Congress would allow the equalization of sentences to go into effect. "I don't believe I have the authority to depart downward because Congress rejected the rational and reasonable request of the Sentencing Commission," Strom said at the resentencing.