I guess they still won't let him use thumbscrews or the iron maiden, but John Ashcroft is going to get his jollies a bit more frequently now, it seems. AP reports:
Attorney General John Ashcroft is directing federal prosecutors to seek maximum charges and penalties in more criminal cases and to limit use of plea bargains to get convictions.
"Federal prosecutors must charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offenses that are supported by the facts," Ashcroft said in a memo to U.S. attorneys released Monday. "Charges should not be filed simply to exert leverage to get a plea."
Plea bargains still would be permitted, but would be more closely tied to actions by defendants, in particular a guarantee of cooperation in an ongoing investigation, the memo said....
Allowing plea bargains for mitigating circumstances? Screw 'em -- they're all evil, and they should all rot.
Other cases in which plea bargains should be used include those in which the possible maximum sentence is unaffected by the agreement...
-- read that again and shake your head. Excuse me -- doesn't that say you can cop a plea, but in return for no likelihood of sentence reduction? Who would bother?
Does this mean that virtually every defendant at the federal level will now go to trial, because Torquemada Ashcroft won't allow sensible plea deals that would have the effect of imprisoning the guilty while keeping the courts less clogged? Does it mean that if your kid is kidnapped by a pedophile and taken across a state line, no deal can be cut so that your kid can avoid having to testify in open court?*
*(Look, I don't know -- maybe that sort of thing only happens on Law & Order. Nevertheless, I can't accept the notion that a thoughtful use of prosecutorial discretion is "soft on crime." Fox News, in reporting this story, sneers that Ashcroft's new directive "reverses the Clinton administration's policy on prosecutorial discretion, which itself reversed the first Bush administration's guidelines." OK, let's go to the numbers. It says here that in the last full year of the Bush I administration we had 757.5 crimes in the U.S. for each 100,000 Americans. In the last year of the Clinton administration, we had 506.1. Does it seem to you that Clinton's policy reversal made us less safe?)