01.15.2016 2

Congress at fault for early release felon committing Columbus, Ohio triple murder


By Rick Manning

The brutal Columbus, Ohio murder of Erveena Hammonds and her 7 and 10 year-old daughters, whose throats were slit by an early-released felon, is exhibit A of why Congress should reject legislation designed to let thousands more convicted drug criminals out of federal prison prematurely.

If Congress had not enacted the so-called 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, Wendell Callahan would still be in jail and Erveena Hammonds and her two daughters, Breya and Anaesia, would still be alive.

The tragedy of a felon who got almost four years knocked off his sentence re-entering the life of his former girlfriend and violently ending it was sadly predictable. A multi-year 30 state study on the recidivism of more than 400,000 felons released in 2005 showed that unfortunately 75 percent of those released re-entered the criminal justice system and 25 percent of the crimes were violent.

After Congress passed the bill, the U.S. Sentencing Commission then retroactively applied the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act to release already-convicted felons.

Several Republican members of Congress objected at the time, writing in a letter to the Commission, “there is no provision in the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 regarding retroactivity [and] it is beyond the role and authority of the Sentencing Commission to impose that change without direction or guidance from the popularly accountable legislative branch. Should the Commission amend the Guidelines to make these changes retroactive, it will usurp legislative prerogatives, and bring into serious question the scope of its authority.”

The problem appears to be that the law that established the U.S. Sentencing Commission, 8 U.S.C. 944, that Congress passed in 1984, may grant the power to the commission retroactively reduce sentences, for example in subsection (u): “If the Commission reduces the term of imprisonment recommended in the guidelines applicable to a particular offense or category of offenses, it shall specify in what circumstances and by what amount the sentences of prisoners serving terms of imprisonment for the offense may be reduced.”

Then, the defendant would need to apply for the reduction and be granted by a judge, as Callahan did.

Now President Obama and Congress are moving ahead with more legislation that will provide early release to some of our nation’s largest drug dealers all under the guise of compassion. This tragedy makes the case that Congress  would need to specifically say in the upcoming bill that it doesn’t apply retroactively if they want to stop that from occurring. The problem with the new bill is that it explicitly provides for retroactivity, all but guaranteeing future violent crimes committed by early-released felons as a result.

President Obama is already in the process of unilaterally letting 46,000 federal felons go early, a move that will exacerbate the already tense situations in cities like Baltimore, Maryland and Chicago, Illinois which suffered through record numbers of homicides in the past year.

It is time for Congress to start exhibiting some compassion for the people who these major drug dealers destroyed through their illegal trade, and the neighborhoods and communities which were decimated due to their pervasive influence.

The last thing that is needed is for Congress to throw fuel on the fire by adding some of the worst drug traffickers to the mix, some of whom were also convicted for having a gun in their possession while committing their crimes.

Simply stated, if Congress passes the mass criminal release bill that is being considered under the auspices of ‘reform’ Erveena Hammond and her two girls will not be the last to die due to Congressional prisoner reprieves. One wonders what the heck Congress is thinking?

Note: Updated to include the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s retroactive implementation of the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, the Congressional Republican response to U.S. Sentencing Commission’s retroactive application of the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, to cite 8 U.S.C. 944 and to note that the defendant would still have to apply for the sentencing reduction and be granted by a federal judge.

Rick Manning is the President of Americans for Limited Government.

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