Several years ago, the Federal Criminal Justice Clinic (FCJC) filed pretrial Motions to Dismiss for Racially Selective Law Enforcement on behalf of 43 defendants charged in the 12 pending fake stash house cases in Chicago, alleging that the ATF had unconstitutionally discriminated on the basis of race in targeting people of color. The FCJC approached the legal issue of racially selective law enforcement in an innovative fashion by coordinating across cases and bringing empirical evidence to bear. See ATF Sting Operation Accused of Using Racial Bias in Finding Targets—the Majority of Them Being Minorities, Chicago Tribune (Mar. 3, 2017). Last December, the 9 federal judges presiding over these cases held a joint evidentiary hearing on our motions, an unprecedented occurrence. See Was Racial Profiling Behind ATF Stash House Stings? Chicago Judges to Take Up Landmark Case Today, Chicago Tribune (Dec. 13, 2017); Court Decision Could Force Changes to ATF’s Undercover Operations, NPR: Morning Edition (Dec. 15, 2017).
When the FCJC began this litigation, our clients were facing 15-to-25-year mandatory minimums and far higher sentences under the federal Sentencing Guidelines. In the wake of the hearing, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago made highly unusual plea offers in all of the cases, offering to dismiss all of the remaining mandatory-minimum gun and drug charges. See Under Pressure by Judges, Prosecutors to Offer Plea Deals in Controversial Drug Stash House Cases, Chicago Tribune (Feb. 21, 2018).
Of the 43 clients who participated in our selective enforcement challenge, 34 have now been sentenced. Fully 27 of the 34 received sentences of “time served,” despite requests by the government for within-Guidelines sentences that ranged as high as 12 years. The remaining clients received significantly below-Guidelines sentences. The chart linked here depicts these incredible outcomes and is being filed publicly with the judges to show that time-served sentences are now the norm in these cases. As a result of the plea offers and time-served sentences, clients on bond were allowed to remain in the community, clients in custody were promptly released, and our clients collectively were spared hundreds of years in prison. These remarkable results are attributable to the tremendous efforts of everyone in the FCJC: Professor Erica Zunkel (the Associate Director of the FCJC), Professor Judith Miller, and the many students who worked on the litigation.
Read more at Sentencing Law and Policy