Whale Sushi, and why "maximum sentences" don't often equal actual sentences

Law blogger Popehat was annoyed by the way I referenced the maximum sentence threatened by prosecutors in that Los Angeles whale sushi case.

At his blog today, he vents about this latest item on his "increasingly prolix and impossible-to-catalogue list of pet peeves: confusion about federal sentences." It's a really instructive read, and I recommend it.

For the record, I do understand the difference; but the threat of a theoretical sentence that amounts to life in prison is intended to scare the bejeezus out of the defendant in this case (and others!). As a threat, it's worth noting. No, I doubt he'd actually do that time if convicted and sentenced.

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  1. Gee, I got into a slap fight with another commenter on this very subject on the original thread. Guess I might know what the fuck I’m talking about after all.

  2. Note that the defendants in this case are pleading guilty as do the vast majority of those charged with federal crimes. Should they not choose plead guilty, their right to a trial by jury is going to cost them around a 33% increase to their sentence on top of whatever additional “enhancements” the prosecutors can dig up. I mean, has anyone working at that organization committed a crime before? Might as well tack a RICO charge on there. Maybe they dig around and check some visas and green cards, maybe a nice little structuring charge for those two $9,500 deposits they made, etc.

    1. “I mean, has anyone working at that organization committed a crime before? Might as well tack a RICO charge on there.”
      I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you seem to be operating on an understanding of RICO law that’s almost as erroneous as the federal sentencing myths circulating the Internet. 

  3. THIS PERSON CHARGED OF MINOR CRIMES FACES MORE JAIL TIME THAN YOU’D GET IF YOU BEAT A TODDLER TO DEATH WITH AN UNCONSCIOUS NUN WHILE RAPING A BLIND LIBRARIAN, or words to that effect.

    To be completely fair, that leap occurred in the comments, not in your article.

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