Jewish World Review Sept. 6, 2002 / 29 Elul, 5762
Debra J. Saunders
Unequal before the law
This just in: The Alabama federal judge who
sentenced a black nonviolent first-time drug offender
to three consecutive sentences of life without parole
in 1993 just has sentenced a white
lawyer-turned-drug-dealer to four months in a
Why the disparity? John Mark Greer pleaded guilty.
He's a lawyer who no doubt understands how the
federal courts punish defendants who try to beat a
College student Clarence Aaron, 23 at the time of his
sentencing, pleaded not guilty.
According to a story by Mobile Register reporter Joe
Danborn, the feds prosecuted Greer for selling
cocaine "in quantities ranging from an ounce to
several grams." The feds charged Aaron for moving
larger quantities of crack, after he dabbled in the drug
world by setting up two drug deals between two
Federal laws are harsher for crack than cocaine.
Greer was caught peddling powder cocaine from his
office and Mobile bars, while Aaron's charges involved
Crack offenders are predominantly black, while
cocaine offenders span many racial groups. A dealer
who peddles 500 grams of powdered cocaine
automatically gets a five-year sentence for a first
offense, according to Eric Sterling, who as a
congressional aide helped write the 1984 sentencing
laws, and in repentence, now heads the Criminal
Justice Policy Foundation. The threshold for crack
cocaine is 100 times lower; it's 5 grams.
Another difference between Aaron and Greer: Greer
wore a wire and helped the feds collar two higher
level dealers. Aaron didn't offer up a dealer. His
Boston attorney Gregg Shapiro explained that
because Aaron was a novice in the dealing world, he
had "little or nothing to offer prosecutors."
And Aaron wasn't a white lawyer.
"Obviously, we're not dealing with a run-of-the-mill
drug dealer," Judge Charles Butler Jr. explained, after
he agreed to give Greer the leniency he denied
And: "As the court looks across the bench at you,
I'm struck by the fact that you've been given every
opportunity in life to avoid being here today. You
knew the law. You knew the consequences. You
knew the severity of it."
Yes, Greer knew the severity of the law -- and unlike
Aaron, he knew how to get around it. So, Aaron is
serving life without parole and Greer gets four months
in a facility, and four months wearing an electronic
monitor. (He also was disbarred.)
The answer, Sterling noted, isn't to sentence Greer to
more time. There's little public interest in putting
lawyers with drug habits in prison for decades. But it
also doesn't serve the public to put Clarence Aaron in
prison for life -- for two drug deals, one of which never
Some readers may find Aaron's draconian sentence
comforting -- proof that drug lords do hard time. Nice
dream, but according to the U.S. Court of Appeals in
Chicago: "The more serious the defendant's crimes,
the lower the sentence -- because the greater his
wrongs, the more information and assistance he has
to offer to a prosecutor."
Clarence Aaron supporters say he was a good
student who had stayed out of trouble until his
grandfather, who raised him since he was 10, died.
Then he made some bad moves, and he got caught.
Maybe he wasn't so innocent, but he had no record
until this arrest. And I know that when I think of
criminals who deserve life without parole, it's because
they're killers, rapists, child molesters, or real drug
kingpins. Not wannabe kingpins, whose biggest
crime is not being a snitch.
If the system can find leniency for a white lawyer who
betrayed his profession to sell drugs, it can find
leniency for Clarence Aaron. President Bush should
commute his sentence.
Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
Comment JWR contributor Debra J. Saunders's column by clicking here.
09/04/02: To the moon, Jerry
08/30/02: Gold medal in meddling
08/28/02: The summit isn't sustainable
08/23/02: Your tax dollars on drugs
08/19/02: San Francisco, the city of outrageousness, has done it again! Beware and be aware, America
08/16/02:Fraternite, liberte, envy
08/14/02: Academia's swindle
08/12/02: Humane or inane?
08/09/02: See Dick talk
08/07/02: Gore, the Messiah
08/02/02: The compassionate curriculum
07/31/02: No order in the court
07/30/02: West takes on east in the drug war
07/26/02: PC coffee 'brewhaha' Spineless in Seattle
07/24/02: No wonder the rest of the country has been known to sneer at California
07/22/02: Hail, little Caesar
07/19/02: Doctor of the Universe?
07/17/02: Johnny goes to prison
07/15/02: To win or not to win
07/12/02: A paradise for moderns
07/10/02: Hate crime, terror and murder
07/03/02: "Good things" in stir
06/24/02: True justice
06/21/02: How Davey saved California
06/19/02: Delusions of suppression
06/17/02: The Court's on trial
06/14/02: A real-life Mrs. Cleaver
06/12/02: California crude
05/31/02: FBI, investigate thyself
05/28/02: Your tax dollars on drugs
05/24/02: The Bible and the stripper
05/22/02: Who knew?
05/20/02: A modern modest proposal
05/19/02: Euros could don white hats
05/13/02: Home of the brave -- oops, scratch that
05/10/02: Colorblind U
05/08/02: License to spend
05/06/02: Conservatism can survive despite liberal bias
05/03/02:A speech like air kisses
05/02/02: Bush should end bad sentences
04/29/02: Get ready America, California is gettin' into the slave reparations business
04/26/02: Saudis' money for martyrs
04/24/02: Oooh la la, Le Pen
04/15/02: Drill Alaska -- for the children
04/11/02: A good marriage with an esteemed soul mate -- well, nothing beats it
04/09/02: Tied up and Taliban
04/05/02: No justice in reparations
04/01/02: Schools, yes; fat police, no
03/25/02: The government-induced doctor shortage
03/22/02: Conservative hypocrisy on school drug testing?
03/20/02: And now, about Russell Yates . . .
03/18/02: Bush isn't worried about alienating loyalist voters
03/13/02: No exit strategy
03/11/02: Simon hits the big time
03/06/02: He got away
03/01/02: Mary, Luke, Paul, John and Noah
02/25/02: These are good days for veep
02/21/02: Dirty bill for a dirty mess
02/19/02: Score one for Greta
02/15/02: Dose of justice needed here
02/08/02: Sunshine all around
02/04/02: Does citizenship matter?
02/01/02: End the coverup
01/30/02: Try this for "troubling"
01/25/02: Camp X-ray or Club Med?
01/23/02: Let's stop the deluge of porn e-mail
01/21/02: No 'Little Boy Lost'
01/16/02: Son of Supercar
01/12/02: Beware the European view of the death penalty
01/09/02: Other people's children
01/07/02: It doesn't fly
01/03/02: Going from the Atlantic City Boardwalk to Berkeley
12/31/01: In America, punishment should fit the crime
12/28/01: What I'd like to see in 2002
12/24/01: Don't heckle ink monopolists
12/21/01: Mumia finds safety in numbers
12/19/01 The self-help PBS shopping network
12/17/01 Caught on tape
12/14/01 Know when to hold 'em
12/10/01 Old friends
12/06/01 I read the news today, oh boy
12/03/01 It's not cricket
11/28/01 Admissions and omissions
11/26/01 Guns and abayas
11/21/01 Depraved minds think alike
11/19/01 Guilty, a la carte
11/14/01 Interpreting the entrails of Election 2000
11/12/01 Life and liberty
11/09/01 Safety is as safety does
11/07/01 More hot air on global warming
11/05/01 Bumped Pakistani's molehill
11/01/01 Freedom snuffed out
10/29/01 Give war a chance
10/26/01 Airline bill needs liftoff
10/22/01 The Riordan Principle
10/19/01 Before America gets tired of the war on terrorism
10/17/01 Patriot games
10/15/01 I was a 'McCainiac,' and I have seen the light
10/12/01 University of Censorship's fall semester
10/11/01 Poor little rich boy, Osama
10/07/01 Don't feed Israel to the beast
10/05/01: bin Laden is not our Frankenstein monster
10/04/01: Where no man has gone before
09/26/01: Who's bloodthirsty?
09/26/01: What's to understand?
09/20/01: Barbara Lee's line in the sand
09/14/01: You gotta love this country
09/13/01: ENTER TERROR
09/11/01: You can't clone ethics
09/06/01: NOW's goal: equal rights for women without equal responsibility
08/30/01: What's love got to do with it?
08/24/01: A clean, well-lighted place for junkies
08/20/01: Bush should stand up for justice
08/08/01: Don't give Peace (Dept). a chance
08/03/01: Lose a kid, pass a law
08/01/01: Welcome to France, killers
07/30/01: Why it's easy being green (in Europe)
07/26/01: If disabled means expendable
07/23/01: Condit should not resign
07/18/01: Feinstein should learn her limit
07/16/01: A drought of common sense
07/13/01: The catalog has no clothes
07/05/01: It's Bush against the planet
07/03/01: The man who would be guv
06/29/01: Wheeled, wired and free
06/27/01: O, fearful new world
06/25/01: End HMO horrors
06/21/01: Either they're dishonest or clueless
06/18/01: Freedom is a puff of smoke
06/15/01: In praise of going heavy: Yes, you can take it all
06/13/01: McVeigh: 'Unbowed' maybe, but dead for sure
06/11/01: Gumby strikes back
06/08/01: Los Angeles' last white mayor?
06/07/01: Kids will be kids, media will be media
06/04/01: Draw a line in the sand
05/30/01: Just don't call him a moderate
05/29/01: Operation: Beat up on civil rights
05/24/01: Of puppies, kittens and huge credit-card debts
05/22/01: Bush needs an energy tinkerbell
05/18/01: Divided we stand, united they fall
05/16/01: Big Bench backs might over right
05/15/01: Close SUV loophole
05/11/01: Kill the test, welcome failure
05/09/01: DA mayor's disappointing legacy
05/07/01: If it ain't broken ...
05/03/01: They shoot civilians, don't they?
04/30/01: Executions are not for prime time
04/12/01: White House and the green myth
04/10/01: The perjurer as celeb
04/04/01: Bush bashers don't know squat
04/02/01: Drugging our oldsters
03/30/01: Robert Lee Massie exercises his death wish
03/28/01: Cheney's nuclear reactor
03/26/01: Where California and Mexico meet
03/16/01: Boy's sentence was no accident
03/14/01: Soft money, hard reform
03/12/01: Banks, big credit lines and consumer bankruptcy
03/09/01: Free speech dies in Berkeley
03/02/01: When rats have rights
02/28/01: Move a frog, go to jail?
02/26/01: They knew they'd get away with it
02/20/01: How Dems define tax fairness
02/16/01: The jackpot casino Carmel tribe?
02/14/01: You can fight school success
02/12/01: Hannibal -- with guts this time
02/08/01: A family of jailbirds
02/05/01: Reality's most demeaning TV moments
02/01/01: Justice for the non-Rich
01/26/01: Hail to the chiefs of D.C. opinion
01/24/01: A day of mud and monuments
01/22/01: Diversity, division, de-lovely D.C.
01/19/01: Parties agree: Give back the money
01/17/01: Get tough with the oil companies, or forget pumping more Alaskan crude
01/15/01: Mineta better pray that no attending confirmation senator has ever driven to San Jose during rush hour
01/12/01: Europeans should look in the mirror
01/10/01: Dems' reasons for dissin' Dubya's picks
01/08/01: Jerry, curb your guru
01/03/01: A foe of Hitler and friend of Keating
12/28/00: Nice people think nice thoughts
12/26/00: The Clinton years: Epilogue
12/21/00: 'Tis the season to free nonviolent drug offenders
12/18/00: A golden opportunity is squandered
12/15/00: You can take the 24 years, good son
12/13/00: Court of law vs. court of public opinion
12/08/00: A salvo in the war on the war on drugs
12/06/00: Don't cry, Butterfly: Big trees make great decks
12/04/00: Florida: Don't do as Romans did
11/30/00: Special City's hotel parking ticket
11/27/00: No means yes, yes means more than yes
11/22/00: The bench, the ballot and fairness
11/20/00: Mendocino, how green is your ballot?
© 2000, Creators Syndicate