A Just Cause, Advocate For Judicial Reform, Comments on Statements Made By Attorney General Eric Holder and Seeks Assistance in the Case of the IRP6
-- A Just Cause, an advocate for the wrongly convicted, is encouraged by Eric Holder's comments on sentencing guidelines and requests federal review of excessive sentences in non-violent white-collar case of IRP Solutions' Executives --
Nationwide (August 19, 2013) -- A Just Cause is reaching out to Attorney General Eric Holder and federal legislators regarding sentencing reforms. "We are very encouraged by the Attorney General's speech to the the American Bar Association on Monday in which he outlined several key points for sentencing reforms," says Sam Thurman of A Just Cause. "This is very timely from our perspective because of the work we are doing with the executives of IRP Solutions Corporation. We have long believed that the sentences handed down in the case of the IRP6 were excessive and unwarranted," Thurman adds.
The IRP6 case concerns an African-American company (IRP Solutions Corporation) in Colorado that developed criminal investigations software for federal, state and local law enforcement. The case of the IRP6 (Kendrick Barnes, Gary L. Walker, Demetrius K. Harper, Clinton A. Stewart, David A. Zirpolo and David A. Banks) is currently under appeal in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. The men were convicted in 2011 after fighting the U.S. Government pro se at trial and have been incarcerated at the Federal Prison Camp in Florence, Colorado since the summer of 2012. The IRP6 sentences range from 7 to 11 years in federal prison for non-violent, non-drug-related charges. The IRP6 continue to maintain their innocence. (D. Ct. No. 1:09-CR-00266-CMA)
According to statements made by the Attorney General, broad reforms are needed in the United States criminal justice system. "It's clear - as we come together today - that too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law enforcement reason," said Attorney General Eric Holder during the Annual Meeting of the American Bar Association's House of Delegates (San Francisco, Monday, August 12, 2013, www.justice.gov/iso/opa/ag/speeches/2013/ag-speech-130812.html)
In a recent article by David A. Love, statistics show the disparity in the numbers according to race. "The Holder announcement would only directly impact the federal system, which accounts for about 10 percent of people incarcerated in the U.S," writes David A. Love. "According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the nearly 219,000 inmates in the federal system are disproportionately of color, including 37.1 percent African American and 34.9 percent Hispanic," continues Love. (David A. Love, "Holder decision on sentencing reform...", August 13, 2013, TheGrio, www.thegrio.com/2013/08/13/holder-decision-on-sentencing-reform-where-will-it-have-the-biggest-impact/2/)
Among those outspoken on the subject of disparity in sentencing, Love writes of Gary Walker, one of the IRP6. Love quotes Walker as saying, "Attitudes of suspicion and contempt stemming from slavery, the systemic establishment of the black man as an inferior person, still have consequences on our society today", says Gary Walker, President of IRP Solutions Corporation. There is a sentencing disparity that exists between blacks and whites convicted of the same crime, and there is little or no presumption of innocence until proven guilty for blacks," Walker added. (David A. Love, "Holder decision on sentencing reform...", August 13, 2013, TheGrio, www.thegrio.com/2013/08/13/holder-decision-on-sentencing-reform-where-will-it-have-the-biggest-impact/2/)
"A Just Cause feels that several comments made by the Attorney General come into play in the IRP6 case especially as it pertains to targeting serious and dangerous offenders", says Thurman. "There were several opportunities to avoid going to trial in this case but Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Kirsch persisted. And the presiding judge in the case, Judge Christine Arguello, should have recused herself and not been involved," adds Thurman.
Court records show that prior to commencement of trial, David Banks, Chief Operating Officer for IRP Solutions filed a pro se motion requesting that Judge Christine M. Arguello recuse herself due to her personal relationship with Holland and Hart attorney Greg Goldberg. On March 8, 2004, Greg Goldberg hand-delivered a letter to Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Kirsch requesting that IRP executives be criminally charged and articulated what statutes they should be prosecuted under. (D. Ct. No. 1:09-CR-00266-CMA)
Court records indicate that Judge Arguello should have recused herself because of her involvement in a related case. Court records show that Judge Arguello presided over the trial of Lawanna Clark, the sister of David A. Banks (an IRP6 defendant). Lawanna Clark testified before the grand jury in the IRP6 case and was accused and convicted of perjury and sentenced by Judge Arguello to 6 months in prison. Judge Arguello heard testimony related to IRP Solutions Corporation and the IRP6 defendants. (U.S. v. Clark, Case No. 10-1017 (C.A. 10, May 13, 2010))
Records from a similar case show that on August 1, 2013, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Weddington v. Zatecky, case no. 11-3303 for failure for the DISTRICT COURT JUDGE to recuse herself from a habeaus corpus proceeding because her partiality could reasonably be questioned under 28 USC 455. Prior to joining the federal bench, the judge presided over the first of the defendant's state trials, stating that 28 U.S.C. 47 prohibits a judge from hearing or determining an appeal from the decision of a case or issue tried by him. The Seventh Circuit found that even though 28 U.S.C. 47 applies to appeals, it can be applied to habeus proceedings where the defendant seeks relief from the district court for a state habeus corpus matter. "We have a strong contextual basis to argue that Judge Arguello should had a sua sponte obligation to recuse herself under the same principles in Weddington v. Zatecky," says David Banks, COO, IRP Solutions Corporation (and one of the IRP6 defendants).
In Judge John Daniel Tinder's opinion in Weddington v. Zatecky, he stated "[The district judge] effectively would be reviewing an issue and matter over which she had already passed judgment as a state court judge." Court records show that Judge Tinder agreed with a case in the third circuit of Clemons v. Wolfe, 377 F.3d 322 Crl 526 (3d Cir. 2004). Records show that the Clemmons court found the error to be so serious as to constitute plain error, reasoning that "a federal judge sitting in review of the propriety of state proceedings conducted by that judge...seriously affects the fairness and public reputation of the judicial proceedings". The Third Circuit adopted a broad prohibition, saying a district judge must recuse him or herself from participating in...review of "any issue concerning the trial or conviction over which the judge presided in his or her former capacity as a ...judge."
"We (IRP6) feel strongly that Judge Arguello should have recused herself from our case because she would be presiding over a matter and making decisions on issues and matters she had already formed opinions and rendered judgments on," states Banks.
"Although the Attorney General didn't get very explicit in his examples of what constituted a case that would be considered an unwarranted prosecution, he said enough to make A Just Cause push for further review of this case," says Thurman. "When Attorney General Holder made the statement, '...federal prosecutors cannot - and should not - bring every case or charge every defendant who stands accused of violating federal law...', I found that to be very fitting to the IRP6 situation," added Thurman.
According to statements made by the Attorney General, the government needs to work smarter and more efficiently. "By targeting the most serious offenses, prosecuting the most dangerous criminals, directing assistance to crime "hot spots," and pursuing new ways to promote public safety, deterrence, efficiency, and fairness - we in the federal government can become both smarter and tougher on crime," said Attorney General Eric Holder (San Francisco, Monday, August 12, 2013, www.justice.gov/iso/opa/ag/speeches/2013/ag-speech-130812.html)
"I found it interesting that the Attorney General would make certain admissions regarding the criminal justice system," says Thurman. "When Mr. Holder stated, 'As a nation, we are coldly efficient in our incarceration efforts', I found that to be a bold admission that we have serious problems at all levels of our judicial process," states Thurman.
"As Attorney General Eric Holder stated, '...unwarranted disparities are far too common...', and '...people of color often face harsher punishments than their peers...," says Thurman. "These are the types of broad sweeping judicial reforms that A Just Cause has been pushing for, and ironically the IRP6 case is a model case that should be reconsidered based on many of the proposed changes mentioned by Attorney General Holder," concludes Thurman.
The case of IRP Solutions (IRP6) is currently under appeal (US District Court for the District of Colorado, Honorable Christine M. Arguello, D. Ct. No. 1:09-CR-00266-CMA; Case Nos: NO. 11-1487, Case Nos. 11-1488, 11-1489, 11-1490, 11-1491 and 11-1492). For more information about the story of the IRP6 or for copies of the legal filings go to www.freetheirp6.org. Appellant Court panel includes the Honorable Senior Judge Bobby R. Baldock, Honorable Judge Harris L. Hartz, and Honorable Judge Jerome A. Holmes.
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