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Back to list of Dissenting Judges

Harold A. Baker, US District Judge, Central District Illinois

June 22, 1993 at the sentencing of Edward Abbott

The court's reasons for imposing this sentence are as follows. This is a mandatory, minimum sentence that the Congress has said the court must impose. The probation officer is right in her observation that there are no identifiable factors that would warrant a departure in the case.

There is nothing about Mr. Abbott that was not considered by the Sentencing Commission in arriving at its guideline sentence. The reporting probation officer says this, and I believe this is an accurate assessment:

I do not consider Mr. Abbott to be a villainous criminal but a person who has acted out his entire life due to psychological problems he suffered as a child. The defendant's prior record illustrates impulsive, alcohol-related behavior.

I believe that Mr. Abbott used alcohol and drugs to cope with the misfortune of growing up without parental love and guidance. I also believe that much of Mr. Abbott's depressions and self-destructive behavior was his way of coping with life. Mr. Abbott's need for counseling was identified by the Department of Corrections after his first offense.

However, it appears that he has been pushed through the criminal justice system without any help. Unfortunately, Mr. Abbott's history of using drugs ultimately renders him a long, mandatory minimum prison term.

Since the defendant faces a substantial statutory prison term, I believe that the minimum guideline sentence and the maximum amount of supervised release is appropriate for this defendant. Based on the defendant's length of incarceration and his financial information he does not have the ability to pay a fine.

In order for me to depart there would have to be factors about Mr. Abbott that were not taken into consideration by the Sentencing Commission. His chemical substance abuse problem, his childhood difficulties, and things of that sort, are not a basis for me to depart.

This perhaps is another illustration of the lack of wisdom in mandatory minimum sentences, but I am a servant when it come to that, and I cannot take it upon myself to change the law that Congress has written because I think it is an inappropriate disposition. That, in sum and substance, is the reason for this court imposing the sentence. Congress has told me that I must.

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