Thursday, October 9, 2014

Surprising denouement in New York federal trial

Hon. Colleen McMahon
A federal district judge in New York has imposed a nominal ($10!) fine as the sentence in the false official statements prosecution of former marine Wilfredo Santiago. Details here:
Santiago was convicted on a false-statements count at a June trial and was acquitted on another count. The trial occurred only after the judge criticized the government for using the civil courts to resolve an "internal military matter."
The charges stemmed from the January 2008 accidental shooting of a Navy medic serving in the same fighting unit at Camp Echo in Diwaniyah, Iraq.
Prosecutors say Santiago lied about his gun going off in the windowless room where five men lived.
The New York Post reported:
[Judge Colleen] McMahon arrived at the figure, she said, by adding $1 for every minute that passed before Santiago admitted to investigators his gun had gone off, after first claiming he did not know where the gunshot had come from. She declined to impose any prison time or probation.
“Mr. Santiago, I always told my children when they were little that lying is the worst sin,” she said. “But a lie retracted within minutes, a lie that was never believed or relied upon, is not much of a crime.”

1 comment:

  1. This kind of decision does nothing to enhance the credibility of, and public confidence in, the civilian justice system. The facts giving rise to the charge are serious enough to warrant a prosecution before a civilian tribunal. They certainly do not deserve the kind of treatment they were given. A false official statement is no less a false official statement if it is thereafter retracted. Nor is it less a false statement because it is not believed. The fact that it is not believed prompts the investigation and engages costly human resources. The circumstances of this case may have justified the imposition of a light sentence. I do not know and I am not questioning that. However they do not deserve the kind of justification that was given for the sentence. While the enforcement of criminal law may require compassion at times, it remains in itself a serious matter that a judge ought to respect and transmit both to the accused and the public.


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