Last week journalist Barret Brown was sentenced to 63 months in prison after entering a guilty plea. In contrast to Government approved journalists handling information unfavorable to the regime, Barret Brown was charged as an accessory to activities he reported on while New York Times reporter James Risen was not charged as an accessory for the "espionage" he reported on. Being completely at the whims of the sentencing court the court determined:
According to the court’s calculation, the Accessory count resulted in the highest adjusted offense level of 26 as indicated below. In calculating the offense level for the Accessory count, rather than applying the six-level victim related adjustment recommended in the Presentence Investigation Report and Addendum for Defendant’s threats to FBI agent Robert Smith (Threats count), the court determined that Defendant’s conduct in this regard, as well as his conduct in concealing evidence, was more appropriately characterized as obstructive conduct or efforts to interfere with and hamper the FBI’s investigation of the underlying offense. The court therefore included a two-level adjustment to account for this conduct.1
To the lay American reader it might seem odd that someone who entered a guilty plea in court would end up with an enhanced rather than diminished sentence. For the lay member of the American public whose knowledge of the legal system comes from a steady diet of Law and Order and other fictions on television where a guilty plea is established as a conduit for leniency, this must seem very strange.
As this case illustrates though the reality of the situation is that the actual sentencing that follows a guilty plea in a criminal case is the same as it is after any other conviction, unless the defendant is willing to be a sweetheart to Uncle Sam on an ongoing basis. The actual defiant defendant in addition to detention through the entire pretrial period gets denied legible reading material while being held. Then he gets hit with just under a million dollars of restitution to be repaid at a rate of not less than $50 or 10 percent of their income per month, whichever is greater. All of this is on top of other concerns related to volunteering to become a ward of the state.
Perhaps most distressing at all was that before capitulating to the government in a guilty plea Brown and his defense had been getting charges initially brought against him dropped. Had he lost at trial in the worst way on every count and received every enhancement to his sentence he would have faced a potential 110 months in prison which, would have been subjected to the same math that lead to his current state ordered penance. The only result of his plea was surrendering his opportunity to win either acquittal or a lesser sentence by going through with a trial.
The official judgment includes as well a number of special conditions to be imposed upon Brown upon his release including:
The defendant shall participate in a program (inpatient and/or outpatient) approved by the U.S. Probation Ofﬁce for treatment of narcotic, drug, or alcohol dependency, which will include testing for the detection of substance use or abuse. The defendant shall abstain from the use of alcohol and/or all other intoxicants during and after completion of treatment. The defendant shall contribute to the costs of services rendered (copayment) at a rate of at least $50 per month.
This minimum payment for "therapy" is in addition to the restitution payment.
The defendant shall participate in mental health treatment services as directed by the probation officer until successfully discharged. These services may include medications prescribed by a licensed physician. The defendant shall contribute to the costs of services rendered (copayment) at a rate of at least $50 per month.
We have here still more court ordered "therapy" with payment required of Brown.
The defendant shall participate and comply with the requirements of the Computer and Internet Monitoring Program, contributing to the cost of the monitoring in an amount not to exceed $40 per month. The defendant shall consent to the probation ofﬁcer's conducting ongoing monitoring of his computer/computers. The monitoring may include the installation of hardware and/or software systems that allow evaluation of computer use. The defendant shall not remove, tamper with, reverse engineer, or circumvent the software in any way. The defendant shall only use authorized computer systems that are compatible with the software and/or hardware used by the Computer and Internet Monitoring Program. The defendant shall permit the probation officer to conduct a preliminary computer search prior to the installation of software. At the discretion of the probation officer, the monitoring software may be disabled or removed at any time during the term of supervision.
The defendant shall submit to periodic, unannounced examinations of his/her computer/computers, storage media, and/or other electronic or Ir1ternet—capable devices, performed by the probation ofﬁcer at reasonable times and in a reasonable manner based on reasonable suspicion of contraband evidence of a violation of supervision. This may include the retrieval and copying of any prohibited data and/or the removal of such systems for the purpose of conducting a more thorough inspection. The defendant shall provide written authorization for release of information from the defendant’s Internet service provider.
The defendant shall not use any computer other than the one the defendant is authorized to use, without prior approval from the probation ofﬁcer.
The defendant shall not use any software program or device designed to hide, alter, or delete records and/or logs of the defendant’s computer use, Internet activities, or ﬁles stored on the defendant’s computer.
Brown is effectively prohibited from exercising any actual ownership of any computer or Internet connected device he might acquire, and is further compelled to once again make a regular monthly payment for the privilege of being so constrained.
The defendant shall provide to the probation ofﬁcer any requested ﬁnancial information.
Finally Brown is constrained from having even the pretense of any financial privacy. Really makes the notion of a plea bargain being any sort of bargain at all a complete misnomer.
Text from a decision by the sentencing court which rescinded the part of Brown's plea agreement where he would have to surrender his copy of the Declaration of Independence. ↩