Barret Brown: The Myth of Plea Leniency

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.

  1. 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.  

One thought on “Barret Brown: The Myth of Plea Leniency

  1. The actual word for this outrageous bullshit is психушка.

    Political abuse of psychiatry in the Soviet Union, is the English terminology. As far as political abuse of psychiatry in the United States, Christos Ballas has the story :

    IV. Why Would Anyone Permit Such A Flawed System?

    At this point you are probably wondering about abuse of the system, people lying, pretending they have psychiatric illnesses just to get the benefits. If you think this– a natural thought, I'll admit– then you need to turn off the network news and go watch Network the movie. You're being lied to, by yourself.

    The system isn't flawed, it isn't easily gamed: it is set up this way on purpose. The government wants you to get SSI, because it wants you off the state welfare budget and onto the federal budget, which, as you know, has unlimited funds because it can run deficits, print money, and invade nations and invent words.

    In 2009 SSI paid 8M people about $45B. 60% of those under 65 had a "mental disorder." Did many have a legitimate disorder? Sure. Whatever. But when the system ties benefits to a mental disorder, the point is the benefits, not the mental disorder.

    What you should be asking is why, if society has decided to give the poor a stipend of $600/month, does it do this through the medical establishment and not as a traditional social policy? And the answer is very simple:

    you, America, would go bananas if poor people got money for nothing, you can barely stand it when they get it for a disability;
    if you offload a social problem to medicine, if you medicalize a social problem, then you've bought yourself a generation or two to come up with a new plan or invade someone.

    Do you want riots in the streets? How much does it cost to prevent LA (or the city of your choice) from catching fire? Answer: $600/month/person, plus Medicaid. Medicalizing social problems has the additional benefit of rendering society not responsible for those social ills. If it's a disease, it's nobody's fault. Yay empiricism.

    Those who are arguing about the cost of healthcare or think that poor people are lying to get benefits are completely and utterly missing the point of the system. It wants this in the hands of doctors, because it would be toxic to everyone else. Can you imagine your Senator deciding who gets benefits and who doesn't?

    And maybe these people get some meds as well. You know what counts as an outcome in inner city psychiatry? Guy doesn't punch his kid in the face. One less instance of domestic violence a month. "Well, goddam, I don't see those in the DSM-V. How much is that outcome going to cost us?" $600/month + Abilify+ Xanax + Celexa. But you then can pretend it doesn't exist.

    VII. This is how it works, like it or not.

    An inner city psychiatrist sees 20-40 people a day. 15 minute med checks, which in a city is 5 or 10 minutes. "Any major symptoms? Suicidality? Side effects? Here's your refill." You try and pull that off in a suburban area and the Ms. Collins will complain you haven't actualized her identity or validated her ambivalence. But in the city (and I'm guessing rural areas) that's the standard. The government allows it because someone has to deal with those "patients." The government doesn't any other options.

    Same with benzos (Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, etc) and narcotics (percocet, MS Contin etc.) Once in a while some doc gets publicly arrested for handing out Vicodins in Valu-Packs, but the amount of benzos being routinely prescribed in an inner city is unbelievable. Go to your suburban doc and try and beg for a few Xanax. Come to the inner city and you can get #90 Zannies on first visit. Why? Because the government isn't going to mess with the eleven or so sandbags they have placed in each neighborhood to hold back a flood of proletariat rage. Patients want them (to use, to sell, whatever) and docs give them because if they didn't, they wouldn't come back, and if they don't come back, what are they going to do instead? Get a job at Walmart? No, they're going to burn it.

    And there's plenty of money to be made for the entrepreneurial. If you want to be rich in inner city psychiatry (no, you don't have to be a doc), you open a clinic and hire 1 psychiatrist and lots of (talk) therapists, usually social workers. Medicaid will pay for 1 therapy visit per week (around $60/hr) and a 15 minute med check with the doc ($40/visit). The doc usually gets salaried but for illustration let him have it all. The therapist, however, gets very little– $20/hr. The rest goes to the clinic. If the clinic serves 100 patients, the clinic can bill $24000 a month in therapy, pay $8000 to the therapists and pocket $16k a month, minus overhead and security guards. Do you know how many patients go to clinics? Thousands.

    Which is not at all to trivialize the role of therapy, or the psychiatry: it is often the only thing keeping them out of the abyss.

    But they have to go to therapy because the clinic requires it because Medicaid requires it (integrated care), and the patients need the clinic because that's how they're getting their SSI, not to mention the Zannies. The docs need them to come because that's how they earn their living, and the government allows this because it needs someone to deal with American poverty until either we discover cold fusion or the aliens invade. The government doesn't tolerate this, it doesn't turn a blind eye towards it, it explicitly allows it. The only thing it forbids is billing for a service not performed (e.g. ghost patient.)

    The new move is for inner city primary care clinics to perform a "depression screening" (questionnaire in the waiting room) and bill out a psych visit along with the normal visit.

    The rise of psychiatry parallels the rise of poverty in industrialized societies. The reason you see psychiatry in the U.S. but not in the Sudan isn't because there's no money for it in the Sudan, but because there is not enough money in the US to make some people feel comparatively like they're not in the Sudan. Hence Zoloft. It is the government's last resort to a social problem it may or may not have created, whatever, but has absolutely no other way of dealing with. Predictably, world psychiatry will also be the temporary solution to world poverty until the aliens return to see what became of their 6000 year experiment. So invest in Pfizer, it will only go up. It has to.

    Turns out that's only part of the story. The courts are also using the older soviet model, as plainly displayed in this instance. So go ahead, make the case for me : why would any sane, moral, respectable, good person not burn America down ?

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