The acting attorney general under President Joe Biden has pulled the Trump administration’s charging and sentencing policy, which mandated that federal prosecutors almost always pursue the harshest charges and stiffest penalties.
In a memo to all federal prosecutors obtained by HuffPost, acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson rescinded a May 10, 2017, memo from then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. At the time, Sessions told federal prosecutors across the country to always pursue to harshest charges and penalties possible unless they received specific permission from their supervisors.
“The goal of this interim step is to ensure that decisions about charging, plea agreements, and advocacy at sentencing are based on the merits of each case and reflect an individualized assessment of relevant facts while longer-term policy is formulated,” Wilkinson wrote.
Under Donald Trump-era policies, prosecutors were instructed to always disclose any facts that would trigger mandatory minimum sentences during the sentencing process. If a prosecutor wished to recommend a departure or variance to a judge during the sentencing process, they were also told to get a supervisor’s approval.
For now, the Justice Department is reverting back to a 2010 charing and sentencing policy issued by former Attorney General Eric Holder. Under Holder’s guidelines, federal prosecutors were encouraged to focus on “individualized justice” and decision-making based on “the merits of each case.”
Holder implemented a more progressive policy regarding mandatory minimums in drug cases in 2013, and it’s likely the Justice Department will reexamine its permanent charging and sentencing policy once leaders are in place. Biden has nominated Merrick Garland for attorney general, Lisa Monaco for deputy attorney general and Vanita Gupta for associate attorney general.
“Together we will work to safeguard the public, maximize the impact of our federal resources, avoid unwarranted disparities, promote fair outcomes in sentencing, and seek justice in every case,” Wilkinson wrote. “Thank you for you continued dedication to achieving those goals.”
Read the memo below.