When a federal judge declared that his sentencing instincts "sucked," one person disagreed -- and it was the man he'd sent to prison for 10 years.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Kopf had sentenced 23-year-old Shon Hopwood to 147 months in prison for pleading guilty to five counts of bank robbery in the late 1990s. The judge thought the young man was unlikely to amount to much. But when Hopwood got out, he turned his life around.
He went on to attend law school at the University of Washington. And this year, he was hired as a 2014 law clerk for Judge Janice Rogers Brown of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, according to The Blog of Legal Times.
Upon hearing the news, Kopf wrote a heartfelt post on his personal blog.
Hopwood proves that my sentencing instincts suck. When I sent him to prison, I would have bet the farm and all the animals that Hopwood would fail miserably as a productive citizen when he finally got out of prison. My gut told me that Hopwood was a punk–all mouth, and very little else. My viscera was wrong.
But Hopwood, now 38, thought differently, and he commented on the judge's post to let him know:
I wouldn’t say that your sentencing instincts suck. While I meant what I said at sentencing, I was hardly the person that could back it up. I was a reckless and selfish young man back then. I changed. I think most of us change from the age of 22 to 38. And many, like me, outgrow the irresponsibility and foolishness.
The New York Times noted that four days after Kopf and Hopwood's exchange, Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. announced an initiative to cut down on mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes.
“Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law enforcement reason,” Holder said.
Hopwood went on to say that while he doesn't agree with the "system," he understood why Judge Kopf acted the way he did.
"I feel fortunate that I have been given so many second chances, including the sentence which allowed me to be released at a fairly young age," he added in his comment. "That doesn’t always happen."