Use of Tough Federal Sentencing Laws Varies Widely Nationwide

Post Date: November 4, 2013

Use of tough sentencing laws varies

Lori Newhouse and her sons.

(Los Angeles Times) —  As drug dealers go, Lori Ann Newhouse was strictly small time.

A high school dropout from a little Iowa town, Newhouse had three sons, a low-paying job as a telemarketer and a relentless methamphetamine habit. On St. Patrick’s Day in 2011, Newhouse bought cold tablets used to make meth and traded them to a lab for a gram of the highly addictive drug.

Federal agents, it turned out, were watching.

Newhouse’s bust landed her in the federal system in northern Iowa, where drug sentences have been among the harshest in the nation. Prosecutors decided that a past conviction — she had been caught in a motel room with drugs and a dealer boyfriend — qualified her for a doubled mandatory minimum sentence, from five to 10 years.

U.S. District Judge Mark W. Bennett, a fierce critic of mandatory sentencing laws, thought that made no sense. “Newhouse is not Iowa’s Pablo Escobar,” he wrote in an opinion, referring to the infamous Colombian drug lord. Read more