A federal judge gave a defendant in a major marijuana trafficking case a lighter sentence, explaining that pot distribution crimes are “not regarded with the same seriousness” as they were previously.
Federal judge James K. Bredar sentenced Scott Russell Segal to less than five years in federal prison for trafficking hundreds of kilograms of weed, notably less than the eight-to-eleven years recommended by sentencing guidelines.
"It's indisputable that the offense is not regarded with the same seriousness it was 20 or 30 years ago when the sentencing guidelines … which are still in use, were promulgated," Bredar said.
The sentence comes after Judge Bredar hinted at a pre-sentencing hearing last week that he was open to issuing lighter than average sentences in this case.
Judge Bredar referenced the US Department of Justice's August 29 announcement that the feds would not prosecute marijuana businesses in compliance with state law. He also said that enforcing marijuana-related cases differently based on different state’s laws raised concerns of “equal justice.”
Segal was one of 22 individuals convicted of trafficking pot from California and New Jersey to Maryland and laundering money through an eBay business. Judge Bredar did deny Segal attorney David Fischer's request that his client be sentenced to home detention.
Former assistant US Attorney Kwame Manley told the Baltimore Sun: "I think you're going to see, going forward, a lot of federal judges saying that if the Department of Justice is having a different view of how to enforce marijuana laws, then the judges should also think differently about their discretion in imposing sentences for marijuana."