Sentencing ‘Reform’: More Than Just Nonviolent Drug Offenders

Phil Jensen


Under legislation now being considered by the U.S. Senate applying retroactive sentencing reductions to drug offenders, a Columbus, Ohio triple murder suspect would still have been eligible for early release despite having a violent criminal past.

Columbus_OH_MurderWendell Callahan is being prosecuted for the January 12 murder of his ex-girlfriend Erveena Hammonds and her 7 and 10 year-old daughters, Breya and Anaesia.

Callahan had been set free under the U.S. Sentencing Commission retroactively applying the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, which resulted in his 2006 12-and-a-half year sentence for selling cocaine and felony possession of a firearm convictions being knocked down. In 1999, Callahan had also been convicted of felonious assault in Ohio.

Rick Kriebel 2016


Despite that rap sheet, Callahan was allowed to go free — and tragically that would still be true even under the new legislation.

To be fair, the bill attempts to prevent this sort of travesty of justice by disallowing anybody convicted of a “serious violent felony” from being eligible for early release.

The problem is that the bill defines “serious” as “an offense described in section 3559(c)(2)(F) of title 18, United States Code,” or “any other offense punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years or more that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person.”

Woodrow Wilcox


Although Callahan had been charged with felon possession of a firearm, that crime was not committed while being in possession of the cocaine or in the commission of any other felony. They were separate charges on separate dates. So the provision of the new law preventing 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) possession of a firearm while committing a felony convicts from being released early — included on the list of offenses under 3559(c)(2)(F) — would not be applicable.

And, even though Callahan had been convicted of felonious assault in 1999, as noted by the Daily Caller’s Alex Pfeiffer, at the time in Ohio that was only a third degree felony, and that carried a maximum penalty of five years. To bar somebody convicted of another violent felony from gaining early release under the proposed legislation, the maximum term has to be 10 years or more.

Was Callahan a “nonviolent” drug offender?

Whether he was or he wasn’t, Callahan would still have been eligible for early release under the terms of the new sentencing “reform” act. And Hammonds and her daughters would still be dead.

So too will thousands of other convicts who were “merely” convicted of assault with maximum penalties that were less than 10 years be eligible to leave jail early.  Or those who had been convicted of felony possession of a firearm but because they were not committing another felony at the time will be eligible for early release.

See a pattern?

The real problem is that proponents of the sentencing legislation have maintained that early release would only apply to “nonviolent” drug offenders. Now we know for a fact that’s a myth.



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Robert Romano is the Senior Editor of Americans for Limited Government (ALG) News Bureau. Americans for Limited Government is a non- partisan, nationwide network committed to advancing free market reforms,private property rights and core American liberties.
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