(MintPress) – The U.S. Justice Department is calling on a federal judge to release dozens who have been improperly imprisoned under the watch of U.S. District Judge Robert Conrad of Charlotte, N.C., yet he’s refusing to overturn convictions, leaving innocent people behind bars.
USA Today revealed in 2012 that at least 60 people had been detained on gun-related charges, despite the fact that they were not legally banned from gun possession. They were convicted of a crimes that had not been committed. In response to the Justice Department, 34 people had been released from prison — 16 were taken off supervised release, according to USA Today.
Conrad, a President George W. Bush nominee, obviously feels those who had previously committed crimes — not warranting a felony status — do not hold the same rights as other Americans. The Justice Department says he is wrong and is following his own opinion, rather than the rule of law.
“We can’t be outcome driven,” U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins of Charlotte, N.C., told USA today in 2012 interview. “We’ve got to make sure we follow the law, and people should want us to do that.”
This isn’t the first time Conrad has infused his own beliefs and convictions into the job. In 1999, while serving for the U.S. Attorney’s Office as a prosecutor, he went after nuns who opposed the death penalty, referring to anti-death activist and nun Helen Prejean as a “church hating nun,” according to The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. That same group advocated against Conrad’s appointment, citing apprehension over a poor civil rights record and controversial views.
For Conrad’s current debacle in North Carolina, it all comes down to who a felon is under the law, and who a felon is under the eyes of Conrad.
Under federal law, a felon is not permitted to carry a gun. If found doing so, they are subject to conviction of gun-related charges and, ultimately, incarceration. The federal law is rather cut and dry. But in North Carolina, there are questions as to who a felon is.
Federal legislation states that any person who had previously committed a crime worthy of one year in prison is, from that point on, a felon. Yet in North Carolina, prison sentences (for crimes outside of weapon possession) are directly tied to the criminal history of the perpetrator. While one person may face a sentence of more than a year in prison for drug possession, another person with a sparkling record could get off with a lesser sentence.
This has led to multiple situations in North Carolina of people who served less than one year in prison for a crime, but who were incarcerated for possessing a gun after their release. By federal definition, they were — and are — not a felon.
Despite the precedent, acknowledgement of mistake and urging from the Justice Department, Conrad just won’t budge.