Originally posted at LifeZette.
The topic of “criminal justice reform” is all the rage these days. Politicians in both parties are proposing ways to re-examine, among other things, prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders. Indeed, there is much about our current justice system that needs fixing. But we imagine the president isn’t losing much sleep about Dinesh D’Souza’s case.
His film 2016: Obama’s America is the second-highest grossing documentary of all time. His books about conservatism and Christianity are national bestsellers. His debates and speeches on college campuses attract overflow crowds.
Simply put, he has been one of the most effective advocates for conservatism of his generation.
But now he has one more entry in his Wikipedia listing: felon. What was D’Souza’s crime? Briefly, in 2012 he exceeded the federal campaign finance limit when he gave an extra $20,000 to a longtime college friend, Wendy Long, who was running against New York’s Democrat incumbent U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. (Full disclosure: Long is also a close friend of some of us.) D’Souza pleaded guilty to using “straw donors” to fund Long’s campaign rather than face a prosecution hell-bent on sending him to prison for a crime that, with similar facts, results in fine and community service.
There’s no sugar coating the fact that D’Souza’s actions were unwise and careless. But there’s also no doubt that his motive was based on friendship, not what the underlying law was enacted to prevent—corruption.
Putting aside the question of whether D’Souza was the victim of selective prosecution (and there’s a strong case others have made there), we believe he’s now the victim of selective punishment.
Consider the campaign finance case of another prominent American, hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal. A successful businessman and lifelong liberal, Chatwal is a big donor and bundler for Hillary Clinton and several other Democratic candidates.
Let’s compare the facts of each case (both heard in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York). First, Dinesh gave $20,000 more than the campaign finance laws allow. Chatwal gave $180,000 to three candidates — or nine times the amount that Dinesh did.
Second, D’Souza gave money without expecting anything in return. He donated to a friend, and his motive was to help at a time when her opposition was outspending her by a factor of 10. There was no quid pro quo. By contrast, Chatwal gave the money to buy political favors. In fact, he was caught on tape saying that without the contributions, “nobody will even talk to you,” adding, “That’s the only way to buy them, get into the system.” Chatwal’s intentions were corrupt, while D’Souza’s were not.
Third, Chatwal was also convicted of witness tampering. The government recorded him trying to convince a witness to lie under oath. In sum, there is no comparison between these two cases—neither in motive, nor in the magnitude of the crime.
Now let’s compare their punishments. Dinesh was sentenced to eight months in a confinement center. Chatwal received no prison time, no confinement, and a $500,000 fine.
D’Souza received five years of probation; Chatwal received three years.
Regarding community service, D’Souza got three years, which adds up to over 2,000 hours. Chatwal got less than half of that — 1,000 hours of community service.
Richard Berman, a Clinton appointee, is the federal judge presiding over the D’Souza case. Ironically, the judge in Chatwal’s case was a Reagan appointee.
Justice is served not only on the basis of whether someone violated the law — the penalties should also fit the crime. It’s hard to have faith in a criminal justice system when defendants who commit offenses of similar gravity do not receive similar punishments. Such is the case here.
But, as with the old Ginsu knives commercial, there’s more! Berman has now ordered D’Souza to undergo additional psychological counseling. This despite the fact that two independent medical psychiatrists have testified that D’Souza is of a sound mental state, suffering from no mental issues such as depression. D’Souza’s personal therapist also wrote to the judge saying he needed no further counseling.
Nevertheless, Berman, who is apparently a psych major from college, believes his expertise trumps that of these certified medical practitioners. How is this fair? If D’Souza wasn’t a successful conservative opposing the Obama agenda, would Berman be taking such extraordinary steps? What if D’Souza was, let’s say, a guy who supported Planned Parenthood and politicians such as Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi?
If only D’Souza could petition someone to order a psych evaluation and counseling for the judge.
Read more at LifeZette.
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