Andrew Auernheimer's prison sentence is getting some attention.
I'm (Paul Gozzo) not going to comment on what Auernheimer may or may not have done to get in this position in the first place. I have followed this story with interest just like I followed the Aaron Swartz story which ended so horribly. What is interesting to me is the impression by journalists on how prison sentences are actually handed out. I'm getting the feeling the public really doesn't understand this either.
Just look at the differences in these two stories. The first is from The Star Ledger in New Jersey, or NJ.com and the second from the other side of the country in California at Mercury News.
So why did Andrew Auernheimer get the higher end of the "sentencing guideline" range? And what are the sentencing guidelines anyway? Is it because he actually went to trial and did not take a plea deal? Is it because he was so "defiant" and showed "disrespect" to the court as Dan Goldberg of The Star-Ledger points out? Is it because among the 120,000 iPad users whose personal data was allegedly compromised included film mogul Harvey Weinstein and big shot New York Mayor (and part time Billionaire) Michael Bloomberg, who by the way made all that money by organizing data on people and companies that he sold at a high price to Wall Streeters?
Auernheimer got the heavy sentence not because he was defiant to the judge, but because he didn't cooperate with the prosecution who never wants to go to trial and enjoys a "conviction rate" percentage in the high 90's because so many take plea agreements. So when an arrested person does actually go to trial, the prosecution then asks for the maximum sentence on the guideline range that they came up with to begin. So much of the negotiation that factors into the "range" is done behind the scenes anyway. The judge's hands are sort of tied. The prosecution has all the power.
It goes a little like this. The prosecutor's office will talk to a person about being arrested and offer them a plea that is significantly lower than what they will ask for in front of a judge if the accused signs a plea agreement and avoids a trial. Now the person has to think and weigh the options. In cases where the person is a real criminal and they know this game, they understand when to take a deal and also when to tell on someone else thus reducing their potential sentence even further. In cases where the accused (Auernheimer) feels they did no wrong and doesn't buy into the "ignorance of the law doesn't mean you're innocent" theory, and they say "no" to a plea agreement, that defiance will tick-off the prosecutor's office and the accused will end up getting hammered, or the high-end of the guideline range, at sentencing.
This news will die-out, but Auernheimer is going to jail soon. As for the "victims" in this case. I believe they already have moved on and their life was not altered in the slightest.
My guess is that Auernheimer's prison sentence will end up getting reduced significantly at some point though. I (Paul M. Gozzo) would be shocked if Auernheimer stays defiant and serves the 34.85 months or nearly three years that he would have to stay imprisoned on the 41 month sentence. (Inmates can earn 15% off for good-time).