Eric Holder reversed the Department of Justice position on a death-penalty case last night in San Francisco, offering a 40-year sentence in a plea agreement for multiple murders. Michael Mukasey had refused to accept a plea bargain for gang leader Emile Fort on three counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder. The mother of one victim, a seven-week-old infant killed in a hail of gunfire intended for his father, objected:
President Obama’s Justice Department halted the death penalty trial of an alleged San Francisco gang leader Monday by accepting a 40-year prison sentence that the Bush administration had vetoed.
The plea agreement for Emile Fort remained on hold after a federal judge heard a tearful plea from a murder victim’s mother for a life sentence and summoned prosecutors to a closed-door session to describe their case against Fort.
Afterward, despite apparent irritation at his lack of authority to change the terms of the plea deal, U.S. District Judge William Alsup indicated he was likely to accept the agreement at a hearing today.
Fort, 27, is accused of committing three murders and attempting two others in 2003 and 2004 as a leader of a gang that fought for control of turf and drug trafficking at the Sunnydale public housing projects in Visitacion Valley. Police said one victim, a 7-week-old infant named Glenn Molex, was killed in his Bayview home in September 2003 by a shot fired from a passing car intended for his father.
Fort was arrested in July 2004 on state charges but was transferred to U.S. custody 16 months later when federal prosecutors obtained racketeering indictments against members of the gang.
I don’t support the death penalty for domestic crimes, but 40 years is not a sufficient sentence for Fort’s assassinations. Three murders from racketeering activities alone should net three consecutive life sentences, not an aggregate of 40 years. Under federal guidelines, Fort will be 63 when he gains eligibility for parole, while Glenn Molex and the other two victims will still be dead.
Ironically, California would have been much harsher on Fort than the feds. First-degree murder carries only two possible penalties in California: death, or life without parole. I doubt that there is a judge in California who would hesitate to make the sentences consecutive rather than concurrent even if a jury didn’t return a death sentence on any of the convictions. The state of California probably regrets conceding jurisdiction to the feds, and may not make that same mistake again in the future, as long as Obama and Holder are in office.
Holder betrayed California’s trust and the safety of its citizens by offering this plea agreements. Three premeditated murders and two attempts at murder make Fort a serial killer, and Holder just guaranteed that we will once again have him on the streets, rather than put away for life. This doesn’t do justice for the victims — which is what a Department of Justice exists to provide.