I learn from today’s New York Post story that Senate Judiciary Committee member Tom Cotton has written a letter posing a few questions to the meritless Merrick Garland about the sentencing of Minnesota’s own Montez Terriel Lee. Lee drove up from Rochester, Minnesota to get in on the George Floyd riots in Minneapolis on the evening the police department’s Third Precinct Headquarters was burned down. Lee joined the action by burning down a pawn shop on Lake Street and incinerated another gentleman in the process.
Among the handful of cases charged in the riots, Lee pleaded guilty to arson. Federal sentencing guidelines called for a sentence of 20 years, but the United States Attorney for the District of Minnesota — in the person of AUSA Thomas Calhoun-Lopez — invoked Martin Luther King and sought for a far more lenient sentence because rioting in a cause mitigated the offense. Judge Wilhelmina “Mimi” Wright, now on President Biden’s shortlist for appointment to the Supreme Court, took up the idea and sentenced Lee to 10 years.
The problem, in my view, is not so much the sentence per se as the prosecutor’s philosophical endorsement of rioting and Judge Wright’s reflections on Lee’s human potential (see her comments at the sentencing hearing in my linked post). Give me a break.
Hoping to draw attention to the the anomalies, I wrote about the case at some length, most recently, in “Felony murder in a good cause: FOX News edition.” Senator Cotton now takes up the case in his letter to Garland (included with press release here, PDF here):
Dear Attorney General Garland:
On May 28, 2020, Montez Lee set fire to a pawn shop in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and murdered a 30-year-old father of five.
In August 2020, the United States Attorney’s Office in Minnesota indicted Lee on one count of Arson and he pleaded guilty on July 22, 2021. The sentencing guidelines called for a sentence of around 20 years. But the U.S. Attorney’s office filed a Sentencing Memorandum asking for half this time. Most shockingly, the U.S. Attorney defended Montez Lee and expressed sympathy for his murderous arson because Lee’s crime was committed during the BLM riots.
Showing leniency towards a career criminal who committed murder is bad enough. But justifying the murder because the career criminal shares the Biden Administration’s politics is beyond the pale.
The American people deserve to know whether leniency for left-wing murderers is the official policy of the Biden Department of Justice, or whether this travesty was a one-off.
Please provide answers to the following questions by February 21, 2022.
1. Does the Attorney General believe participation in a riot is a basis for leniency in sentencing individuals for violent crimes?
2. In the Sentencing Memorandum, the government concludes that Montez Lee “does not appear to pose a danger to the public.” The Sentencing Memorandum stated that Lee, who was 25 when he committed this crime, had been convicted for burglary, domestic violence, and theft. The government also acknowledged that, in his domestic violence case, Montez Lee violently ruptured his girlfriend’s eardrum. Given these convictions, all committed in a truncated period before Lee was even 25 and which put him at Criminal History Level IV (out of VI), please describe how the government concluded that Lee posed no danger to the community.
3. Please provide all communications between the United States Attorney’s Office for Minnesota and any political appointees at the Department of Justice regarding the sentencing recommendation for Montez Lee.
The Star Tribune and other local media have avoided raising any such questions. It is good to have Senator Cotton on the case in the Biden kakistocracy.
Quotable quote: “Showing leniency towards a career criminal who committed murder is bad enough. But justifying the murder because the career criminal shares the Biden Administration’s politics is beyond the pale. The American people deserve to know whether leniency for left-wing murderers is the official policy of the Biden Department of Justice, or whether this travesty was a one-off.”