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Sessions orders tougher sentences in DOJ memo

Sessions orders tougher sentences in DOJ memo
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsHarris to resign from Senate seat on Monday Rosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' Sessions, top DOJ officials knew 'zero tolerance' would separate families, watchdog finds MORE is rolling back Obama-era Justice Department charging and sentencing guidelines, instructing federal prosecutors to charge defendants with the most serious crime possible.

"It is a core principle that prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense," Sessions wrote in a memo sent Thursday night. "This policy affirms our responsibility to enforce the law, is moral and just, and produces consistency."

The memo marks a drastically different approach to drug-related offenses than the one taken under former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Joe Biden's continued 'Russian misinformation' defense of Hunter is conspiracy-level laughable Tyson fires 7 after probe into managers coronavirus betting MORE, who had ordered federal prosecutors in 2013 to refrain from charging defendants with certain offenses that could see long mandatory minimum sentences.

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"This policy fully utilizes the tools Congress has given us," Sessions wrote. "By definition, the most serious offenses are those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences." 

Sessions's memo marks the administration's first major criminal justice effort to crackdown on drug crime, a promise touted by President Trump on the campaign trail.

Trump billed himself as the "law-and-order candidate" and often railed against what he dubbed anti-law enforcement policies by the Obama administration.

The new guidelines instruct prosecutors to "disclose to the sentencing court all facts that impact the sentencing guidelines or mandatory minimum sentences" — a significant departure from Holder's policies, which directed prosecutors not to disclose the quantity of drugs to courts to avoid strict mandatory minimum sentences unless the defendant was a gang leader or repeat criminal offender.