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GOP bill would create mandatory minimums for crimes against police

GOP bill would create mandatory minimums for crimes against police
© Greg Nash

Republicans are reigniting efforts to crack down on people who hurt police officers with new mandatory minimum prison sentences.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSunday shows preview: Russia, US exchange sanctions; tensions over policing rise; vaccination campaign continues GOP acknowledges struggle to bring down Biden Intelligence leaders push for mandatory breach notification law MORE (R-Texas) and Rep. Ted PoeLloyd (Ted) Theodore PoeSheila Jackson Lee tops colleagues in House floor speaking days over past decade Senate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion Texas New Members 2019 MORE (R-Texas) on Tuesday reintroduced the Back the Blue Act to create new federal crimes for killing, attempting to kill or conspiring to kill a judge, federal law enforcement officer or federally funded public safety officer.  

Under the law, killing a judge or law enforcement officer would be punishable by death or a mandatory minimum of 30 years in prison, while attempting to or conspiring to kill a judge or law enforcement officer would carry a mandatory minimum of 10 years.

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The legislation also creates new mandatory minimums for assaulting a law enforcement officer based on the extent of the injury and the use of a dangerous weapon.

Fleeing from justice to avoid prosecution for committing one of these crimes, meanwhile, would carry a mandatory minimum of 10 years.

The legislation, introduced during National Police Week, comes in the midst of an uproar over Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsGarland rescinds Trump-era memo curtailing consent decrees Biden picks vocal Trump critics to lead immigration agencies The Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings MORE’s order last week directing federal prosecutors to be tough on crime.

In a stark turnaround from Obama-era guidance, Sessions told prosecutors to charge defendants with the most serious crimes possible that by definition “carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimums.”

In response, Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Anti-Asian hate crimes bill overcomes first Senate hurdle Fauci on Tucker Carlson vaccine comments: 'Typical crazy conspiracy theory' MORE (R-Ky.) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyCongress brings back corrupt, costly, and inequitably earmarks Biden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  Senate GOP opens door to earmarks MORE (D-Vt.) introduced legislation late Tuesday to give federal judges more discretion when handing down prison sentences.

The Justice Safety Valve Act gives federal judges the ability to impose sentences below the mandatory minimums when appropriate. 

Advocates for criminal justice claim the Back the Blue Act along with Sessions's order will once again fill federal prisons.

“Add this to the Sessions’ memo and they might as well just dissolve state legislatures and let Congress make all criminal justice policy,” said Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

“No one condones violence, especially against our brave first responders, but why should punching a retired cop be a federal crime that requires a mandatory federal prison term? I think states can protect their officers. In fact, many states have already passed laws to address this issue.”

In a statement Tuesday, Leahy spokesman David Carle said the Vermont Senator has been pushing measures to better protect police with bullet proof vests, strengthen programs that provide death and educational benefits to survivors of fallen law enforcement and authorize funding for an Anti-Heroin Task Force. 

“As far as mandatory minimum sentences are concerned, Leahy, especially as a former prosecutor, is one of many who by now have concluded that they are ineffective,” he said.