Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson once sentenced a previously-deported drug dealer to less than two years in prison, when prosecutors, defense and sentencing guidelines recommended a longer term behind bars.
Jackson acknowledged from the bench the sentencing guidelines called for 27 to 33 months in prison for Daniel Garcia-Guerrero of El Salvador. Both the prosecutor and the defense team had told Jackson they’d recommend the lower end of the guidance at 27 months.
But Jackson told the defendant — who was previously convicted of dealing drugs in 2002 — that she’d sentence him below the guidelines at 21 months, noting when he returned illegally to the United States he did not commit an additional crime and there “were family circumstances that appeared to be the motivation for your return.”
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“The Court believes that the just and appropriate sentence … does fall below the guideline range, both in fairness to you because you were told at the plea stage that the guideline range would be significantly lower and in light of the fact that you would be deported upon release,” Jackson said at the sentencing hearing in 2013, according to a court transcript obtained by Fox News Digital.
Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
The transcript was first reported by Breitbart News.
The case has come to light during Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation process as Republicans are digging through her sentencing record and noting patterns where Jackson deviated from guidelines to impose lesser sentences. Her record of handing down shorter sentences than the guidelines recommended for child pornography offenders has especially been condemned by Republicans.
Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans, led by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, highlighted this case as an example of Jackson being too lenient on certain criminals. She chose to give a “light” sentence to a felon who had reentered the U.S. after being deported once for selling crack cocaine, according to a press release from Grassley’s office.
“Repeat illegal immigrant and drug dealer gets kid glove treatment,” the statement is titled.
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After being caught for reentering illegally in the United States, Garcia-Guerrero pleaded guilty and was before Jackson for sentencing in 2013. His defense lawyer told Jackson he initially came to the United States from El Salvador for a better life and started dealing drugs as “an act of desperation.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, left, listens as Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, speaks during Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
He was convicted on the drug offense in 2003 and sent to prison. Afterwards he was deported to El Salvador in 2008. Garcia-Guerrero asked Jackson for forgiveness for returning to the United States in 2013 for the birth of his daughter and told Jackson he was a changed man.
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“I have become a new person,” Garcia-Guerrero told Jackson. “And when I came back here, I didn’t come back with the intention of doing anything bad or doing any harm. I came because my child was about to be born. And I came because I had to find a way — I had to find a way to fight for the economic well-being of my daughter and my wife.”
Jackson seemed to accept Garcia-Guerrero’s argument in court.
“It is also evident that Mr. Garcia-Guerrero keeps returning for economic reasons, to make a better life for himself and also presumably for his children — one of whom is an infant — who are here in the United States with their mothers,” Jackson said at the sentencing.
Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Josh Blackman, a law professor at the South Texas College of Law Houston, said Jackson’s downward departure from 27 to 21 months doesn’t seem unreasonable.
“Judges are allowed to deviate from the guidelines,” Blackman told Fox News Digital. “That’s not prohibited unless it’s what’s called an ‘unreasonable’ departure. And this doesn’t strike me as unreasonable.”
The White House did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.