Arsonist killer gets reduced sentence due to his politics

AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File

Imagine, for a moment, you killed someone. Not in self-defense, but actual murder. Maybe you meant to do it, maybe it was secondary to what you did. For this discussion, it doesn’t matter. You’re a killer.

Now, picture you sitting there for sentencing and the judge decides that because you were really upset about gun control, he’s going to knock some off your sentence.

While you’d likely be cool with that, I suspect a whole lot of people wouldn’t. After all, we don’t give killers a pass because we like their politics.

Or do we?

An arsonist who murdered a father of five during the George Floyd riots was given a reduced sentence after the federal prosecutor in Minnesota asked the judge for leniency because of the arsonist’s “legitimate frustration with the criminal justice system,” according to the Washington Free Beacon.

For some Republican members of Congress, the 12-year sentence suggested by prosecutors, when guidelines called for 20 years, proved too much to accept.

The arsonist, 26-year-old Montez Terriel Lee, tried to claim he didn’t intend to hurt anyone. But it was the prosecutor’s reasoning that strikes any reasonable person as ludicrous.

“Mr. Lee was terribly misguided, and his actions had tragic, unthinkable consequences. But he appears to have believed that he was, in Dr. King’s eloquent words, engaging in ‘the language of the unheard,’” the memo reads.

This dude killed someone while rioting.

His political views–and any frustration he felt with the legal system is a political view, make no mistake about it–are completely and totally irrelevant. Or, at least, they should be.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Lee’s looking at a fair bit of prison time, all things considered, which is a good thing. However, he should be looking at a whole lot more. At least eight years more, as the GOP lawmakers note in their objection.

Prosecutors do get some say in sentencing in most cases, of course. That’s not unusual. It’s also not unusual to cite various reasons you believe someone may not deserve the full sentence, such as volunteer work or other community service.

But at the end of the day, one’s political positions cannot and should not be used to justify a reduced sentence for someone who murdered another. It just can’t.

Sentencing isn’t just about punishing the guilty. It’s about creating a deterrent so that others don’t do similar things. When prosecutors and courts punish people to long sentences for their crimes, others have to decide if it’s really worth all that.

Now, though, at least in one city, there’s less reason to care about whether the building you’re about to set fire to is occupied or not.

While Congress generally shouldn’t get involved in local sentencing matters, this is a case where I have no issues with it. After all, what good does it do to create laws and sentencing guidelines if they’re going to go out the window because the prosecutor finds it politically useful to ignore them in favor of the perpetrator’s political views?

Honestly, the people applauding this are the exact same people who thought Kyle Rittenhouse should have gone to prison because he was standing on the wrong side of a riot in Kenosha. It’s beyond ridiculous.

Yet here we are.

More and more, it’s getting harder to really think of this country as being great. Not because of the people as a whole, but because of a small minority that is stupid enough to ask for reduced sentencing for a killer simply because he had the right political views.

Whether this is an act of true belief or an act of appeasement, it doesn’t matter. The damage it will do is the same either way.