Tag Archives: prr

Criticism of Minimum Mandatory Sentences Continues to Grow

I have discussed some of the issues with minimum mandatory sentences here on Crimcourts a few times; from inequities in sentencing, to the ridiculousness of a man facing a mandatory 15-year sentence for having sex on the beach (though the prosecutor on that case agreed, and declined to proceed on the PRR designation that would have mandated the mandatory minimum). The issue has gained some national traction in political discussions, mostly as it relates to our overcrowded prison populations, including critics from both the right and left.

You run the risk of injustice when you try to apply blanket results without regard to the specifics of each case. Harsh sentences are appropriate for serious offenders, but a balance needs to be struck. Non-violent drug offenders probably don’t need decades in prison, and even young people that commit violent offenses are unlikely to be a risk to society when they become senior citizens. Reform still faces as uphill battle, as it is still politically advantageous to be tough on crime, and the prison industry is lucrative and has a powerful lobbying interest, but I am hopeful common sense will ultimately bring reason to our criminal punishment structures.

John Oliver took a look on This Week Tonight, and raises some quality, and some funny, points:

Prosecutors Won’t Seek 15-Year PRR Max Sentence for Sex on the Beach

Ed Brodsky, the elected State Attorney for the circuit including Manatee County and Bradenton, announced yesterday that he will not be seeking the full 15-year prison sentence that was expected for Jose Caballero. Caballero was one half of a

Jose 'Benny' Caballero

Jose ‘Benny’ Caballero

couple that were convicted this week for having sex on the beach in Bradenton. Because he was released from prison within 3 years of the offense, he was facing Prison Releasee Reoffender sentence, which would have mandated the maximum 15 years, to be serve day for day (no time off for good behavior).

Apparently, Brodsky has relented, after the case brought the attention of Families Against Minimum Mandatory sentences (FAMM). As we pointed out on Crimcourts: it costs about $18,000 per year to incarcerate someone… an his full sentence could have cost taxpayers $270,000. He’s still going to be looking at some time, but thanks to some magnanimity from the prosecutor, not a full 15. The judge would not have had discretion, had the state proceeded with the PRR sentence.

Bradenton Couple Guilty of Sex Crime for Sex on the Beach

Video of Sex on the Beach

Clip of Video

The Sex on the Beach trial that started last week in Bradenton, and provided wildly entertaining salacious testimony in the Manatee County Courtroom, wrapped up Monday. The case had enough media attention that it featured the elected State Attorney, Ed Brodsky, personally representing the State in the prosecution. After closing arguments, the jury did not need much deliberation, returning with a guilty verdict after only about 15 minutes.

Jose 'Benny' Caballero

Jose ‘Benny’ Caballero

Defendants Jose Cabellero, 40, and Elissa Alvarez, 20, are facing up to 15 years in prison, each, for the second degree sex-offense felony of lewd exhibition in the presence of a minor. The situation looks especially dire for Mr. Caballero, who apparently qualifies as a Prison Releasee Reoffender. He qualifies because he was released within the last 3 years for a cocaine trafficking sentence. The PRR statute is particularly onerous, as it requires the judge to sentence him to the maximum, to be served day for day (no time off for good behavior). The statute under which he is charged essentially treats him the same as someone who actually molests a child, even though there was no testimony of any actual danger to the child, merely that the child was present: it’s the same statutory section as child molestation.

Elissa Alvarez

Elissa Alvarez

Ms. Alvarez is in a substantially better position. While she’s facing up to 15 years in prison as a sex offender, she probably does not score out to mandatory incarceration (it appears she has no prior record). Further, she is young enough to potentially qualify as a youthful offender [Y.O.], which gives the court even greater latitude in sentencing. A Y.O. sentence may be particularly appropriate give her youth, lack of history, and the fact that she  may have been influenced by her older co-defendant.

If you haven’t yet, check back at the previous coverage, particularly the full story with video and pictures, as well as the live tweeting by the Bradenton Herald’s incomparable @KateIrby. Also, there are clips of the incident available online. There’s the real irony: these two are facing felonies and prison time for doing something that can be freely shared on the internet. While it may have been offensive (and I’m not advocating exposing children to such adult behavior), the video was shown over and over again during trial, and nobody was harmed. Caballero may get 15 years, and we’re going to pay for it. PRR sentences were created to protect society from the most dangerous offenders… and he ain’t it.

Also, it costs $18,000 per year on average to house an inmate in Florida. While he’s going to regret his indiscretion for 15 years, the taxpayers of Florida foot the bill… all $270,000.