U.S. Attorney Earl J. Silbert yesterday voited criticism of the sentencing practices of some of the city's local and U,S, judges, especially in the area of so-called white-collar criminal cases.
He said lenient sentences by judges in the high-visibility fraud cases are "neither just on the merits nor do they appear to be just." In fact, Silbert, said, such sentences "bring the criminal justice process into disrepute.
Specifically noting such cases as the one in which a company presidents embezzled a half-million dollars and received probation from D.C. Superior Court Judge Williams Stewart Silbert said such judical actions "create in the eyes of the public a perception of preferential treatment by the criminal justice process for those with status and wealth."
The criticism was contained in detailed annual report of his office' operation - the first issued by a U.S. attorney here in six years - that Silbert used to identify what he viewed as the achievements and the problem areas of the Washington criminal justice system
The 78-page document, which is being distributed to judges and others throughout the criminal justice in detail his office's successful handling of rapes and murders here, as well as the less publicized - but frequently more complex role - of the U.S. attorney's office in civil and appellate litigation.
Unlike many "annual reports" that are limited solely to achievements, Silbert dealt also with what he viewed as new or continuing problems that his office sees in its daily role as the joint office sees in its daily role as the joint local-federal prosecutor here. Some of the problem areas cited dealt solely with his own office, and included areas in which he said he splanned to make policy and procedural changes.
He said law enforcement agencies in city are often still fragmented and "indeed at times include operate at cross-purpose with one another.
Even when cooperation has existed have not been encouraging. Silbert added. He pointed out as an example that 3,400 persons were convicted of misdemeanors, but only 50 were in jail at any once time in the past year.
His own office came under criticism for an increasing blacklog of civil cases, caused mainly by increased fillings of Freedom of Information and sex and race discrimination suits against the federal government.
Silbert also criticized pending grand jury reform legislation that would limit a prosecutor's access to financial and other business records, saying such legislation would "protect primarily the privacy of corrupt politicians and white collar organized criminals."
While not naming any judges in the area of white-collar sentencing, Silbert described the cases in enough detailed to pinpoint recent sentences by federal Judges John Lewis Smith Jr., Joseph C. Waddy, John H. Pratt, and Oliver Gasch as those in which he considered the terms lenient.
While the document contained the unusual public criticism of some judges by Silbert, the U.S. attorney also took care to praise the lengthy prison terms being meted out by other judges, particularly in the area of violent crimes prosecuted in D.C. Superior Court.
In Superior Court, Silbert cited problems with the overloaded misdemeanor trial division and the prosecution of juvenile offenders, particularly those who have committed prior offenses.
The prosecutor noted the time wasted by victims, witnesses and defendents who report to court only to be told that their case has been continued, usually because a judge was not available.
Cases now are assigned to judge as they become available, a process that automatically results in delays when all judges assigned to misdemaenor court are occupied.
In the matter of juvenile crime, Silbert called resources provided for the Office of the Corporation Counsel, which prosecutes more juvenile offenders, entirely inadequate."