President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and personal fixer Michael Cohen gave a florid speech prior at his sentencing Wednesday, describing the “darkness” of working for President Trump.
“I have been living in a personal and mental incarceration ever since the day that I accepted the offer to work for a real estate mogul whose business acumen that I deeply admired,” Cohen added.
Cohen was sentenced to 3 years in federal prison for his role in supplying hush money to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal ahead of the 2016 election, an action that implicates the president in campaign finance violations.
The internet reacted with glee. “Sayonara scumbag” one Twitter user taunted.
36 months in prison may seem like a long time. But it should be noted that US federal and state prisons are filled with people serving far harsher sentences for “crimes” that are arguably less damaging to American democracy than swaying the outcome of a Presidential election with hundreds of thousands of dollars in hush money.
Here are 5 particularly egregious cases that illustrate the two-tiered system of justice in America.
1. Life without parole for $5 of pot
Fate Vincent Winslow is serving life without the possibility of parole at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, one of the most violent prisons in America. Situated on the land of an old slave plantation, the prison forces inmates to work for near-slave wages. Winslow makes 80 cents a week cleaning the prison dorm.
His crime is that in 2008, he made $5 off a pot deal playing middle man between a white dealer and an undercover cop. Because he had (nonviolent) priors from his youth, the now-51 year old was deemed a habitual offender at his trial and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. He’s served over a decade.
2. Kalief Browder
After he was falsely accused of stealing a backpack, 16-year-old Kalief Browder spent roughly three years—the same amount as Michael Cohen’s sentence—on Riker’s island, the violent jail that New York City’s progressive politicians keeping vowing (and failing) to shut down.
Unlike Michael Cohen, Browder had not been found guilty of any crime when he was detained for three years. During that time, Browder was beaten by inmates and guards. He killed himself six months after he was released.
3. Crystal Mason was just trying to exercise her right to vote in the 2016 election.
She had not realized voting while on probation is a crime under Texas law. Now, she’s going back to federal prison for 5 years for casting a ballot illegally—that’s two more years than Michael Cohen, who paid off Donald Trump’s mistresses so they wouldn’t make him look bad before the 2016 election.
4.In 1996, Timothy Jackson stole a jacket ($159) from a department store in Louisiana. The 36-year-old got life without parole according to the ACLU’s “A Living Death report,” which profiles 3,278 prisoners serving LWOP for non-violent offenses (a handful were pardoned under Obama’s clemency initiative).
5. Sharanda Purlette Jones got LWOP, despite not having a criminal record, for conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine. There was no physical evidence linking her to the crime and she was sentenced based almost entirely on the testimony of co-conspirators.