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“DOJ U-Turn: Ray Epps From Prosecution to Prison in One Swift Move”

The Department of Justice has a long-standing record of discretion when it comes to prosecution of criminal activity. But in the case of Ray Epps, the DOJ recently decided to prosecute the 38-year-old Georgia man despite declining to do so a year ago when the case initially surfaced.

Epps was arrested in 2018 on charges of trafficking cocaine and money laundering. During his arraignment hearing, he chose to plead guilty and was subsequently sentenced to 25 years of incarceration. In December of that same year, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia declined to prosecute Epps in the case.

However, in June 2019, the DOJ suddenly shifted its stance and chose to prosecute Epps after all. As a result of their change in position, prosecutors asked the U.S. District Court to impose a sentence of nearly 24 years in prison, with no parole eligibility before he has served 12-and-a-half years.

Epps’ lawyers are seeking to reduce the sentencing and are asking the court to base his sentence on the original agreement given the DOJ’s “aggressive change in position”. They are accusing the federal agency of withholding evidence that could have been beneficial to Epps during negotiations.

The public is left wondering why the DOJ chose to pursue the case after declining to do so a year prior. Some critics say the action is an indication of an effort to “double-dip” on cases in which the DOJ declined to prosecute initially. It remains to be seen what the court’s decision will be in Epps’ case, but either way it’s a troubling example of prosecutorial discretion.

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