Minnesota U.S. District Court Judge Wilhelmina Wright is said to be on President Joe Biden’s list of potential nominees to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer — as black and female, she checks the right boxes.
She also has some experience in the judiciary — which probably helps, too. She’s been a federal prosecutor and is the only judge in the state’s history to have served at the district court, appellate court and state Supreme Court level, according to WCCO-TV in Minneapolis.
But Wright’s apparent willingness to place a higher priority on social justice over legal justice — as she did in a January sentencing decision — should be a red flag to senators tasked with assessing her fitness to serve on the nation’s highest court.
Retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Lillehaug: “Judge Wright should be on any shortlist of the top candidates for the Supreme Court in the United States, regardless of demographic filter.” https://t.co/m974k1AyIY by @byashleyhackett
— MinnPost (@MinnPost) February 10, 2022
The Post Millennial reported that on May 28, 2020, during the George Floyd riots, Montez Terriel Lee Jr. set fire to a Minneapolis pawn shop killing a man whose remains were found in the rubble two months after the fire.
Guidelines called for Lee to receive a minimum sentence of 16.5 to 20 years, according to the Washington Examiner. Wright, however, handed down a 10-year sentence instead.
A memo from the U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Minnesota, in other words Biden’s DOJ, had recommended a reduced sentence.
The memo, signed by acting U.S. Attorney W. Anders Folk and Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Calhoun-Lopez, states: “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 Guidelines state that departure below this range is not ordinarily appropriate. However, this is an extraordinary case. The United States therefore seeks a downward variance, and a sentence of 144 months.”
The memo argues that “Mr. Lee’s motive for setting the fire is a foremost issue.” (Emphasis added.)
In the following excerpts from the document, prosecutors portray Lee as a victim. Yes, a man lost his life, and that’s tragic, but Mr. Lee has been oppressed his whole life, the prosecutors implied. He got caught up in the moment. Poor Mr. Lee.
“Mr. Lee credibly states that he was in the streets to protest unlawful police violence against black men, and there is no basis to disbelieve this statement. Mr. Lee, appropriately, acknowledges that he ‘could have demonstrated in a different way,’ but that he was ‘caught up in the fury of the mob after living as a black man watching his peers suffer at the hands of police.’
“As anyone watching the news world-wide knows, many other people in Minnesota were similarly caught up. There appear to have been many people in those days looking only to exploit the chaos and disorder in the interests of personal gain or random violence. There appear also to have been many people who felt angry, frustrated, and disenfranchised, and who were attempting, in many cases in an unacceptably reckless and dangerous manner, to give voice to those feelings. Mr. Lee appears to be squarely in this latter category.
“And even the great American advocate for non-violence and social justice, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stated in an interview with CBC’s Mike Wallace in 1966 that ‘we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard.’
“But the criminal culpability, and the danger to society, that an attempted murderer poses appears much greater than the culpability and danger of Mr. Lee.
“He states that he obtained his GED. … He has had significant troubles in school, but this trouble, as well as his history of drug abuse, again appears to be the result of the abusive and unstable environment in which he grew up. … Mr. Lee had a plan to turn his life around, which appears to have been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
At his sentencing hearing, according to The Post Millennial, Lee told the court, “I refuse to not learn from this experience and hope to make something positive from it.”
“This moment in life doesn’t define who I am, but it can help mold me into the person I want to become,” he added.
After all of that, prosecutors sought a sentence of 144 months — less than the 200 months the federal guidelines would normally call for, The Post Millennial reported.
Then, Wright went them one better and sentenced Lee to 120 months — more than five years less than the guidelines call for and well less than even what prosecutors asked for.
The Washington Free Beacon reported that House Republicans, led by Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, are demanding an explanation from the DOJ, as they should.
Social justice court rulings aren’t justice. You can’t be allowed to kill someone because you are angry over perceived injustices.
Leftists have turned the U.S. system of justice on its head. A killer doesn’t get to suddenly turn into the victim.
Because George Floyd died in police custody, is the judicial system supposed to make allowances for black criminals who have watched their “peers suffer at the hands of police”?
Lee’s political motives should have no bearing on his sentencing. His alleged anger over the death of George Floyd doesn’t justify the taking of a life — or the burning down of a business either. And the argument that he may not have known a person was inside the building when he set fire to it doesn’t hold water either.
Fire is a destructive element. Out of control, it will consume anything in its path. Anyone deliberately setting a building ablaze is automatically showing indifference to any life that could be around it.
As the prosecution memorandum puts it: “The arsonist who sets a building ablaze cannot know the extent of the damage or death he or she will cause—the crime is by its nature chaotic and uncontrollable. Surrounding homes and businesses may be inadvertently destroyed; firefighters, people trapped in buildings, or the arsonist him or herself may be killed.”
Too bad the prosecutors apparently didn’t think their own words mattered.
This isn’t justice. It’s simply one more example of the asymmetric application of the law which has become the norm under the Biden Administration, a practice that will only serve to divide Americans further.
Judge Wright’s decision in the Lee case tells us she fully supports a two-tiered justice system.
Unfortunately, almost any candidate Biden nominates to fill Breyer’s seat, including Wright, will likely be confirmed given the current makeup of the Senate.
Can America really afford a Supreme Court justice who values social justice over the rule of law?