Politics

Sections Of Rand Paul’s Op-Ed On Drug Sentencing Plagiarized From Article Week Earlier

Portions of the Kentucky senator’s op-ed in The Washington Times appear to be copied word-for-word from an article published a week earlier.

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Sections of an op-ed Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul wrote on mandatory minimums in The Washington Times in September appear nearly identical to an article by Dan Stewart of The Week that ran a week earlier. The discovery comes amid reports from BuzzFeed that Paul plagiarized in his book and in several speeches.

Paul also delivered testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 16, 2013, that included the copied sections.

Here’s how Stewart wrote his introduction to his article on “Rethinking mandatory sentencing”:

It’s the automatic imposition of a minimum number of years in prison for specific crimes — usually related to drugs. By design, mandatory sentencing laws take discretion away from prosecutors and judges so as to impose harsh sentences, regardless of circumstances.

Mandatory sentencing began in the 1970s as a response to a growing drug-and-crime epidemic, and over the decades has put hundreds of thousands of people behind bars for drug possession and sale, and other non-violent crimes. Since mandatory sentencing began, America’s prison population has quadrupled, to 2.4 million. America now jails a higher percentage of its citizens than any other country, including China and Iran, at the staggering cost of $80 billion a year.

Is that a good thing?

Most public officials — including liberals, conservatives, and libertarians — have decided that it’s not. At least 20 states, both red and blue, have reformed their mandatory sentencing laws in some way, and Congress is considering a bipartisan bill that would do the same for federal crimes.

And here’s how Paul wrote it a week later with the text bolded that appears copied:

Mandatory-minimum sentences automatically impose a minimum number of years in prison for specific crimes — usually related to drugs. By design, mandatory-sentencing laws take discretion away from prosecutors and judges so as to impose harsh sentences, regardless of circumstances.

Since mandatory sentencing began in the 1970s in response to a growing drug-and-crime epidemic, America’s prison population has quadrupled, to 2.4 million. America now jails a higher percentage of its citizens than any other country, including China and Iran, at the staggering cost of $80 billion a year. Drug offenders in the United States spend more time under the criminal justice system’s formal control than drug offenders anywhere else in the world.

Most public officials — liberals, conservatives and libertarians — have decided that mandatory-minimum sentencing is unnecessary. At least 20 states, both red and blue, have reformed their mandatory-sentencing laws in some way, and Congress is considering a bipartisan bill that would do the same for federal crimes.

Another section of the article related to John Horner, a father of three who sold some pain pills to a police informant.

Here’s how The Week wrote it, again with bolded text on the copied sections:

When a friend asked John Horner if he could buy some painkillers, the 46-year-old father of three didn’t see a problem. The Osceola County, Fla., resident had been taking prescribed painkillers for years after losing his eye in an accident, and agreed to sell his friend, “Matt,” four unused bottles. After the pills exchanged hands, Horner discovered that “Matt” was in fact a police informant, and he was charged with dealing drugs. At the advice of his public defender, Horner pleaded guilty, and was later sentenced to the mandatory minimum of 25 years in jail. He will be 72 by the time he is released, and his three young children will have grown up without him. “Matt,” who turned out to have a long history of drug offenses, was more fortunate — he received a reduced sentence of just 18 months after informing on Horner, and is now free.

And here’s how Paul wrote it:

John Horner was a 46-year-old father of three when he sold some of his prescription painkillers to a friend. His friend turned out to be a police informant, and he was charged with dealing drugs. Horner pleaded guilty and was later sentenced to the mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison.

John will be 72 years old by the time he is released, and his three young children will have grown up without him. The informant, who had a long history of drug offenses, was more fortunate — he received a reduced sentence of just 18 months, and is now free.

“We’ve always known that the audience of The Week consists of smart, busy people who want to feel even smarter, including a lot of people on Capitol Hill,” said Bill Falk, the editor in chief of The Week. “We’d like to thank Sen. Paul for his endorsement.”

Paul’s office did not return a request for comment.

Check out more articles on BuzzFeed.com!

Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Andrew Kaczynski at andrew.kaczynski@buzzfeed.com.
 
 

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