Michael has known Dinesh for two decades

Hey guess what – it turns out that Twitter isn’t some magically unreal part of the real world where nothing you say actually means anything or can come back to bite you in the ass. Behold the case of Dinesh D’Souza.

Offering a chilling reminder to the world that the first rule of Twitter is to never tweet, federal prosecutors on Wednesday rejected conservative filmmaker and campaign finance fraudster Dinesh D’Souza’s plea for a reduced sentence, and pointed to his recent behavior online — particularly his insinuations that his prosecution is politically motivated — as evidence that his claim to be “ashamed and contrite” was insincere.

No fair! Of course he’s not going to be ashamed and contrite when he’s talking to people away from the courtroom! No fair prosecutors paying attention to what he says outside.

To defend their choice, federal officials noted that D’Souza turned himself in at “the last possible moment” before trial, and since the indictment has repeatedly claimed during appearances on TV and through the Internet that he is a political target and had little choice but to offer a guilty plea. ”Based on the defendant’s own post-plea statements,” prosecutors’ filing reads, “the court should reject the defendant’s claims of contrition on the eve of sentencing.”

Well jeez. So if you’re contrite you’re supposed to be contrite the whole time? That seems kind of unconstitutional, doesn’t it? Free speech?

Meanwhile though, Michael Shermer wrote to the court to plead for leniency for D’Souza.

Embedded image permalink

Important Guys gotta stick together.

H/t Adam Lee


  1. Ken At Popehat says

    I get that people don’t like either of them.

    But, as someone who has done federal criminal law for 20 years, that’s a very generic and unremarkable support letter.

  2. says

    Ken – Sure, I can see that. But he didn’t have to write it in the first place.

    Or is it the kind of thing where, if you’re asked, it’s almost impossible to say no? I know nothing of the etiquette of the situation.

  3. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    One good thing came out of that letter. Now I can just scan down the left-hand side and write off every single person listed there.

  4. chigau (違う) says

    Actually, the whole thing is really badly written.
    “That is how high in regard that I hold Dinesh D’Souza.”

  5. Ken At Popehat says

    Does he HAVE to? No. Does etiquette require it? No.

    But I’m not sure why you think he shouldn’t. Because D’Souza’s crime is awful? It’s mundane, and he’s taking a federal felony for it. Is it because you think the letter is untrue? Or is it because D’Souza’s politics are obnoxious?

  6. says

    Well, when William Lane Craig, Helen Upkabio, or Ray Comfort ask me to write in their favor, I can always use Shermer’s letter as a model for writing a generic request for leniency.

    Or I suppose I could just refuse.

    Let’s practice. “My good friend Ray Comfort is a public intellectual who is formidable, forthright, and honest.” Yeah, trips right off the tongue. It’s polite and helpful. Can’t think of nothin’ wrong with that at all, no sirree.

  7. says

    Wow, I guess “skepticism” doesn’t encompass social justice, feminism, anti-harrassment, or anti-rape but does encompass justice for right-wing politico-religious hacks.

    This is so complicated!! Shermer must be a very smart guy to be able to keep it all straight in his head.

  8. Jenora Feuer says

    But I’m not sure why you think he shouldn’t.

    Because referring to D’Souza as one of ‘[…] the most formidable, forthright, and honest’ of people requires a level of ideological blindness unbecoming of somebody who self-identifies as ‘skeptic’?

  9. qwints says

    Do you think D’Souza’s sentence should be increased for saying his prosecution was politically motivated? That seems unjust to me.

  10. says

    Does he HAVE to? No. Does etiquette require it? No.

    But I’m not sure why you think he shouldn’t.

    It seems to me that the question should go the other way. Writing to a judge on someone’s behalf to request a lighter sentence for them is a strong statement of belief in their good character – it means you think they’re so good that they deserve a lesser punishment than someone else, similarly situated, would have.

    What exactly did D’Souza do that was so great that Shermer felt the need to write this letter for him?

  11. says

    From what Ken says in his post


    and what he’s said on my Facebook post, the idea is that such letters are completely routine and unremarkable, and it’s just a standard part of sentencing, so there’s no particular reason not to do one.

    I see his point. No, we shouldn’t just assume that the government’s version of what the sentence should be is the right one. But…I think I would have qualms in such a case.

    But maybe that just shows I’m an asshole.

  12. says

    I think it is fine that Shermer wrote the letter. I also think it was funny and awesome when I tossed one of his books in the litter box and posted the pictures online. We already knew that Shermer is a humongous piece of shit, this is just shit sprinkles on the cake. D’Souza is a lying hate-monger, and Shermer considers him to be of good character… which tells you more than you ever needed to know about Shermer’s lack of character.

  13. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    It shows a certain vanity in his judgment on Shermer’s part: it turns out that a man he knows has committed a crime. Rather than changing his mind about the man, Shermer says that the law should be mitigated.

  14. says

    qwints #11:

    Do you think D’Souza’s sentence should be increased for saying his prosecution was politically motivated? That seems unjust to me.

    Every crime has a standard sentencing range (in this case, according to Ken’s post at Popehat, “the recommended sentencing range under the United States Sentencing Guidelines is between 10 and 16 months, and is in a “zone” of the sentencing chart explicitly allowing the court to split that sentence in half and make him serve half in custody and half in home detention”). It’s up to the judge’s discretion as to whether any particular convicted perpetrator receives a minimum sentence or a maximum sentence per that range, and the judge also has the option in certain circumstances of being even more lenient, which is what D’Souza’s attorneys are requesting – that the sentence be entirely non-custodial.

    So your question should more accurately read “should D’Souza be given the special consideration of having his sentence decreased after saying his prosecution was politically motivated?”

    Now, given that D’Souza’s plea for leniency is founded on his allegedly super sincere contrition alongside his super respectable character? Yeah, I don’t think he should be given the special consideration of having his sentence decreased from the standard terms. However, I don’t think any worse of him for assenting to his legal team’s plans to apply for leniency on any grounds at all – as Ken says, it’s expected legal procedure to do this as part of doing the best one can for one’s client.

    Should Shermer have agreed to send in a submission for the leniency plea? It depends on whom he most wants to impress – the big end of town by supporting one of their chaps, or the segment of the skeptical community who would prefer some denunciation. I suspect he was quite aware of how the optics would play out to various onlookers, and made a fully informed choice. His choice reflects the attitude I’ve come to expect from him in recent years – i.e. not nearly so attached to the skeptical community as parts of the skeptical community have been attached to him.

  15. Randomfactor says

    The second charge he was facing was dropped because of his guilty plea on the first one. His behavior afterwards leads me to believe that it shouldn’t have been.

  16. John Morales says

    Shermer the skeptic lauds the honesty of someone who has pled guilty to fraud?

    Ah, he’s just indicating that of all the people he has debated, he thinks this one is the most honest.

  17. chrislawson says

    Ken@Popehat: I don’t really have a position on whether Shermer should have written a letter of support for D’Souza. I think that’s up to Shermer and whatever sense of obligation he feels. But I’m underwhelmed by the content of the letter. I would have thought that a plea for “the most lenient sentence permitted by law” ought to contain some reasons for the leniency, such as, say, working for local charities, evidence of contrition, impact on dependants, and so on. What do we get instead? That D’Souza is polite, as if that mitigates fraudulent behaviour, and that he’s honest despite just having admitted guilt for a major political fraud.

    (I also can’t resist noting that D’Souza has a long and documented history of dubious honesty. Among his many public claims: that President Obama is psychologically predisposed to undermining American interests, that 9/11 was the fault of liberals in the media and Hollywood, that children only ever grow up in stable marriages, not to mention lies about his personal life because he didn’t want his employers to know what he was up to privately — a position I agree with on its face, but find hard to reconcile with D’Souza accepting employment at a Biblically-conservative university with a contractual obligation to advance its moral values in public arenas. It even got to the point where conservative columnists were calling D’Souza a loopy conspiracy theorist who can’t be trusted to write stories straight. But, you know, that’s the pinnacle of honesty according to Shermer.)

  18. Sili says

    I have to assume that either D’Souza has more dirt on Shermer, or alternatively he and Shermer are both equally predatory and bond over it.

  19. qwints says

    @tigtog #17 Adjusting sentencing range based on a defendant’s character isn’t special treatment, nor is going outside the guidelines. The sentencing guidelines Ken refers to are highly persuasive, but they are merely advisory, not mandatory. <a href="http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2004/2004_04_104/"US v Booker, 543 US 220 (2005). In fact, federal judges have the duty to impose a sentence “sufficient, but not greater than necessary” to achieve the goals of punishment, 18 USC 3553(a), and is required to consider “the history and characteristics of the defendant” when coming up with the sentence 18 USC 3553 (a)(1).

    My point is that commenters here seem to think that D’Souza’s wrongheaded political views and dishonest debating should increase (or prevent the decrease of, if you prefer) his punishment for breaking campaign finance rules. That seems dangerously unjust to me.

  20. johnthedrunkard says

    ‘Guys?’ Well I guess a blood test would reveal that both have Y chromosomes. But that would scarecly explain this weird affinity.

    I would suggest that a mutual background in Laissez Faire Libertarianism, with or without the Randroid strain, makes these two bedfellows.

    For these types, capitalism is a religion, and the atheiosphere has a built in trojan horse.

  21. EigenSprocketUK says

    @chigau (違う), maybe he doesn’t need an editor, maybe it’s entirely deliberate. “Off all the people”, “In fact / As well / In sum”, “Sincerely”.
    This weird mixture of standard form with “I just write how I talk, I’m just ordinary salt-of-the-earth” style actually strikes me as calculated and manipulative. (Which, of course, comes as a complete surprise…)


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