WASHINGTON, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate rebuffed Attorney General Michael Mukasey's bid to void sentencing rules he said could return criminals to the street.
The U.S. Sentencing Commission recently decided to apply lower jail terms retroactively to as many as 19,500 crack cocaine offenders previously sentenced under tougher legislation from the 1980s, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.
About 1,600 of those inmates could apply for reduced sentences this year, the commission said. The new guidelines become effective March 3.
Mukasey had asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to roll back the recommendations, arguing that the applications for sentence reductions could clog federal courts and put dangerous criminals on the streets. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., accused Mukasey of creating public fear that "dangerous drug offenders will be instantaneously and automatically set free to prey on hapless communities."
Current federal law requires that a powdered cocaine offender possess 100 times more of the drug than a crack-cocaine offender to receive the same sentence.
Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., sponsored legislation to reduce the sentencing disparity.