First Mordechai Rubashkin and now Ronen Nahmani, both Israeli-born Orthodox Jews, have had their prison sentences commuted by President Trump after extensive lobbying by countless advocates including U.S. congress members and DOJ officials. Why would this man, found guilty of manufacturing and distributing synthetic marijuana, an extremely dangerous drug commonly referred to as Spice or K2, be released, particularly as so many Americans continue to languish in prison as political prisoners?
By John Friend
Late last month, President Donald Trump commuted the prison sentence of an Israeli-born Orthodox Jewish drug dealer named Ronen Nahmani, a decision that was “strongly supported by many notable leaders from across the political spectrum,” according to an official White House statement announcing the president’s action.
Nahmani had been found guilty by a Miami federal court jury in 2015 of manufacturing and distributing synthetic marijuana, an extremely dangerous drug commonly referred to as Spice or K2. The Israeli-born man was sentenced to 20 years in prison but will now be released at the behest of the president. Evidence presented during his 2015 trial demonstrated that Nahmani imported multi-kilo shipments of illegal substances from China used to manufacture synthetic marijuana meant for distribution across Florida and the United States.
“Mr. Nahmani is a non-violent, first-time offender with no criminal history,” the White House statement noted. “He has five young children at home and his wife is suffering from terminal cancer. These extenuating circumstances underscore the urgency of his request for clemency.”
Multiple congressional representatives, including both current and former Congress members, several senior Department of Justice officials, and countless other legal scholars and prosecutors, all lobbied the president to commute Nahmani’s sentence.
Alan Dershowitz and Gary Apfel, Nahmani’s primary lawyers, worked tirelessly to free their client. Both Dershowitz and Apfel also worked on the legal team of Shalom Mordechai Rubashkin, another Orthodox Jewish criminal whose prison sentence was commuted by President Trump in December 2017. As was the case with Nahmani, Rubashkin had countless advocates working on his behalf to lobby the president to commute his sentence.
“I’m still trying to catch my breath because I’m so overwhelmed. I can’t believe what happened, and I’m so grateful,” Nahmani’s wife told Hamodia, an Orthodox Jewish news outlet. “I don’t even have words in the dictionary to describe how grateful I am, how blessed I feel, and how overwhelmed I am with the joy in my heart.”
While President Trump is commuting the prison sentences of Orthodox Jewish criminals, countless political prisoners continue to languish in prison for manufactured crimes allegedly committed during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. in the summer of 2017.
On July 19, three members of the Rise Above Movement (RAM), a California-based physical fitness and men’s improvement organization affiliated with the broader alt-right movement, were sentenced in the U.S. District Court in Charlottesville on charges relating to their participation in the rally.
Benjamin Daley, Michael Miselis, and Thomas Gillen were all convicted on conspiracy to riot charges, with each man being sentenced to considerable prison time. Daley, one of the founders of RAM, was sentenced to over three years in prison while Miselis was sentenced to 27 months and Gillen to 33 months.
Many have argued that Daley, Miselis, and Gillen, along with other participants at the rally, were merely defending themselves in altercations with violent left-wing protesters, who were intent on disrupting and shutting down the legally permitted rally. Local political and law enforcement officials did little to prevent the violence from occurring and actually encouraged it by forcing the two opposing factions to face off with one another.
The Heaphy Report, an independent review of the Unite the Right rally published by Hutton & Williams LLP, made clear that local authorities were not at all interested in allowing the legally permitted rally to take place. They allege that local authorities, including the police chief, actually wanted violence to ensue in order to declare the rally an unlawful assembly.
Even under President Trump, the American justice system proves once again that special privileges are meted out to those with certain political and religious convictions.
John Friend is a freelance writer based in California.