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Nancy Amons is an award-winning member of the News4 I-Team. She has been breaking stories in Middle Tennessee for more than 20 years.

Disgraceful.

Judge Waverly Crenshaw Sentences Casey Moreland

Judge Waverly Crenshaw sentences former judge Casey Moreland 

That's the word a federal judge used when he sentenced former General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland to three years and eight months in prison Friday.

So how did Moreland get a sentence of less than four years?

You might think prosecutors had everything they needed to put Moreland in prison for a very long time.

They had a lover's text messages, showing Moreland erased her court fines and fees in expectation of having sex with her.

They also had two FBI recordings.

First, Moreland tried to plant drugs on the former lover in an attempt to discredit her.

Then, the FBI recorded Moreland trying to get a drug court employee to lie about money they stole from clients.

The drug court employee was willing to testify Moreland had her destroy evidence.

Finally, court testimony revealed that Moreland himself admitted everything in a two-day tell-all session with federal authorities.

He plead guilty to five felonies. They carried a possible total of 75 years in prison.

With some drug dealers getting decades in prison, why did Moreland get 44 months?

The federal system is built on a series of guidelines. They are set by the United States Sentencing Commission. Each crime is worth a range of sentences. The judge can add or subtract prison time based on the facts of the case.

Retired federal judge Kevin Sharp explained how the system works for calculating punishment.

“It’s a math process,” Sharp said.

Judges begin with the range guidelines set for each crime, then consider a number of variables.

"What was the role in the crime? Was there obstruction? Were there weapons involved? Where were you on the public trust scale?" Sharp said.

Moreland's sentence range was 33 to 41 months. Judge Waverly Crenshaw gave him more than that - 44 months. Prosecutors had asked for five years.

Moreland had time added to the top of his range because he abused a position of trust, but he had time taken away because he cooperated with authorities and didn't have a criminal record.

"Although it may be the mentality to throw the book at everyone, you still have to take those factors into account," Sharp said.

Why aren’t the sentencing guidelines for public corruption crimes as tough as for drug-related crimes?

"We operate under the laws we have," said Donald Cochran, the US Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee.

“That’s always a debate we’ll have,” he said.

Judge Crenshaw could have given Moreland longer, Sharp said, since the sentence is ultimately up to a judge's discretion.

But, Sharp said, going too far above the range increases the odds that Moreland would appeal and the punishment would be overturned.

Copyright 2018 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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