Gender Disparity in Political Crimes: Revealing tPP’s Strengths and Limitations


This continues our series of student reflections and analysis authored by our research team.


Taking a step back from coding further cases for the dataset, tPP’s researchers wanted to take the time to answer some of the questions which had arisen around the trends we identified over months researching and coding prosecutions of political crimes. For some of us, our questions involved whether we could possibly confirm or correct- now with the compiled statistical evidence- the hypotheses and apparent observations we came to make along the way.

There are few trends and correlations between the variables in tPP’s database as blatant as the gender disparity across defendants prosecuted for acts of political violence and other crimes. To those coding cases for tPP, it had always been apparent that there were far more male than female defendants, however with a sample set of 1,193 coded cases in the temporarily finalized database, I was able to run the numbers and confirm that observation.

In attempting to find why only 7.38% of the defendants in tPP’s database were female, I pursued two possible explanations. The first is the explanation which tPP’s data is capable of and in fact designed to answer: could there be certain variables which are “prerequisites” to women committing political violence, or conditions which are vital factors for women to commit such acts, but not for men to do so? If such a condition exists, strong positive correlations between cases having both female defendants and being coded positively for the predictor variable- stronger correlations than exist between male defendants and the predictor variable- ought to exist.

My further research into this possibility examines the correlations between women’s engagement in political crimes and a number of variables of association  tPP codes for, including the co-defendant, group affiliation, and ideological affiliation variables. These three variables are descriptive of cooperative as opposed to independent engagement in political crimes, with the condition of cooperation seeming to be the common “prerequisite” for female engagement. This analysis revealed for example that only 15.91% of female defendants as opposed to 32.85% of male defendants did not have any co-defendants. Similarly, only 6.82% of the female defendants had neither a co-defendant nor a group affiliation, making their actions truly independent, as opposed to 14.57% of men in the database. Thus, it does seem to support the hypothesis that women more often than men participate in cooperative political violence or crimes, making them less likely to act independently or as a “lone wolf”, and therefore making their engagement in such acts less common.

However, it is important to remember that there is a second, much researched explanation- that women are charged and prosecuted less than men for these sorts of crimes, regardless of the rate at which they engage in them- that tPP’s data is not designed to answer. This is due to the very nature of tPP’s goal, simply put to “[e]xamine how political violence is prosecuted in the United States”, and due to the fact that the decision to include cases requires that the defendant have been indicted with a felony crime in the first place (Loadenthal 2018). However, there is plenty of scholarship on the matter to provide insight into the gender disparity that tPP’s database exemplifies.

For example, a recent publication undertaking a similar gendered analysis of political violence argued that “politics and states project masculine power and privilege, with the result that men occupy the dominant social position in politics and women and marginalized men are subordinate” (Ortbals and Poloni-Staudinger 2018). This is the sort of sociological lens which lends itself to understanding why there are so far fewer women in tPP’s database. Because, as a result of this phenomenon, men may more often be perceived as acting with agency, as perpetrators of political crimes, and women may be perceived both by prosecutors and the public as victims or somehow unwilling, unable, or uninvolved, resulting in fewer indictments (Ortbals and Poloni-Staudinger 2018).

Thus this interesting gender disparity may demonstrate both a strength and a limitation of tPP’s database, not by error but rather by design. Regardless, it similarly demonstrates the usefulness of consulting external scholarship which complements and further sheds light on the project’s findings.

– Kayla Groneck


Sources Cited:

Loadenthal, Michael. 2018. “About TPP.” The Terrorism Prosecution Project (blog). 2018. https://tpp.lib.miamioh.edu/about-tpp/.

Ortbals, Candice, and Lori Poloni-Staudinger. 2018. “How Gender Intersects with Political Violence and Terrorism.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics, February. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.013.308.

Exploring the Post-9/11 Dragnet


This continues our series of student reflections and analysis authored by our research team.


Much of how the West understands the term “terrorism” today is shaped by the events that transpired after 9/11. The Patriot Act was enacted six weeks after the fall of the twin towers, and with it the prerogative of law enforcement officials to arrest and detain thousands of Arab and South Asian men and women, otherwise innocent, on the basis of suspected terrorism. The actions of policymakers and law enforcement officials, in turn, generated the heavily nationalistic and xenophobic paradigm of terrorism in the United States. The average American would go on to associate terrorism with Islam (Pew Research Center 2017; Nisbet & Shanahan 2004), ignoring the nuance of religiosity and the gambit of political ideology that embodies the phenomenon of terrorism.

The Terrorism Prosecution Project (tPP) seeks to dissolve this discourse as we reveal the diverse backgrounds and political ideologies of the perpetrators in various terrorist attacks across the United States from 1990 to present. One recent event that reinforces the absolute vitality of our mission as a team is the terrorist attack that happened in Pittsburgh last week. The attacker, a man named Robert D. Bowers, targeted a Pittsburgh synagogue killing 11 members of the congregation and injuring another 4 (New York Times, 27 October 2018, A1). Anti-Semitic attacks are largely associated with Neo-nazi ideology, and our perpetrator serves as a representation of many of the terrorist attacks that have swept across the United States in which a white, Christian, American-born citizen commits terrible acts of violence against his/her American compatriots.

Interestingly, the likes of Dylann Roof and Robert D. Bowers are not charged with terrorism; rather crimes such as theirs are prosecuted as hate crimes (USAO, 31 October 2018). Why, then, do we have hundreds of names in our database of innocent men and women charged with terrorism when their only crime involved immigration violations, if convicted of any crime at all (tPP database)? The post-9/11 dragnet demonstrates an Orwellian-like undertaking by the United States government to suspend Americans’ civil liberties in the wake of national security concerns. The tPP’s data on those detained during the dragnet reveals that these national security concerns were often unsubstantiated and rooted in a fear for Arab/South Asian Muslims, those who law enforcement believed were most likely to be subject to recruitment to the ranks of Islamic extremist organizations (Abdo 2005, 12; Wong 2006, 164-165).

The “Reason for Inclusion” variable explains why both the likes of Dylann Roof and Robert D. Bowers appear in our dataset as well as the hundreds of people who were arrested during the post-9/11 dragnet. This variable envelops the values of “obvious socio-political aims,” “serves to support organized violence,” and “state speech act.” When a case is inputted into the dataset all three values can be selected or some combination of two of the three if the act of violence or the basis on which the subject was arrested/charged fulfills the criteria for these values. So next we must look at what qualifies each value. For example, Robert D. Bowers would be included in our dataset and coded under the value “obvious socio-political aims;” although his charges were not explicitly labeled as terrorism (USAO, 31 October 2018), the tPP considers his actions terroristic in that his act “represents a form of politically motivated violence intended to communicate a message, in part by the instrumentalization of its victims” (Jackson et al. 2011, 118).

Politically-motivated violence is not always part of a greater whole as we have seen time and again in the United States. For example, the likes of Omar Mateen would be considered an independent perpetrator who had obvious socio-political aims and fell under the state speech act, if he were to be included in our dataset (Omar Mateen is not included because he died before ever being charged with a crime). He would not, however, be coded under “serves to support organized violence” because he was not part of the organized network of ISIS. Similarly, Robert D. Bowers is coded only under “obvious socio-political aims” and not under “serves to support organized violence” because he is not part of an organized neo-Nazi network, such as the Aryan Nations; rather he was inspired to act based on neo-Nazi rhetoric and ideology. He would not be coded under “state speech act,” whereas Omar Mateen would, had he been alive, because the discursive language issued by the state does not describe Bowers as a terrorist. Generally, if the president and/or the DOJ/FBI/DHS describe somebody as a terrorist or have that somebody listed under an official state-issued document charging the subject with “attempt to provide material support to a Foreign Terrorist Organization,” the subject would then be coded in our dataset under a “state speech act,” even if the subject was never convicted. Therefore, a “speech act” has to be an explicit illocutionary act (Searle n.d., 8) made by the state that would indicate the subject is being apprehended on the basis of terrorism or suspected terrorism.

Finally, we’ll hone in on several individuals from the post-9/11 dragnet who are included in our dataset and coded exclusively under the value “state speech act,” but were never convicted of “attempting to provide material support to a Foreign Terrorist Organization.” In one example, a Pakistani man named Ansar Mahmood was arrested after a suspicious construction worker reported him to the FBI and Immigration Naturalization Services (INS). The man had merely wanted to take a picture in front of a reservoir and had asked the worker to do him the favors. The FBI subsequently discovered that Mahmood was housing a young Pakistani couple – Hafiz Tauseef and Aisha Younes – whose visas had expired, and the pair were eventually convicted of having falsified documents (The Times Union 12 October 2001). All three names appear in our dataset because of a state speech act. The DOJ has compiled the names of hundreds who were arrested in the post-9/11 dragnet into a database which explicitly states that the subjects were arrested due to suspected terrorism (DOJ Public/Unsealed Terrorism and Terrorism-Related Convictions 9/11/01-12/31/14). Many ended up being convicted of crimes such as Tauseef’s and Younes’s in which they were charged of “fraud and misuse of visas/permits” (US District Court, Northern District of New York, 17 October 2001) and faced with deportation.

One other example is that of Lofti Raissi, the first arrest made in connection to the 9/11 attacks. Raissi was arrested because he was believed to have trained the 9/11 hijackers to fly planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon (The Guardian, 22 November 2009). Though Raissi’s charges were eventually proven to be baseless, the false accusations were mounted against him because of an unfortunate coincidence: Raissi had trained at the same flight school as one of the 9/11 hijackers, Hani Hanjour. Raissi, an Algerian native who is also a Muslim and a trained pilot, was arrested in London after appearing on an FBI watchlist. The US subsequently requested his extradition to the United States on the basis of his alleged connection to the 9/11 hijackers. After five months in prison, Raissi was eventually released and cleared of all charges linking him to the 9/11 attacks. However, his name still appears in our dataset because the United States, at one point in time, labeled him as a terrorist.

The contrast between Bowers’ reason for inclusion in our dataset to the likes of Raissi and Mahmood reveals that there still exists a problematic discourse on terrorism that is propagated by our own state-issued rhetoric and circulated throughout our country. However, while the mission of the TPP, in part, is to deconstruct this rhetoric, we have no sway over how the state chooses to prosecute an individual. Therefore, being able to identify the nuance between the three values that are elemental in our “Reason for Inclusion” variable is pertinent to being able to understand the dataset as a whole.

– Meg


Works Cited

Abdo, Geneive. “Islam in America: Separate but Unequal.” Washington Quarterly, 2005.

Greenwood, Shannon. “How the U.S. General Public Views Muslims and Islam.” Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project. July 26, 2017. http://www.pewforum.org/2017/07/26/how-the-u-s-general-public-views-muslims-and-islam/.

Jackson, Richard, Lee Jarvis, Jeroen Gunning, and Marie Breen-Smyth. Terrorism: A Critical Introduction. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

Searle, John. “What Is a Speech Act?” In Pragmatics, Discourse Analysis, and Sociolinguistics.

Lyons, Brenda. “Visit to City Reservoir Raised Alarm.” The Investigative Project, October 12, 2001. http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/518.pdf.

Mele, Christopher. “Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Leaves at Least 4 Dead, Official Says.” The New York Times. October 27, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/27/us/active-shooter-pittsburgh-synagogue-shooting.html.

Nisbet, Eric C., and James Shanahan. 2005. Restrictions on Civil Liberties, Views of Islam, and Muslim Americans. Media and Society Group, Cornell University, Dec. 2004.

“Pennsylvania Man Charged with Federal Hate Crimes for Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting.” The United States Department of Justice. October 31, 2018. https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdpa/pr/pennsylvania-man-charged-federal-hate-crimes-tree-life-synagogue-shooting.

USA v. Younes (U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York October 17, 2001).

Wong, Kam C. The USA Patriot Act: A Policy of Alienation. Michigan Journal of Race and Law, 2006.

The impact of 9/11 on terrorism prosecutions


This continues our series of student reflections and analysis authored by our research team.


In my last blog post, I discussed how cases are deemed fit for inclusion in the tPP database. That post ended with a question about when and why crimes without a clear political motive are labeled as terrorism by the government. As the tPP team segued into its analysis phase, this question guided my research.

My suspicion was that the occurrence of 9/11 had a significant impact on the types of cases being prosecuted as terrorism. In my experience coding cases, I spend a lot of time looking at the post-9/11 sweep cases. These usually involve immigration violations by Arabs and are labeled as terroristic by the government. To investigate this further, I divided the data by time periods to look for differences in the data before and after 9/11. I also specifically looked at the year immediately following 9/11.

I focused my analysis on seven variables that could show which crimes are non-violent and non-political. Some markers of these cases are that they are ideologically unaffiliated, the tactic is a non-political criminal violation (such as an immigration violation), and the defendant is “othered.” I used descriptive statistics to look at the frequencies of these traits in cases before and after 9/11, and I used a chi-square analysis to test for significance.

The most noteworthy findings from my analysis are as follows.

  • The frequencies of values for all seven variables I tested were significantly different in the year after 9/11 compared to the whole dataset. This indicates that that year is not representative of all terrorism prosecutions since 1990. The cases in that year are significantly different from the dataset as a whole.
  • Of the seven variables, five of them were also significantly different between the year after 9/11 and the year leading up to it. This accounts for the varying political climates that may affect the larger dataset. This two-year span was subject to the same political and social climate, with the exception of 9/11.
  • There were zero instances of cases with a tactic of a criminal violation not motivated politically prior to 9/11. When there was no political motivation for a crime before 9/11, the government never called it terrorism. In the year following 9/11, 52.4% of cases fell into this tactic category.
  • There were zero instances of deportation in the dataset prior to 9/11. In the year after 9/11, 16.9% of cases ended in deportation.
  • Of all the cases in the dataset ending in deportation, over 60% of them occurred within one year after 9/11. 85.7% of them were defendants who were ideologically unaffiliated. 63.6% of them had a non-political criminal violation tactic.

While my analysis of these cases will continue as the dataset expands, my initial findings seem to confirm my expectations. 9/11 had a significant impact on the government’s prosecution and labeling of terrorism, especially in the immediate aftermath. As I continue to interpret these cases, I plan to look deeper into the long-term implications of 9/11 for non-political crimes.

Lauren Donahoe is a senior biology major and a senior team member of the Prosecution Project. She has been with the project since Fall 2017.

Further Exploration of the Role Played by Pleas


This continues our series of student reflections and analysis authored by our research team.


In my previous blog post, I explained the occurrence of pleas and why defendants might choose to plead guilty, including financial, time, or other risk factors. This blog post will expand upon that specifying in the category of guilty plea bargains. I did statistical analysis between cases that took plea bargains (we’ll call them PB cases) and non-plea bargain cases (NPB cases) to look for discrepancies within any of the variables between the two sets of cases.

From what I found, there were no discrepancies except for the variable “tactic” which includes condensed categories such as: CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear defense weapons,) Conspiracy (i.e Conspiracy: murder, Conspiracy: material/financial support, etc.,) Direct Person-to-Person violence (i.e Assault, Beheading, Murder, Kidnapping, etc.,) Explosives/Arson (i.e IID, IED, military/commercial explosives,) Non-physical violence (i.e Material/financial support, Perjury/Obstruction of Justice, etc.,) Not linked/Unknown, and Various methods.

I chose to look further into this disjuncture and see if there were any significant findings between the relation of tactic variables and PB/NPB. What I found is that there was a significant relation between NPB cases and all of the tactics.

  • 71.4% of tPP’s cases were NPB cases, compared to only 26% being PB cases, and consequently in every single tactic variable mentioned above, NPB were the most frequent pleads.

When looking into outside literature, I found that the most common discrepancy between plea bargains and other variables found by other academics was race. In Carlos Berdejó’s findings within Criminalizing Race: Racial Disparities in Plea-Bargaining, he found that “white defendants are 25% more likely than black defendants to have their most serious initial charge dropped or reduced… [as well as] 75% more likely… to be convicted for crimes carrying no possible incarceration.” (2018)

I wanted to see if this finding was similar to the cases within tPP’s dataset, and my statistical calculations proved this to be true: 28.7% of white defendants were offered plea bargains by the court, while only 10.1% of black defendants were. Combining this finding within tPP’s dataset and outside literature which put blame on police racial bias, it can be concluded that white defendants take plea bargains at almost triple the rate that African Americans do within tPP’s data, and this is likely a consequence of racial bias within our criminal justice system.

– Isabella


References

Berdejó, Carlos. “Criminalizing Race: Racial Disparities in Plea Bargaining.” SSRN Scholarly Paper. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network, September 13, 2017. https://papers.ssrn.com/abstract=3036726.

tPP in the (Miami) news!

As hate crimes rise across the U.S., a Miami team researches political motivations and prosecution

by Shavon Anderson, university news and communications

Two weeks after a mass shooting in Pittsburgh, what’s being called the largest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history, the Federal Bureau of Investigation confirms bias-motivated attacks are on the rise.

The FBI recently released its 2017 Hate Crime Statistics report, revealing 7,175 criminal incidents were submitted by law enforcement agencies, a 17 percent increase from 2016 and a 21 percent increase since the 2013 report. A further breakdown of victim data shows motivations behind the attacks:

  • 59.6 percent of victims were targeted because of the offenders’ race/ethnicity/ancestry bias.
  • 20.6 percent were targeted because of the offenders’ religious bias.
  • 15.8 percent were victimized because of the offenders’ sexual-orientation bias.
  • 1.9 percent were victimized because of the offenders’ disability bias.
  • 2.2 percent were targeted because of the offenders’ gender identity and gender bias.

“In just the last two weeks, we have seen the mailing of bombs to Democrats, a racially motivated shooting at a supermarket a state to the west, and the murder of 11 Jews attending morning services in the state to the east,” said Miami University’s Michael Loadenthal.

Loadenthal, visiting assistant professor of sociology and social justice, researches political violence and attributes the increase to shifts in U.S. political discourse, which he said is moving toward authoritarianism, nativism and nationalism. Such rhetoric brings racist tropes into issues like immigration and crime, and further fuels anti-Jewish conspiracies. As a result of the political tone, there’s been a 37 percent rise in crimes targeting Jews.

Michael Loadenthal, visiting assistant professor of sociology and social justice, heads the research project The Prosecution Project (courtesy Loadenthal).

Hate and terrorism: what defines it?

Hate is evolving to become more lethal, more visible and more frequent, Loadenthal said. While recent attacks nationwide have linked suspects to white supremacist groups, he noted the Alt-Right movement has filled a vacuum left by the KKK and Aryan Nations.

“Those of us who have been studying political violence in this country are far less surprised with the sudden rise of white nationalist, neo-Nazi, and fascist violence,” Loadenthal said.

But, breaking down hate crimes in the justice system is the foundation for his ongoing research, The Prosecution Project. Started in March 2017, the project involves around 40 Miami students working to explore the relationship between what was attacked, by whom, and through what methods, and how a defendant is charged, prosecuted and sentenced in the U.S.

The Prosecution Project also aims to answer a broader question: What is the relationship between a defendant’s ethnicity, religion, age or ideological motivation and the likelihood that they would be labeled a ‘terrorist’ or receive an atypically high or low prison sentence?

Eventually, the group will create and publish a public database breaking down incidents of political violence, extremism and terrorism from factions including jihadists, nationalist/separatists, right/left-wing and issue-focused groups. Their research already generated one student-authored journal article to be published in a forthcoming issue of Critical Studies on Terrorism, with plans to partner with other leading terrorism studies journals this spring.

No-Hate initiative

The latest FBI report also revealed an increase in hate crimes reported at colleges and universities nationwide between 2016 to 2017.

Miami University works to provide a safe environment through the No-Hate initiative. The campus and surrounding community are encouraged to combat hate-fueled incidents by denouncing biased ideas and actions.

At Miami, a bias-related incident directed at an individual or group is viewed as an attack on the entire community.

If you’re a member of the Miami community and feel you’ve been the victim of an incident of bias due to your race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender identity or disability, you’re encouraged to submit a Bias Incident Report. Miami University provides an annual report of hate crimes, reported to campus security authorities in accordance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act.

You can find more information on the initiative at the university’s webpage.

On the Analyses of the Prosecution Project (tPP) Dataset


This continues our series of student reflections and analysis authored by our research team.


Welcoming a hiatus of coding new cases for the project, the tPP team has embarked on personal analyses of a tentatively ‘finalized’/partial dataset. Over the past few weeks, team members began individual quantitative and qualitative studies, with the intention of answering distinct research questions. Whether investigating the entire dataset, or examining the relationships of specific variables, research has assumed a new structure of inquiry. Rather than data gathering, members have selected topics of interest within the dataset to research.

Topics of interest have ranged from conducting case studies of insanity pleas to interpreting the implications of post-9/11 sweeps. Other theses include an examination of the correlation of military status and other variables; an inspection of what variables warrant deportation within a sentencing; and an analysis of the disparity between female and male defendants.

As I discussed in my last blog, I took a particular likening to the influence of foreign affiliation on the prosecution of political violence in the United States, throughout the coding process. Using the finalized dataset, I applied descriptive statistics to the variables that were of my interest. To analyze the relationship between foreign influence and length of sentencing, I compared both ‘foreign affiliation’ and ‘citizenship’ to the ‘length of jail sentence’ variable. The results of the statistics revealed that both variables impacted the average length of sentencing, but in juxtaposing fashion.

In regards to citizenship, the findings of my research revealed:

  • The average length of sentencing for defendants who are foreign citizens without affiliation to a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) is 41.38 months; whereas the average length of sentencing for American citizens without affiliation to an FTO is 109.98 months.
  • In regards to foreign affiliation, the research conceded that defendants who were American citizens and affiliated with an FTO received an average sentence length of 146.53 months, while American citizens not affiliated with an FTO (as aforementioned) contrastingly received an average sentence of 109.98 months.
  • Most significantly, when a defendant was both a foreign citizen and affiliated with an FTO, the average sentencing was 144.62 months; and, to reiterate, when a defendant was neither a foreign citizen, nor affiliated with an FTO, the average sentencing was 109.98 months.

The results of this research were unexpected as I hypothesized that foreign citizenship and positive foreign affiliation would both warrant longer average sentences than their counterparts; however, the statistics reveal that foreign citizenship, on average, resulted in lighter sentences than cases involving American defendants. This finding is an intriguing prospect for further analysis of the trends in prosecutions of political violence within the United States. Otherwise, I was correct in my supposition that foreign affiliation would generate a longer average sentencing within tPPs case pool. I plan on using these results to pursue grounded theory methodology and develop a universal understanding of the power of foreign influence in the prosecution of political violence cases.

As I continue to interpret the findings from my quantitative study, I intend to further examine the prominent FTOs apparent within the dataset. Additionally, I am determined to expose the reality that the majority of cases within our dataset do not involve FTO affiliation, but rather radiate from domestic terrorist groups. Because there is an obvious misconception surrounding the origins of terrorism in the United States, I anticipate that research disclosing the frequency and intensity of foreign influence will reject stigmas and potentially reconstruct the operation of the United States’ judicial system.

 

Izzy Bielamowicz is a Junior pursuing a degree in Political Science with a double minor in Criminology and Philosophy and Law. Izzy has been with tPP since August 2018.

Former Team Members

Former team members

 

Other students who have assisted tPP include: Rachel Faraci, Megan Kelley, Maggie McCutcheon, Megan Zimmerer, Preet Patel & Monica Gomes.

Military Trends in Political Violence

 


This continues our series of student reflections and analysis authored by our research team.


“We are under attack,” yelled Sgt. Hasan Akbar, a U.S. Army man who was deployed to Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait back in 2003 (“Background: Sgt. Hasan Akbar” n.d.). After yelling these words, Akbar threw stolen grenades into the campsite before taking out an M-4 rifle and shooting at his fellow soldiers close to two in the morning. The camp was under attack, but no one would have expected it was by one of their own soldiers.

In our dataset there exists a several cases related to military veterans participating in political violence. Out of our 1195 cases coded, there are 107 instances of both U.S. and non-U.S. military activism in terrorism and political violence (60 of which solely regard U.S. military veterans). Given these 107 cases, we are able to easily extract a sample of data composed only of individuals with a military background. This sample is used to pick up three trends when it comes to individuals with former military status: their tactic involves more use of weapons and explosives, U.S. military members tend to lean more right-wing, and they target people more often than property.

The first trend we notice is the active use of weapons. Weapons such as guns and IEDs are the most prominent. An IED is an improvised explosive device that can be constructed from household or military material if desired (“How IEDs Work” 2008). Approximately 30% of the cases involved an IED detonated or conspiracy for using an IED. The next highest tactic was shooting, which was 11% out of this sampled dataset. This could be due to easier access to more detrimental weapons and advance training in the military.

The second trend we notice is that U.S. military members in our dataset tend to lean more right wing. I say U.S. because a big chunk of this sample were Jihadists at 41.12%, but nearly 72% of those Jihadists in this sample were non-U.S. military veterans. When solely considering U.S. veterans, a combination of sovereign citizens, white-supremacists, xenophobia, and unspecified rightest make up 37.37% of our data sample.

The third trend we notice is a preference towards targeting people over property. People as a direct target make up 36.45% of the sample, while people in addition to property make up 30.84% of the data sample. Combining the target “people” and the target “people and property” makes up for far more than half this data sample.

These are the trends and percentages discovered by sampling out a portion from our whole dataset relating to individuals with prior military experience. Having knowledge of the existence of these trends can allow us to further our research regarding why exactly they may occur. Unfortunately we have not gathered enough information to accurately argue why these trends occur, but we are actively researching now. Our hope is to gain a better understanding of why military veterans participate in political violence and why they follow these sorts of trends.

– Angela Famera


Works Cited

“Background: Sgt. Hasan Akbar.” n.d. Accessed October 29, 2018. https://www.cia.gov/library/abbottabad-compound/16/165FA03E9D57C37C831563E53C4A8F97_NEFA_-_Backgrounder_-__Sgt._Hasan_Akbar_and_the_March_2003_Kuwait_Attack.pdf.

“How IEDs Work.” 2008. HowStuffWorks. December 10, 2008. https://science.howstuffworks.com/ied.htm.

On Additional Sentencing and Deportation

 


This continues our series of student reflections and analysis authored by our research team.


 The Prosecution Project (tPP) analyzes a wide variety of variables to uncover and assess patterns in the prosecution and punishment of domestic terrorism in the United States, and my research has led me to pay interest to one variable in particular: additional sentencing.

In our codebook, additional sentencing is an open-ended, quasi-catch-all variable. tPP explicitly measures the length of jail/prison sentences and the presence or absence of life/death sentences. The additional sentencing variable, however, records other punishments, as well as any special enhancements specified in their sentencing or notable acts the defendant was charged under. Common codes under the additional sentencing variable include probation, time served, and hate crime or firearm enhancements. This variable holds a treasure trove of information for future analysis, but one specific code under this umbrella caught my interest from the beginning of my time working with tPP: deportation.

After joining tPP this past winter and beginning to code cases, I began to notice the repetition of deportation as an added punishment on top of, or in lieu of, the standard jail sentencing or probation. According to USA.gov, the United States “may deport foreign nationals who participate in criminal acts, are a threat to public safety, or violate their visa” (USA.gov). This broad operationalization of the criterion allowing for deportation gives the United States government the power to deport most of the foreign-born nationals in our data set. The only factor that should determine whether deportation occurs is whether the foreign defendant in question is found guilty or innocent of a criminal act, but the United States does not seem to apply this policy consistently.

As of October 2018, tPP has a completed data set of nearly 1200 cases, 32 of which involve deportation. However, of the cases in our data set, 296 involve foreign-born, non-naturalized defendants. Many foreign born, non-naturalized individuals were found guilty, but were still allowed to remain in the country. After spending nearly a year working with this project, my question is: why? Are there consistent, measurable differences in the characteristics of foreign-born, deported defendants compared to the characteristics of foreign-born, non-deported defendants? How does this compare to our tPP data set as whole? My future research using the data tPP has gathered will aim to uncover if there is a clear answer to these questions.

– Zoe


References

USA.gov. (2018). Deportation. Retrieved from https://www.usa.gov/deportation

Exploring pleas


This continues our series of student reflections and analysis authored by our research team.


At the start of my work in the Prosecution Project (tPP), I had little knowledge about most things involving court cases and sentencing. Many questions have occurred to me throughout my research, but a recurring one involves pleas.

What is a plea, why do people plead the way that they do, and how does that affect their sentencing? I was curious to know how they decided to plea – and whether their plea was truthful to the fact that they’ve committed the crime or not – as well as what their choice in plea decided for them in terms of sentencing.

So, why do defendants plead guilty? If a defendant pleads guilty, it can save them from sitting in a jail cell for many months or even years awaiting a trial to be scheduled and conducted. According to Above the Law, “…people who go to trial and are convicted get much heavier sentences than those who plea-bargain.” (2018) Another reason people accept plea bargains is that they’re offered lesser sentencing (such as probation) as a plea bargain. If they don’t take the offer, usually quickly, they stand the chance of being sentenced much heavier in trial.

Finally, people may choose to take a plea bargain because of their financial situation. According to HG Legal Resources, “lawyers will put in a significantly lower number of hours to effectuate a plea bargain than going to trial.” This would save the defendant a substantial amount of money as well as time, essentially making a plea bargain more attractive than spending the effort going to trial.

So, how does our data compare to national standards? In our clean (i.e. completed and verified) dataset of 1075 cases, 611 of those (56.8%) have pled guilty, 284 (26.4%) have pled not guilty, and the other 16.8% have pled one of the following: guilty but mentally ill, guilty on some counts but not on others, insanity, justifiable homicide, non-cooperating plea agreement, or they have been charged but not tried, their cases are still pending, or the plea is unknown.

According to the New York Times, “…97 percent of federal cases and 94 percent of state cases end in plea bargains, with defendants pleading guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence” (2012). Statistically, these percentages for all national and statewide defendants that have pled guilty are much higher than the 56.8% of our collected terrorism cases. Our data is atypical in this sense, with more defendants pleading not guilty or one of the aforementioned pleas than the national or state average.

Why may that be? Are people who are charged with terrorism-related charges more willing to plead not guilty because they know it is likely that they will be harshly sentenced either way, no matter what they plead? That speaks to a larger issue of its own, concerning how we (or the law) define terrorism and the sentences that come with it.

-Isabella Jackson


Sources:

Goode, E. (2012, March 22). Stronger Hand for Judges After Rulings on Plea Deals. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/23/us/stronger-hand-for-judges-after-rulings-on-plea-deals.hty bml

HG Legal. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.hg.org/legal-articles/should-i-just-plead-guilty-and-avoid-a-trial-33486

Messina, T. (2018, July 23). Innocent People Who Plead Guilty. Retrieved from https://abovethelaw.com/2018/07/innocent-people-who-plead-guilty/