Citing a famous line from William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” a federal judge has denied former Hamilton County Sheriff Billy Long the chance to put any blame for his crimes on the government informant who helped bring him down.
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves,” Cassius tells his friend in the “Julius Caesar” line, which U.S. District Judge Harry S. “Sandy” Mattice Jr. added as a footnote in a 10-page court order filed late Thursday.
The line often has been interpreted as a commentary on what drives people to do what they do, which has been at the heart of defense attorney Jerry Summer’s work for Mr. Long over the past several months as he tries to save the former sheriff from having to spend years in a federal prison.
Specifically, Mr. Summers cannot compel a psychological evaluation of the Rev. Eugene Overstreet, the informant whom Mr. Summers claimed “manipulated” his client into committing increasingly serious crimes.
It was the last crime authorities caught Mr. Long carrying out before his arrest in February — helping Mr. Overstreet load cocaine into his car on the false premise that the informant had a broken arm — that carries a mandatory minimum of 10 years behind bars.
The psychological evaluation, Mr. Summers argued, would have proven the defense’s claim of “sentencing entrapment” and “sentencing manipulation” and might have helped Mr. Long garner a much lighter sentence.
Judge Mattice rejected such claims, stating in his order that the federal court of appeals with jurisdiction in Tennessee “has yet to acknowledge that sentencing entrapment, even if proven, constitutes a valid basis” for a lighter sentence.
“The law requires that the legal responsibility for his admitted crimes be attributed to, and remain with, Mr. Long,” Judge Mattice wrote.
Mr. Summers did not return calls seeking comment, and U.S. Assistant Attorney Gary Humble declined to comment on the judge’s decision. The government opposed subjecting their informant to a psychological evaluation.
Mr. Long pleaded guilty in May to 27 crimes ranging from extortion of convenience store owners to money laundering and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. The FBI had been following him for a year, catching him in the act during recorded phone conversations and videotaped interactions with Mr. Overstreet