Seth Zlochota has been arguing in the comments section to my earlier post that Judge Brennan was wrong to sentence the defendants "as if" they had comitted voter suppression when all they had done was some property damage. Because I think he's probably not the only one to think this, I thought I'd explain in a new post why this is not problematic.
In taking into account the defendants' motive, Brennan did not sentence them "as if" they had committed a more serious crime. Sec. 12.09 of the statutes governs the use of "abduction, duress or any fraudulent device or contrivance" to prevent someone from voting. I don't know that it would have been possible to convict the defendants of that and that is probably why they weren't charged with it, but, if they had been convicted of that, it would have been class I felony calling for up to three years and six months in prison. Obviously, the judge did not sentence them "as if" they had been convicted of this. He handed out sentences ranging from four to six months which is within the range permitted for the charge they pled to. (In fact, he could have given them more.)
Even if you draw an analogy to other forms of prohibted interference with an election, many are felonies and all permit at least six months incarceration.
Seth seems to think that the judge has to ignore the circumstances surrounding the crime. There is absolutely no legal principle that requires that. The fact that there is a more serious charge available for a type of vote suppression which arguably did not occur here, does not mean that the defendants' motive - which was to prevent voting - cannot be taken into account in deciding where within the range of sentences which are permitted for the lesser charge of property damage the sentences should fall.
The other thing I have been hearing (not from Seth) is that it was wrong for the judge to reject the plea deal and he in some way sandbagged the defendants by doing so. While judges accept those deals more often than not, it is far from unheard of for them not to do so. In fact, Brennan told the defendants (as every judge does every time someone pleads guilty or no contest) that he was not bound by agreement and might sentence them to more.
When you slash tires to prevent people from getting to the polls in a presidential election in a state where the last presidential contest was decided by a handful of votes, you ought not be surprised that a judge thinks you shouldn't just walk away.