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Given the Leniency to Show Leniency, Judges May Not

It is one thing to have power, and another to use it.

Monday, the Supreme Court told federal trial judges that they had enormous discretion in sentencing criminal defendants, which will probably accelerate a mild trend toward more lenient sentencing. But if history is any guide, judges will continue to use their sentencing power relatively sparingly, specialists in sentencing law said.

The two decisions issued Monday built on a 2005 decision that made the federal sentencing guidelines advisory rather than mandatory, which led to the modest trend toward leniency.

Now that the Supreme Court has again emphasized that federal trial judges have the discretion to move outside the guidelines, further departures are rather likely. But the size of that may not be huge, said Douglas A. Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University. “The really interesting question,” Berman said, “is whether we get a more significant gravitation away from the guidelines.”

Police Tie Colorado Church Shootings to One Gunman

Two deadly church shootings in Colorado over the weekend, 12 hours apart in different cities, were committed by the same man, though his motives remained unclear, the police here said Monday.

Five people were killed, including the gunman, identified as Matthew Murray, 24, of Englewood, who was shot by a volunteer security guard at the second incident, at the New Life Church here.

The guard, Jeanne Assam, a church member with police experience and a pistol permit, said she took cover as Murray began his rampage at New Life, a 14,000-member evangelical megachurch, at about 1 p.m. Sunday, while hundreds of worshipers were leaving after the 11 a.m. service. She said she leaped up and identified herself, and when Murray did not respond, opened fire.

Assam said she had been on the third day of a three-day fast, praying to God to provide direction for her life.

“I knew I was given the assignment to end this,” Assam said at a news conference Monday at the Colorado Springs Police Operations Center. “I give the credit to God.”

Freelancers Walk Out At MTV Networks

Scores of workers from MTV Networks walked off the job Monday afternoon, filling the sidewalk outside the headquarters of its corporate parent, Viacom, to protest recent changes in benefits.

The walkout highlighted the concerns of a category of workers who are sometimes called permalancers: permanent freelancers who work like full-time employees but do not receive the same benefits.

Waving signs that read “Shame on Viacom,” the workers, most of them in their 20s, demanded that MTV Networks reverse a plan to reduce health and dental benefits for freelancers beginning Jan. 1.

In a statement, MTV Networks noted that its benefits program for full-time employees had also undergone changes, and it emphasized that the plan for freelancers was still highly competitive within the industry. Many freelancers receive no corporate benefits.

But some of the protesters asserted that corporations were competing to see which could provide the most mediocre health care coverage. Matthew Yonda, who works at Nickelodeon, held a sign that labeled the network “Sick-elodeon.”