When serving as a federal public defender in Kansas, Richard Federico was assigned the case of Charles Gann, a man accused of using the internet to seek out child pornography and communicate with others who were interested in the material. Gann pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 13 years in prison. Five years later, the case was a flashpoint in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, as Federico is is seeking confirmation for appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. Republican Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee — homed in on Federico’s sentencing recommendation as Gann’s public defender, criticizing it for being eight years below the federal sentencing guidelines for the charge. The prosecution case also recommended a sentence below the federal guidelines.
“Even as these cases go, and they’re always horrible, this is a really extreme one,” Hawley said of child pornography cases. Hawley said he would not support Federico’s nomination, citing the sentencing recommendation as one reason, reports the Kansas City Star. It is unlikely that Hawley’s opposition will stop Federico’s confirmation. He has bipartisan support, including both of the Republican Senators from Kansas. Still, Republican members of the committee have been quick to highlight cases in the records of former public defenders nominated to the federal courts in an effort to portray them as soft on crime. Federico has worked in the federal public defenders office in Topeka since 2017. He also worked as a military judge in the Navy Reserve Trial Judiciary and served in the Navy’s JAG corps both as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney. When questioned by Hawley, Federico said it was his professional responsibility to vigorously defend his client against the charges brought against him. During Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination hearings to the U.S. Supreme Court, Hawley drew attention to sentences she handed down to people convicted of child sex crimes. Hawley believes the legal system is not imposing severe enough punishments on such defendants.