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Rand Paul, battling charges of plagiarism, blames improper vetting (+video)

Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky, widely viewed as a presidential prospect in 2016, said through a spokesman that he will be more careful in the future in attributing sources for his speeches.

Rand Paul: Plagiarism allegations the work of ‘hacks and haters’
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The plagiarism accusations are piling up against Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky.

Over the past week, Senator Paul, widely viewed as a presidential contender in 2016, fended off charges that he lifted passages from Wikipedia for some of his speeches.

Now, an op-ed on mandatory minimum sentencing that Paul wrote in September for the Washington Times seems to contain several paragraphs lifted almost verbatim from an article by an editor of The Week.

The new example, first reported by Buzzfeed, comes after multiple instances were exposed in the past few days of Paul using language in speeches and his book that is identical to passages from various news articles.

Paul responded angrily to such charges over the weekend, telling ABC's "This Week" that he was being "unfairly targeted by a bunch of hacks and haters, and I’m just not going to put up with people casting aspersions on my character." He accused MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, who had uncovered some of the plagiarism, of "spreading hate" about him.

But on Tuesday morning, Paul's office acknowledged in a statement that some of the material he used hadn't been property vetted, and promised to implement going forward a new system of footnotes and attribution.

“In the thousands of speeches and op-eds Sen. Paul has produced, he has always presented his own ideas, opinions and conclusions. Sen. Paul also relies on a large number of staff and advisers to provide supporting facts and anecdotes – some of which were not clearly sourced or vetted properly,” said Doug Stafford, a senior adviser to Paul, in a statement Tuesday. “Footnotes presenting supporting facts were not always used.”

Paul admitted on ABC to being "sloppy," but his office has stressed that the senator himself hasn't done anything wrong, and has attributed it all to improper vetting. Last week, a Paul adviser told Politico that, in the future, he would be "more cautious in presenting and attributing sources."

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In the case of the Washington Times op-ed piece, much of the article appears to have been lifted directly from the essay in The Week.

Here is one section from Paul's op-ed:

"Mandatory-minimum sentences automatically impose a minimum number of years in prison for specific crimes – usually related to drugs. By design, mandatory-sentencing laws take discretion away from prosecutors and judges so as to impose harsh sentences, regardless of circumstances.

"Since mandatory sentencing began in the 1970s in response to a growing drug-and-crime epidemic, America’s prison population has quadrupled, to 2.4 million. America now jails a higher percentage of its citizens than any other country, including China and Iran, at the staggering cost of $80 billion a year.

"Most public officials – liberals, conservatives and libertarians – have decided that mandatory-minimum sentencing is unnecessary. At least 20 states, both red and blue, have reformed their mandatory-sentencing laws in some way, and Congress is considering a bipartisan bill that would do the same for federal crimes."

And here's the article from The Week:

"[Mandatory sentencing] is the automatic imposition of a minimum number of years in prison for specific crimes – usually related to drugs. By design, mandatory sentencing laws take discretion away from prosecutors and judges so as to impose harsh sentences, regardless of circumstances. Mandatory sentencing began in the 1970s as a response to a growing drug-and-crime epidemic, and over the decades has put hundreds of thousands of people behind bars for drug possession and sale, and other non-violent crimes. Since mandatory sentencing began, America's prison population has quadrupled, to 2.4 million. America now jails a higher percentage of its citizens than any other country, including China and Iran, at the staggering cost of $80 billion a year.

"Most public officials – including liberals, conservatives, and libertarians – have decided that it's not. At least 20 states, both red and blue, have reformed their mandatory sentencing laws in some way, and Congress is considering a bipartisan bill that would do the same for federal crimes."

Later in his op-ed, Paul cites an example:

"John Horner was a 46-year-old father of three when he sold some of his prescription painkillers to a friend. His friend turned out to be a police informant, and he was charged with dealing drugs. Horner pleaded guilty and was later sentenced to the mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison.

"John will be 72 years old by the time he is released, and his three young children will have grown up without him. The informant, who had a long history of drug offenses, was more fortunate – he received a reduced sentence of just 18 months, and is now free."

Here's the article in The Week on John Horner:

"When a friend asked John Horner if he could buy some painkillers, the 46-year-old father of three didn't see a problem. The Osceola County, Fla., resident had been taking prescribed painkillers for years after losing his eye in an accident, and agreed to sell his friend, 'Matt,' four unused bottles. After the pills exchanged hands, Horner discovered that 'Matt' was in fact a police informant, and he was charged with dealing drugs. At the advice of his public defender, Horner pleaded guilty, and was later sentenced to the mandatory minimum of 25 years in jail. He will be 72 by the time he is released, and his three young children will have grown up without him. 'Matt,' who turned out to have a long history of drug offenses, was more fortunate – he received a reduced sentence of just 18 months after informing on Horner, and is now free.


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