Reflections of the Judge Who Sentenced Future-D.C.-Circuit-Clerk Shon Hopwood

Shon Hopwood may be the most famous law student currently enrolled at the University of Washington. Hopwood spent time in federal prison for bank robbery, reformed, found a passion for the law, wrote a book about it, and will be clerking on the D.C. Circuit for Judge Janice Rogers Brown — an incredible redemption story.

What I discovered today was a remarkable blog post by Judge Richard Kopf, the Nebraska district judge who sentenced Hopwood many years ago. Kopf reflects on his instincts at the time:

Shon Hopwood was a young man when I sentenced him to prison for a long time in the late 1990s. Hopwood entered a guilty plea to five counts of bank robbery, and one count of using a firearm during a crime of violence. I sentenced Hopwood to 147 months in prison and concurrent terms of supervised release. I also ordered Hopwood to pay restitution in the sum of $134,544.22. …

Three things:

Hopwood deserves all the credit in the world. I hope he makes the best of an astounding opportunity.

Janice Rogers Brown is a hero. Although pilloried by the left when she was appointed, the woman I came to know while serving on the Codes of Conduct Committee for six years is a stunning combination of brilliance and perfectly centered good judgment. She is also a wonderfully humble, kind and decent person.

Hopwood proves that my sentencing instincts suck. When I sent him to prison, I would have bet the farm and all the animals that Hopwood would fail miserably as a productive citizen when he finally got out of prison. My gut told me that Hopwood was a punk — all mouth, and very little else. My viscera was wrong.

Things continue in a remarkably generous exchange between Hopwood and Judge Kopf in the comments.