George Soros gives $500,000 to effort to narrow three-strikes law

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Billionaire George Soros has written a $500,000 check to help finance a potential ballot measure that aims to lower the number of criminals serving prison terms of 25 year to life under California’s three-strikes law.

The hedge-fund titan and longtime supporter of liberal causes made the donation on Jan. 30, according to records filed with the secretary of State’s office.

The donation was first reported by the Sacramento Bee.

The contribution from Soros came the same day that one of the measure’s co-authors, Stanford law professor David Mills, gave the campaign $250,000. That raises Mills’ contributions to a total of $603,000, making him the largest contributor to the effort.

Proponents of the measure are circulating petitions to get enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, an effort that could cost as much as $4 million.


The initiative would narrow the circumstances under which offenders could be sentenced to 25 years to life under the three-strikes law, passed by voters in 1994. Third-strikers could get the maximum sentence only if the offense that brings them to court the third time is a serious or violent crime.

The measure would also allow some prison inmates sent away for nonviolent crimes under three strikes to become eligible for early release.

The state Assembly last month approved a similar measure for placement on the 2014 ballot, but it has not cleared the state Senate.


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-- Nicholas Riccardi in Sacramento