A report from a reader (Renate J. Lunn and Jesse M. Siegel of the Law Office of Jesse M. Siegel) of a significant variance from the Guidelines in a narcotics case:
Judge Scheindlin gave our client a non-Guidelines sentence of time-served, even though his stipulated Guidelines range was 70-87 months. The defendant was in the unique situation of having spent a significant amount of time in custody (12 months) before being released on bail and had made significant progress in drug and alcohol treatment (the root cause of his involvement in the offense) for the nine months he was released on bail.
The defendant pled guilty, pursuant to a plea agreement, to participating in a conspiracy to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine. He qualified for the safety valve and received a three-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility. After spending a year at the MDC, he was released on bail. While on bail, he attended regular one on one counseling sessions and group therapy at Daytop to treat his cocaine and alcohol addictions.
The defendant, who is now 52 years old, became involved in the conspiracy as a result of his own intense cocaine addiction. We argued that as his addiction was now being treated, it was highly unlikely that he would commit any further crimes. In our submission, we included monthly progress reports from Daytop, which demonstrated that Mr. Martinez was learning to address his addictions. His counselor at Daytop also submitted a letter to the Court, through Pre-Trial Services. We spoke with the counselor and shared with her our strategy, requesting that her report to Pre-Trial emphasize that the defendant continues to need treatment. Judge Scheindlin commented that it was rare to receive such a detailed letter from a counselor. Furthermore, this was the defendant's first offense, and he had an impressive work history. In our sentencing memorandum we cited to U.S. Sentencing Commission statistics regarding the low recidivism rates of defendants over the age of 50 and studies indicating that drug treatment is more effective at reducing crime rates than incarceration.
In sentencing the defendant, the Court analyzed the nature and circumstances of the offense: the defendant had a menial role in the conspiracy, acting as a “trusted messenger” or “lackey.” In consideration of the history and characteristics of the defendant, the court noted the defendant's lack of criminal history until the age of 50, and his “detailed and honorable work history.” The Court commented that this was a serious crime that required incarceration, but determined that the one year that the defendant spent in jail was a sufficient deterrent. The Court concluded that returning the defendant to jail would not do him or society any good.
Thus, the defendant was sentenced to 4 years of supervised release with the special condition that he participate in a drug treatment program. We were extremely pleased that a judge used her authority to ensure that a defendant receives drug treatment, rather than just incarceration. We hope that this decision, though unpublished will inspire other judges to do the same.
Nice work! Questions from other readers? Feel free to contact Renate J. Lunn of Jesse M. Siegel directly at 212-207-9009. Renate's e-mail is email@example.com and Jesse's e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.