Federal judge gives Texas man life sentence in drug case

Severe penalties are somewhat common in drug-related prosecutions but a sentence to life in prison is still noteworthy. Last week a federal judge handed down a sentence after a jury convicted a Texas defendant of several drug crimes, mostly involving distribution. The 45-year-old defendant received a sentence to life in prison.

The government accused the defendant of smuggling enormous quantities of cocaine and marijuana into the United States from Mexico between 2002 and 2006. When investigators arrested him, they discovered over $1.2 million and a semi-truck used to ferry the drugs into the country. The defendant apparently worked with his family and a fleet of vehicles. Much of the cocaine eventually made it to Louisiana as crack.

Based on the defendant's cooperation with his family, a federal jury convicted him of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute. The crime of conspiracy takes place when one person makes an agreement with one or more other persons to do something illegal. Often, the crime of conspiracy is complete even if the goal of the agreement never takes place.

Drug cases usually proceed according to the federal sentencing guidelines. While the guidelines are no longer mandatory, many judges still turn to them to help decide upon an appropriate sentence. The guidelines begin with a basic prison term according to the amount of drugs in the defendant's possession. Then the system recommends adding or subtracting time based on other factors such as whether the drugs traveled across an international border or whether the defendant was a ringleader in the plan.

The high sentence in this case probably reflects the enormous amount of drugs involved, the international nature of the activity, and the amount of time for which the defendant operated.

Source: The Advocate, "Man gets life sentence for role in ring," Acadiana Bureau, Sept. 19, 2012

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