Saturday, October 23, 2004

High sentencing guidelines - how low can prohibition go?

This is disgusting. I couldn't find a link to a news story, perhaps the press didn't even cover it, so I'm reprinting the account from the Kunstler Fund newsletter in full.

Aida Mendoza is 80 years old. She is sick. Very sick. She suffers from chronic heart disease. Yet, she sits in a federal prison in Danbury Connecticut, where she will die. She was sent away for 4 years for answering phone calls from Colombia. She was destitute. She was bankrupt. She answered the phone. She didn't buy. She didn't sell.

She read about the Kunstler Fund and asked her son Miguel to contact us and to tell her story and try to help her out before she goes. Below are excerpts from the day of her sentencing. Read it and weep.

JUDGE JOYNER You have the right to address the court. What do you have to say for yourself.

THE DEFENDANT I would like to beg your pardon to the Judge and the people of the United States for my acts. MY SUPPLICATION WOULD BE . PLEASE DO NOT SEPARATE ME FROM MY FAMILY. I DON'T THINK I COULD ENDURE. THEY ARE ALL I HAVE JUDGE JOYNER

JUDGE JOYNER Anything else?

THE DEFENDANT Your honor, I was getting the phone call. I was getting them.

JUDGE JOYNER What were you doing based on the phone calls

THE DEFENDANT I was at home visiting my son

JUDGE JOYNER Very well. The court has reviewed your presentence report and as always it is an excellent report. It is the judgment of this court that charging you use of a telephone to facilitate a drug felony that you be committed to the custody of the bureau of prisons for a period of 48 months.

THE DEFENDANT Would it be anyway possible that you may allow me to stay in my home under confinement with my children for that period of time

JUDGE JOYNER That was not a possibility under the sentencing guidelines

THE DEFENDANT How come? I wasn't around, making money, making deals with anybody. I sear to god I never held drugs, I never transported drugs. I never handled money. I swear to god. I never did any drug deal whatsoever. You do have a heart your honor

JUDGE JOYNER Yes, I have a heart. This is a tough circumstance for even myself. Because when I look at you, I see my mother standing in front of me. She is your age and I am wondering why you are standing this afternoon being sentenced. I have difficulty in sending you to prison but the sentencing guidelines dictate that you must go. And it gives me no alternative in that regard.

THE DEFENDANT I guess I will die in prison. There isn't much left.

JUDGE JOYNER In any case, I wish you the best. That concludes our business here and we are adjourned.

He wishes her the best? The best what - cell to die in? If there was ever a time for a judge to stand up and say, enough - this was it. He should have refused to uphold the guidelines rather than sentence an 80 year old woman to death by incarceration.


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