Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder made a remarkable announcement: U.S. district attorneys would no longer seek mandatory sentences against first time, nonviolent offenders. Of course, the attorney general does not have the power to override our nation’s drug laws; mandatory sentences still remain on the books. Instead, prosecutors were asked to pursue other charges against first time offenders, charges that did not carry a heavy mandatory sentence. In this way, people accused of minor drug crimes would no longer face years of imprisonment.
Mandatory minimums are still being used for repeat drug offenders, however, as well as those convicted of more serious crimes. This policy is very much in evidence in Charlotte, North Carolina, this month, as three people face years of imprisonment for their part in an alleged drug ring.
The three people, all California residents, were convicted of drug trafficking by a Charlotte jury last week. The three were accused of arranging for the transportation of large quantities of marijuana from California to Charlotte. According to authorities, the drug trafficking operation used commercial crate shipments and overnight packages to transport over 40 tons of marijuana. Profits from the drug trade, which authorities say totaled in the millions, were then sent back to California.
The three Californians now face lengthy prison sentences. Two will serve at least five years as part of a mandatory sentence; they could serve as many as 40. They could also be fined up to $4 million.
The third person has a previous conviction, which increases the stakes dramatically. He will serve 20 years to life, with a fine of up to $20 million.
The three Californians were arrested through an investigation conducted by Charlotte’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.
Source: The Charlotte Observer, “Three convicted in massive drug ring to smuggle marijuana to Charlotte” Michael Gordon, Oct. 18, 2013