Pubdate: Sun, 13 Aug 2006
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2006 The New York Times Company
Author: Anthony Papa


To the Editor:

Re "Setting Kingpins Free," by Leslie Crocker Snyder (Op-Ed, July

In 1984, I was deemed a "drug kingpin" by the Westchester District
Attorney's Office when I was arrested for a four-ounce sale of
cocaine. When the facts came out, it was obvious that I was no
kingpin, but instead a low-level drug offender. But I was still
sentenced to 15 years to life under the Rockefeller drug laws when I
rejected a plea bargain. After serving 12 years, I was granted
clemency by Gov. George E. Pataki.

Recently, a report released by Bridget G. Brennan, New York City's
special prosecutor for narcotics, proclaimed that high-level drug
offenders are being released under the Drug Law Reform Act of 2004.
Ms. Brennan called for a kingpin statute.

I agree. We do need a kingpin statue that would be applied to major
traffickers. But it should not be used as a prosecutorial tool to
encourage sentencing pleas from defendants like me.

There are hundreds of low-level, nonviolent drug law offenders stuck
in prison who deserve to have a chance to regain their freedom. Most
have served a tremendous amount of time and are eligible for relief
under the changes. They remain jailed because of the "kingpin"
rationale that has become a standard response by district attorneys to
block applications for re-sentencing under the new reforms.

Anthony Papa

New York

The writer, a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance,
is the author of a book about his experience in prison.
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