The head of a heroin ring busted last year was sentenced to life in prison Monday — a sentence his attorney said amounts to "cruel and unusual punishment."
Jose Miguel Haro-Arce, 31, was arrested in October 2007 following a six-month investigation by the Tucson Police Department.
In April 2007, a confidential informant told detectives Haro-Arce was running a heroin-trafficking ring, and over the course of the next several months, two undercover detectives bought drugs from Haro-Arce and several others on multiple occasions, according to court records.
The detectives discovered Haro-Arce had hired people to be "runners" and provided them with heroin, cars and telephones so they could sell heroin for him, court documents state.
The undercover officers made nine buys from Haro-Arce, court documents state. Most of the time they bought around 12 grams of heroin from Haro-Arce at $600 a pop, but they once bought 26 grams of heroin for $1,100.
Haro-Arce and several others were convicted last month by a Pima County Superior Court jury on multiple sales and possession charges along with a single count of illegally conducting a criminal enterprise.
Defense attorney Paul Gattone told Superior Court Judge Deborah Bernini Monday that the mandatory life sentence Haro-Arce received was disproportionate to the crime and was unconstitutional in view of the prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishment" in the U.S. Constitution's Eighth Amendment.
Haro-Arce has no criminal history and was merely convicted of several street-level hand-to-hand sales, Gattone said.
The defense attorney suggested the state pursued the life sentence because of the resources spent pursuing Haro-Arce or because Haro-Arce is a Mexican national.
Haro-Arce apologized for his actions but said he "wasn't running the show."
"I'm so sorry for what I did, but I didn't kill anybody," Haro-Arce said through a Spanish-speaking interpreter.
Haro-Arce noted that he knows of several convicted murderers who are serving only 15 or 20 years in prison.
Haro-Arce could become eligible for release after serving 25 years in prison.
Bernini also sentenced two of Haro-Arce's co-defendants Monday.
Jesus Alfonso Callejas, 27, and Rosario Cruz-Saucedo, 23, each received five years in prison.
Other defendants in the case have received anywhere from 18 months probation to 4.5 years in prison.
By Kim Smith
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 11.04.2008