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My Valentine's Day: 28 Years Ago Today I Was Sentenced to 15-to-Life

  1. Phungushead
    My wife held her face in her hands, tears streaming down her cheeks: the vision would haunt me for years to come.

    Today I heard a piece on National Public Radio about the Rockefeller drug laws. It struck me hard – real hard. That's because 28 years ago today, on Valentine's Day, I blew trial and was sentenced to 15 years to life under the Rockefeller drug laws.

    I had delivered four ounces of cocaine for $500 straight into the hands of undercover narcotic officers in Westchester County. A bowling buddy had set me up in a sting operation when he noticed my car kept breaking down and I was arriving late for my bowling league. He knew I was desperate for cash. It was the biggest mistake I ever made.

    I remember my last day as a free man as clear as a bell. I sat in the back of the courtroom with my wife Marylou. Our six-year-old daughter was not there because we did not want to put her through the shit we were going through. I had been on bail for a year and was facing hard time.

    After the final arguments, Judge Marasco briefed the jury on deciding a verdict. I sat there, dry-mouthed, the world spinning out of control, catching only snippets of what he was saying: “…must prove…beyond a reasonable doubt…consider the evidence…agree on a verdict…should be as follows….”

    I tried to focus, but part of me already knew I’d lost.

    “ …the first count, criminally selling a controlled substance in the first degree, either guilty or not guilty. On the second count, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree, either guilty or not guilty….”

    The jury left the courtroom at 2:43pm. A half-hour later, the jury sent a note to the judge asking to hear an inaudible tape that was the main piece of evidence against me. They also relied on a transcript that the undercover cops created from the tape, putting words in my mouth. It was unreal, like a nightmare. They did this four times, concentrating mainly on the tape. Some jurors even timed the alleged transaction, opening and closing an imaginary envelope and smelling its contents. At the end of a grueling day, the judge recessed until the following morning. I knew it was my last night as a free man.

    I thought about running. I called up Johnny Payne, who was a bowling buddy. “You gotta lend me some money,” I said, my voice cracking. “I gotta run away.” He tried to discourage me, told me I was overreacting. And besides, he said, did I want to spend the rest of my life as a wanted man? It seemed like a better choice than 15 years in prison, I said.

    I stayed up all night. My wife and daughter lay on each side of me in our bed. I clutched them tightly and stared at the religious candles my wife had lit, praying for strength and guidance. I had no money, no place to go. My only real choice was to go back to court and pray for the best. My wife and daughter needed me. It wouldn’t do them any good if I ran.

    The next day, deliberations on People vs. Papa continued until 3:30pm, when a verdict was finally made. At the time, I was sitting with my wife in the hallway. The doors of the courtroom swung open and two court officers came out.

    “If you have a wallet,” one of them said, “you better give that and any other personal belongings to your wife.”

    “Standard procedure,” assured the other, when he saw the look of panic on my face.

    I was scared. I handed over my house keys and wallet. Now, I wanted to run. I sized up the two armed court officers and looked at the exit. The officer must have read my mind. He put his hand on the gun sitting in its holster. His gesture made my legs wobble. I was too weak to struggle. I knew it was the end.

    The officers escorted me into the courtroom and steered me into my chair, each of them placing a hand on my shoulders.

    Judge Marasco addressed the jury. “Ladies and gentlemen, I have your note, which reads as follows: ‘We have reached our decision.’” He then turned to the clerk. “The clerk will please read the verdict.”

    The clerk nodded and addressed the leader of the jury. “Madam Forelady, please rise. Members of the jury, have you agreed upon a verdict?”

    “Yes we have,” she said. It seemed ridiculous that none of the jurors knew that I was facing 15 years to life. The judge told them that they should only be concerned with whether or not I was guilty, not with the terms of punishment. On some occasions, I’d ridden the elevators up to the courtroom with members of the jury. I’d been tempted to shout: Do you know what I’m facing? But the judge had given me a direct order not to speak to them.

    The clerk continued reading my fate:

    “Members of the jury, as I read each count of the charges, please tell me how you find the accused under each count.” The forelady nodded.

    “One, criminal sale of a controlled substance in the first degree.”


    “Count two, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree.”


    It was over. Prison.

    “Sorry, pal,” George, my lawyer, said, laying a hand on my shoulder. His other hand wiped a crocodile tear from his eye.

    The court officers grabbed hold of my arms and told me to follow them. I was so shocked that fighting and running were the last things on my mind. As they pulled me away, I turned to Marylou. She was crying. That last vision of her, holding her face in her hands, tears streaming down her cheeks, was one that would haunt me for years to come. Through choking sobs, she told me she would never leave me. As I walked away, I told her I loved her and wished her a Happy Valentine's Day. She reached forward to embrace me, but the guards blocked her. I was handcuffed and taken away. It was the end of my life as I knew it.

    February 14, 2013

    Anthony Papa


  1. Ghetto_Chem
    God this made me tear up a bit... I can only imagine what I would feel like and sometimes these thoughts come into my head. The CIA has been known to at least at one point, help traffic cocaine into the US. After seeing the dirty history of the CIA, I can only assume nothing has changed, nothing changes unless something drastic happens. Then the same government that gets the drugs in uses the profits for its own greedy purposes and enslaves the people who get caught. The people imprisoned (slaves) then get to work for pennies on the dollar to make products that will again be sold for profits going straight to the big guys up top. This cycle of slavery has to end.

    Would not be surprised if the recent surge in high quality heroin in the states had any government involvement.

    I hope people wake up soon...

  2. source
    Yeah very sad article, probably because its written in first person so has the gritty realism of how stupid crimes like this can effect our whole lives and those close to us.
    When are courts/judges ever going to make the punishment actually FIT the crime? Annoys the hell out of me.
    Great article though.
  3. Shanthi
    My very first supplier, from whom I bought my very first chemical drugs, was a young man with a real zeal for life. He was truthful, not greedy or even ambitious. He lived with a big nice family of parents, brothers, sisters-in-law, neices and nephews. He was popular and active and had many friends from all over the world by virtue of his location (he lived in a popular beach holiday destination).

    This supplier friend of mine (lets call him 'X'), warned me for almost an hour about the ill effects of trying drugs. He explained the effects of the drugs and told me what to do if I didnt feel good. After all that he followed me to the rave that I went to and saved my life when I went crazy on just too much LSD. So needless to say my relationship with X is that of complete trust and gratitude. I visited his family once a year and bought them clothes and goodies from my part of the world, they never let me rent a place or eat out, I was a guest at his house everytime I visited this fantastic and expensive holiday destination.

    Then one day, all of a sudden everything changed. When I went back after a year, X was in prison and both his brothers shot down after he was arrested. The house that once was filled with kids and laughter and visitors was then a haunted dilapidated unkept structure with ghosts walking around. So many years have passed (4 I think) and he continues to be in jail, his accounts seized, vehicles taken away,family left doing petty jobs to make ends meet...

    I miss him, I want to do something for him, hope I see him again...
  4. 2cAlex
    Dammn, crazy shit.. I couldn't read the entire thing though, because my dreams of my future could be kind of fucked up if I read about the negative consequences too much...
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