Sometimes people make mistakes that can alter the rest of their life, such as committing a crime and getting caught. Typically, a first degree murder charge will land someone in prison for at least 25 years, and usually much longer. This makes sense as taking someone’s life should have major consequences. However, according to The Washington Post, 51 precent of state-prison inmates are there for a drug-related offense. Though other factors come into play such as prior convictions, this statistic may surprise those of you who feel killing someone is the worst sin a person can commit.
There are thousands of individuals who have been wrongfully convicted of a crime and also given a jail sentence that doesn’t match with the offense. The following list focuses on 11 people who received outrageous sentences for drug convictions.
11. Larry Duke
Larry Duke used to live his life as a union carpenter and served two tours of duty in Vietnam. He even suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from fighting in the war. As of now, he’s spent over 25 years of his life behind bars. In 1989, Larry was convicted of conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute around 1,000 kilograms of marijuana as well as another charge. That year, undercover officers set up a sale and delivered 4,800 pounds of marijuana to Larry and his co-conspirators. He was ultimately given two life-without-parole sentences for his participation in that illegal activity. He is thought to be the longest-serving nonviolent marijuana prisoner in the nation. While in prison, Larry was able to get a federal patent for a clean water delivery system. There are numerous petitions trying to get the 67-year-old released from prison.
10. Timothy Tyler
Timothy Tyler is now 45-years-old and received his life in prison sentence at the age of 25. After his parents divorced, he was emotionally and physically abused by his stepfather. As a teenager he started to sell marijuana and LSD. He was arrested in Florida and released on his own recognizance. Then, he was arrested again and served three years of probation. Next, Tyler started to sell LSD to a friend who became a confidential police informant working with the DEA. As a result of him mailing the informant–who was also his friend–LSD five times in the mail, Tyler was given life without the possibility of parole. He never had any history of violence nor had he ever been to prison. The life sentence Tyler received was the same as kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro, all because of federal mandatory minimum sentence guidelines. He is still in prison and will likely die there.
9. Mandy Mortinson
Mandy Martinson found cops raiding her home in 2004. At the time, she was a drug addict who was helping her drug dealer-boyfriend count cash for his drug conspiracy. Mandy was helping him in exchange for giving her methamphetamine. By the time she appeared in court for sentencing, Mandy was already clean and on the right track. However, the Iowa federal judge wasn’t able to go below the mandatory minimum set in the 1980s even though he wanted to, saying: “The court does not have any particular concern that Ms. Martinson will commit crimes in the future.” Mandy is currently serving 15 years behind bars, which is 3 years longer than her boyfriend will spend in prison. She was 28-years-old at the time and will be around 40 by the time she is released. Mandy said in an interview that the thing she’ll regret most is not being able to have kids during that time.
8. Patricia Spottedcrow
Patricia Spottedcrow is a wife and mother of three kids who was working in a nursing home before she went to prison for selling $31 worth of marijuana. According to court records, Patricia and her mom sold a “dime bag” of marijuana to a police informant on December 31, 2009. She was also with her 9-year-old son who assisted by giving change for the transaction. Both women were eventually arrested for drug distribution and also possession of a dangerous substance in the presence of a minor because Patricia’s kids were in the home. Both women were offered a plea deal of two years in prison but decided to gamble because they had no other prior convictions. Ultimately, Patricia was sentenced to 1o years in prison for distribution and two years for possession, totaling 12 years. She was paroled early and left prison in 2012 to go back home to her children.
7. Clarence Aaron
In 1993, 23-year-old Clarence Aaron was busted by cops as he was attending college. He was a witness of a plotted crack transaction and acquaintance of the buyer and seller who ultimately pled guilty. Even though he lacked a criminal record, Clarence was sentenced to three life sentences behind bars for conspiring to distribute crack according to PBS. He tried to get an early release in 2001 and thought it was likely as a first-time, non-violent offender but the request was denied. Out of the four individuals who took part in the drug conspiracy, only the supplier is still behind bars. After serving 20 years in prison, President Obama ordered an early release for Clarence.
6. Stephanie George
Stephanie George went to federal prison in 1997 for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. The year before, police officers found 500 grams of powder cocaine and cooking utensils to make crack in her home. Michael Dickey, the father of one of her children, said the items belonged to him. Stephanie denied knowing those things were in her home. However, a witness testified that Stephanie was paid to store the drugs, and also had more involvement in illegal activities. As a result, she was convicted of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to possess crack cocaine as well as intent to distribute. Stephanie’s prior minor drug offenses in 1993 forced the judge to sentence her to life-without-parole although he didn’t want to do that according to the American Civil Liberties Union. In 2013, President Obama commuted Stephanie’s sentence. She served 17 years behind bars.
5. John Horner (couldn’t find pic)
John Horner was prescribed painkillers after losing his eye in 2000. When a friend asked if he could buy some of his pills, John said yes and he received $1,800. Over the course of a few weeks, John gave his friend four bottles of morphine and hydrocodone. However, John didn’t know the guy was a police informant. He told BBC News, “The next thing I know I got a guy’s knee in the back of my neck grinding my face into the concrete.” The judged ended up sentencing him to 25 years in prison due to Florida law. He will be 72 years old when he is released.
4. Danielle Metz
Danielle Metz is serving three life sentences plus twenty years for conspiracy to distribute cocaine, money laundering, and continuing criminal enterprise. This was her first conviction and she has been in prison since 1993 when she was only 26-years-old. Danielle had been in an abusive relationship for years and finally had the courage to get out. Two months later, she was indicted. She was then charged with four counts and cast into a gang of co-conspirators according to different reports.
The main witness was her Aunt who had prior convictions for drug dealing. She apparently had much to gain by testifying against Danielle and was offered a plea deal as well in return. Eventually one count was vacated several years later, but the mother of two still remains in jail.
3. Sherman Chester
Sherman Chester was sentenced to life in prison for selling cocaine and heroin. He was a street-level drug dealer who also participated in a drug ring headed by a family friend in Florida. In 1992, Sherman was indicted in federal court after selling drugs to an undercover detective on a few occasions. He was only twenty-five years old and was arrested along with nine other people who were involved. He was held accountable for most of the drugs found in possession of each member: 57.4 kilograms of cocaine and 4 kilograms of heroin. The judge disagreed with the harsh punishment, saying: “This man doesn’t deserve a life sentence, and there is no way that I can legally keep from giving it to him.” It’s unfortunate, but federal mandatory minimum laws prevented the judge from being able to give him less time in prison. Taxpayers will spend over $1.3 million in total to lock him up.
2. Christopher Williams
Christopher William is a former United States Marine who ran one of Montana’s largest medical marijuana dispensaries with his business partners. The business was in strict compliance with Montana state medical marijuana laws. However, in 2011 Christopher’s dispensary was raided and he was charged with felony drug and weapons charges. He did have a gun on him, but it was registered and legal. Christopher, unlike some of his partners, refused to testify against anyone and didn’t take a plea deal. In 2012, a jury found the single dad guilty of eight felony counts, which meant he faced a mandatory minimum sentence of over 80 years behind bars.
Ultimately, the former Marine only had two charges against him and also had the $1.7 million forfeiture requirement waived. Christopher was sentenced to 5 years. He is scheduled for release in the middle of 2017.
1. Weldon Angelos
Weldon Angelos has been in prison since 2004 after selling $350 worth of marijuana to a police informant. According to a witness he allegedly had a firearm on his body, but there are no photographs to prove this is true. He was sentenced to 55 years behind bars since that was the mandatory sentence for dealers who carry firearms during drug transactions in Utah. Weldon was the founder of a rap record company and had no prior criminal record until that point. Paul Cassell was the judge assigned to the case and thought the charges were “unjust, cruel, and irrational.” However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit upheld the judge’s sentence.
In 2009, Weldon’s request for a new trial was denied by a federal judge. He will more than likely not be able to initiate anymore appeals. His projected released date is 2051. In the federal prison system there is no parole that’s offered.