Strange Ways

jacdon at jacdon at
Mon Aug 7 11:22:04 PDT 2000

In lbo-talk-digest V1 #3219, Aug. 6, kelley <kwalker2 at> wrote:

> the below was forward to LBO awhile ago. In it, the author maintains that
> prisoners are serving a minimum of 15 years for possession with intent to
> sell--"to be considered a seller".
> the article was forwarded elsewhere and someone mentioned that this 15 yr
> min sentence is wrong, that it's five. if so, what explains this
> misinformation in WW? Also, why does the author single out Texas and New
> York?
>From John Catalinotto, Managing Editor, Workers World:

Dear Kelley

The original article you are referring to is appended to my reply for list members who may not recall the contents.

Col. James Hiett was sentenced in Brooklyn, N.Y., Laurie Ann Hiett in Texas. That's why these states were mentioned, even though I believe they were tried in federal courts. Federal mandatory minimum sentences for possession are for either 5 or 10 years, depending on the amounts (the smaller amount could be someone buying wholesale). The toughest laws are in New York state. The following is what I found on this from sites of those who oppose MM laws:

New York State (Rockefeller) Laws: "Today, a defendant with no criminal history who is convicted of a single two-ounce cocaine sale faces the same mandatory minimum as someone who commits intentional second-degree murder: 15 years to life."

"The current laws impose mandatory minimum sentences of 15 years on first-time offenders convicted of selling two ounces or more, or possessing four ounces or more, of cocaine or heroin. Second-time offenders convicted of selling even trace amounts of drugs face a mandatory minimum sentence of four and a half years. As a result, the number of drug offenders in prisons has soared. In 1980, 11 percent of the people sent to prison were drug offenders. In 1999 that number rose to 44 percent."

It's true that for the smaller amount of possession the courts have to prove a sale took place. But it still holds that for amounts far smaller than Laurie Hiett admitted selling and Col. Hiett was involved in, thousands of people are doing 15 -year minimum sentences.
> - -------------------------------->
> Worker's World Newspaper Editorial
> Washington has a strange way of waging a war against drugs in Colombia.
> On the one hand, Congress just voted $1.3 billion to send helicopters to
> the Colombian Army and to drop dangerous plant-killing fungi on farming
> areas in that country.
> On the other, a federal court just let the U.S. officer who was in charge
> of anti-drug operations in Colombia off with a five-month sentence for his
> involvement in sending heroin back to the United States.
> Col. James Hiett's wife, Laurie Anne Hiett, was convicted last May in Texas
> of smuggling some $700,000 worth of heroin to New York in May and June
> 1999, using the diplomatic postal service at the U.S. Embassy.
> She was sentenced to five years in prison.
> Hiett plead guilty to concealing his knowledge that his wife was laundering
> drug money. In doing so, he admitted she made two trips in April 1999 from
> Bogota to New York, returning with $25,000. Hiett said he never questioned
> her about it.
> During his time in Colombia, Hiett commanded U.S. troops who trained
> security forces for so-called counter-drug operations and also protected
> radar bases used to track aircraft.
> The prisons of New York and Texas are filled with tens of thousands of
> youths, mostly Latino and African American, who are serving a minimum of 15
> years supposedly for possessing enough drugs to be considered a seller.
> Washington has put pressure on the Colombian government to extradite
> so-called "drug lords" and handed them life sentences in U.S. courts.

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