Archive for Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Convicted crack dealer faces life in prison

Experts debate merits of mandatory minimum sentence on 3-strike rule

May 31, 2006


— Sentencing was postponed Tuesday for a man facing life in prison with no parole for being caught with a large amount of crack cocaine on the Kansas University campus.

It's the harshest penalty short of execution and is on par with the sentence handed down this month to Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. A sentencing-reform advocate calls it "profoundly unjust," but prosecutors say it reflects Congress' desire for tough drug laws.

Theogen E. Garner, 42, of Leavenworth County, was scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday to a mandatory life sentence under a "three-strikes" drug law. But sentencing was delayed after Garner contested fingerprint records that prosecutors are trying to use to show he is the same person convicted for possession of cocaine and sale of marijuana in 1988 and 1991 cases in Leavenworth County.

U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia rescheduled sentencing for June 23.

After his arrest in July 2005, Garner initially was facing a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. But that increased to life when, shortly before his trial in February 2006, U.S. Atty. Eric Melgren's office decided to invoke the "three strikes" law based on his two prior alleged drug crimes.

It's something the prosecution didn't have to do, said Mary Price, general counsel for Washington, D.C.-based Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

"This is one of those cases where the prosecution exercised some discretion," she said. "Admittedly, this looks like a large amount of drugs right now ... but they're jumping this case from 10 years to life in prison based on two priors that are 15 years old. That seems profoundly unjust to me."

She said Garner could hijack a plane, kidnap someone or shoot an innocent person in a marijuana transaction, and he wouldn't be facing this much time.

Asked to explain why Garner's case was charged the way it was, Jim Cross, a spokesman for Melgren, issued this statement:

"Congress has passed laws that make selling drugs a serious crime and enhance the penalties as high as life imprisonment for repeat offenders. As prosecutors, we respect that," Cross said. "No one is glad to see Theogen Garner or anyone else go to jail for life. But Theogen Garner made the choices that put him where he is today, not Congress and not federal prosecutors."

KU police stopped Garner's pickup truck about 1:12 a.m. July 21, 2005, near 15th and Iowa Streets after seeing it weaving within its lane and driving at nearly half the speed limit.

The officer saw Garner's eyes were bloodshot and his hands were shaking, and a record check showed Garner was on parole. When another officer arrived and spotted what appeared to be a marijuana cigar behind Garner's ear, he admitted it was marijuana.

Police eventually found 82 grams of crack cocaine in the truck and 13 grams in his pocket. Garner told officers he had bought 3.25 ounces of crack cocaine in Lawrence and planned to sell it and double his money.

Prosecutors say police also found a blackjack and two knives in a plastic bag where much of the cocaine was found.

A Kansas Bureau of Investigation fingerprint examiner Tuesday testified that the fingerprints from Garner's 1988 and 1991 arrests matched his 2005 fingerprints. But during the hearing prosecutors said they mistakenly pulled an arrest card for Garner from a different 1991 arrest for a weapons violation, and Murguia gave them more time to produce the correct prints.

Garner's attorney, Jim George of Lawrence, declined comment on the case, as did Assistant U.S. Atty. Scott Rask and assistant Douglas County Dist. Atty. Brandon Jones, who is assigned to the case as a special Assistant U.S. Attorney.


Kelly Powell 12 years ago

I do not like this law....It is too black & white and does not allow differentiate between felonies (I believe)

paladin 12 years ago

This is insanity arising from social hysteria, fear, and is a much greater danger to this society than are drugs. Just one demonstration of how the social character of the world in which we live is devolving. Not far removed from burning witches at the stake.

xenophonschild 12 years ago

What's amazing is the powers that be can't see how ridiculous sentencing this man to life without parole will be.

We often expect common sense from people, and are astounded when they demonstrate the exact opposite.

cowboy 12 years ago

drug dealers kill people and families , too bad so sad , not

KSChick1 12 years ago

make him direct traffic at a roundabout that'll learn him

conservative 12 years ago

Reality Check.

To an extent you are correct. There is no comparison between this and terrorism. However I think the punishment for 3 drug offenses is just about right. The real problem is that we can't punish the terrorists any more than a single lifetime.

ksmattfish 12 years ago

The law isn't about drugs, it's about putting non-whites in jail. Making marijuana illegal was an early attempt at immigration control (the SW states percieved marijuana as a Mexican drug).

jafs 12 years ago

I am neither a drug user nor dealer, but I believe drugs should be legalized. There is really no logical justification for alcohol and cigarettes being legal and other addictive destructive substances being illegal. In addition, we should learn from Prohibition (as mentioned above) that making desired substances illegal merely adds insult to injury. It creates a host of associated problems related to the criminal network which springs up because of the possible profits. If legalized, we could use the tax revenue to fund prevention and treatment facilities, and we could use jails to house violent criminals. It is patently absurd to let murderers out of jail before drug users (the 3 strikes law allows drug users, not just dealers, to be sentenced to life without parole).

i_have_only_valid_opinions 12 years ago

so, i hear a lot of disagreement with the sentence but no suggestions that would solve the issue. this guy deserves what he got because he's an idiot. 1) he's on parole and he gets pulled over for driving under the influence; 2) he has a pot cigar behind his ear in plain sight; 3) he has a lot of crack and weapons in his possession; 4) he is stupid enough to tell the cops that he was planning on selling it and doubling his money; and 5) just a reminder that he was on parole and has numerous other convictions! what a stupid $hit!

so, what are the good options besides keeping this bastard in prison for a looong time!?! at least he won't be carrying weapons and selling crack at Last Call this weekend.

seriously, let me hear some alternatives...and don't tell me rehab or treatment. that's a crock.

Fatty_McButterpants 12 years ago

Reality Check: Where o where does it say that Garner was a drug addict? It just says that he bought the drugs in Lawrence with the intention of selling it to double his money. Stop reading things into articles that aren't there.

Christine Pennewell Davis 12 years ago

enforcer you are full of it treatment does work but only for those that want it to. drugs are a problem and that is that. come up with a solution try to do something posotive instead of cut down everything

craigers 12 years ago

Drug dealers should get life without parole after three convictions. They have a term for people like that...slow learner. Throw him in jail as well as all the other dealers.

Mike Birch 12 years ago

"Three strikes and your out!" So here we are in 2006

using a baseball slogan in order to deal serious societal

problems. Thanks worthless politicians!


i_have_only_valid_opinions 12 years ago

i realize taxpayers have to pay for this guy to spend his life in jail, but what is the alternative? let him roam the streets stoned out of his gourd, carrying weapons and helping other people do the same? this is a good example of someone that won't learn from his mistakes. don't give him the chance to make any more.

GardenMomma 12 years ago

75x55, I think what we learned from Prohibition is that if we make it illegal, nobody cares and they'll find a way to get it anyway. Was it called the "Roaring 20s" because everyone was well-behaved and sober or because everyone was rip-roarin' drunk?

Actually, I'm pretty sure there was a better reson for the era to be called "roaring," but my point is that if something is made illegal (such as in Prohibition), society will always find a way to engage in said behavior.

Prohibition did nothing to reduce the demand even though the supply was restricted.

joe_cool 12 years ago

So I guess since certain people want to legalize a currently illegal activity, we should continue that trend. Legalize murder, rape, theft or any other number of currently illegal activities.

Laws are in place as a deterent to those who do not react well to the dangling carrot of rehab or other nonthreatening treatments.

My guess is that the Garner had to attend some type of treatment program the first time he was arrested and released. It would have helped in the article if we knew for sure.

As for Prohibition. Yes the demand remained. However, Nobody can say for certain if that demand went up, down, or stayed the same since you can't tally how much illegal booze was sold. I would like to think it went down since it was harder to get a hold of.

cowboy 12 years ago

drug dealers , they start as users , create grief in thier families , start selling because they are too stupid or lazy to work , start other young kids on drugs , who create grief in thier families , some OD , some go to jail , some go a few times , and start others on drugs , they steal and lie , they do all kinds of crap they dont get caught for , they sow the seeds of a horrible life to everyone they meet , they suck , they should be in jail. No sympathy required or justified.

Jamesaust 12 years ago

While I find the sentence unnecessarily long (indeed, "life" should be a lesser alternative only to capital crimines), the idea that the Eighth Amendment prohibits this as an "excessive punishment" betrays a lack of historical knowledge.

As any Founding Father could have told you, the language of the Eighth Amendment is plagerized directly from the English Bill of Rights, adopted most famously after notorious situations like that of Titus Oakes.

Oakes, convicted as part of a Catholic plot against the crown, was sentenced to a long (long!) string of punishments that were not only extraordinary in the moment (lopping of his ears, boring a hole with a red-hot poker through his tongue) but were endless (periodically, repeated whipping at intervals for the remainder of his life - assuming he survived his initial punishments). As the English historian T.B. Macaulay noted, convicts would beg to be convicted of capital crimes so that they might go to the gallows instead of such excessive punishments.

Nonetheless, the matter is moot. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled already in such a case in 1991 (Harmelin v. Michigan). A life sentence for a crime that destoys lives on mass is not "excessive" under any reasonable definition of the word. A display of a lack of good sense and thoughtfulness almost certainly but not excessive. It is only upon the later extremity that we void our democratic system and tie the peoples' hands in the application of justice.

i_have_only_valid_opinions 12 years ago

i'm snoring jamesaust. may have been a good point somewhere in there but i fell asleep in the middle. you can't really compare torture and a lengthy jail term. sure a hole through your tongue with a hot poker is excessive, unless maybe he went around speaking all day in the language of this lengthy post.

keep his a$$ in jail for a long, long time.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 12 years ago

As stupid as some criminals are, they are generally very smart regarding legal issues, especially those who have been in the pen. This guy is no stranger to the concept of "three strikes", and if he can sell drugs, he can count well enough to know that he had two strikes already. He fully understood that IF he got caught, he'd spend his life in jail. I fully believe that he knew that.

Those who think this is excessive: how many strikes do you think he "needs"? He must have known the law, yet he engaged in the sale of "large amount of crack cocaine" on the KU campus! He was breaking the law with impunity. He's a career criminal. He has NO plans to stop unless WE stop him.

The reference to the 911 hijacker was ONLY put in the article for the purpose of creating a controversy, to get us readers all worked up. Forget the issue of whether or not a murderer or terrorist should/shouldn't get a life sentance; just ask "should a career criminal continue to walk the streets while negotiating LARGE amounts of crack on the campus of a public university?"

How many strikes? 5? 9? If he lived long enough, he'd get there, then he'd be in the same boat he's in now. The DIFFERENCE being that he would have sold more and more drugs while we waited for him to add up to "x" number of strikes.

He's in his FORTIES, for crying out loud. He's had a lot of time to grow up and consider his choices. His is a life "already" wasted. Put him away.

Christine Pennewell Davis 12 years ago

well life no longer means life anymore I do believe that there is a get this time limit for crimes that do not include murder I THINK. but I do believe the reference to massaui was to compare time length and sentence not the crime.

xenophonschild 12 years ago

I want to howl at you for your ignorance, but that would not be good manners.

Only the worst of the worst should be sentenced to life without parole in prison. Most of you don't have a clue what it means to spend an hour, a day, a week - let alone year after year, decade after decade in a concrete box.

Where do you get off thinking that you, your society, your civilization, is so special that you can arbitrarily lock someone up in those abominations for eons?

Something else you can gnaw on: there are better people, better men, than you in prison.

I spent thirty-one years in Kansas prisons, and I know of what I speak.

cowboy 12 years ago

lets see marion and others , you want typhoid mary locked up for spreading hiv , how is a drug dealer any different. scum of the earth like a virus it spreads itself.It chews up our young and punishes the families that have to watch loved ones eaten up by this stuff. Im sure all the cons in prison are really nice folks , when you have to follow the rules and are fed well youre usually yourselves , when your out and out of control your victims probably dont think much of you. I can always understand some one ending up in prison once , anything after that you asked for it. I ve seen too many people ruined , killed , and hurt by dealers. This clown is not unlike the worthless mthrfer that killed my brother many years ago in KC

And thanks to George W Afghanistan has a record crop this year to further destroy our precious youth. No mercy

Rationalanimal 12 years ago

In reflecting on some of the "giv'em mercy" arguments on here, a very relevant quote from Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer comes to mind. In relation to Injun Joe, Tom said: "even if Satan himself was on trial I reckon there'd be people that thought he was innoccent."

Its reassuring to know if I somehow take-up a criminal life that no matter how many murders, rapes, kids addicted drugs I inflict on society that there will always be a portion of our society that is willing to let a criminal stay on the loose.

I hate to say it, but some of the judgment reflected by advocating tolerance for crime on here suggests being a customer of this victimized businessman.

compmd 12 years ago

Do your research before complaining about this guy's punishment. This guy already had his "three-strikes" before this last arrest. Before this case, he already had three C felony convictions on drug charges in state court. He has several parole violations on his record as well. This guy just didn't know when to quit. To keep with the baseball theme, he moved up to the big leagues when the US Attorney decided to bring federal charges against him. The state of Kansas gave Mr. Garner many chances to turn his life around, but he actively chose to continue his lifestyle, and now it must be decided whether or not he should have any further chances of improvement.

If you don't believe that he should serve out a life sentence, then maybe he can live next to you if he gets paroled.

Kelly Powell 12 years ago

We are not talking rape or murder here......He was a dope dealer yes, and believe me I HATE ctack.....It is the most obnoxious drug to come onto the market.....but life imprisonment is way too steep.......30 years flat sentance would suffice. And for those blaming the street level dealers for the actions of others.....Should we arrest bartenders to? After all they are feeding people an addictive substance known historically for it's ability to cause people to do stupid violent things.....And bartenders get a commision for each drink sold(it's called a tip). While the above example is of course,, a stretch in logic it does help support my point....Other people cannot and should not be held responsible for anothers action..... as chris rock said "NOBODY SELLS CRACK....CRACK SELLS ITSELF"

Janet Lowther 12 years ago

Prohibition does not work.

It can not work.

The laws of economics might not be quite so rigid as those of physics, but they will bite you sooner or later if you ignore them.

Drugs need to be regulated and taxed. It should be at least as hard for a kid to get high as it is for a kid to get drunk. From what I hear in many places it is a LOT easier for someone under age to get high.

"It's the harshest penalty short of execution. . ."

Have you never heard of "A fate worse than death?"

Given the choice between execution and life in prison, I'll take the former.

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