Blair County Senior Judge Thomas G. Peoples strapped on the water-skis on Thursday and jumped a shark while waving the War on Drugs banner proudly. Judge Peoples handed out what is believed to be the longest sentence for drug offenses in Pennsylvanian history.
Philadelphia native Gene “Shorty” Carter, considered the kingpin of an organization that distributed a million dollars’ worth of cocaine and heroin in Blair County, was sentenced Thursday afternoon to 104 to 216 years in prison…
That is not a typo. That’s a sentence of one hundred and four years to two hundred and sixteen years in prison for non-violent drug offenses. Rapists, child molesters, and murderers don’t receive prison terms like that in this county. Only drug dealers.
Peoples didn’t pull any punches with Carter.
He pointed out that Carter had received a prior sentence of two to four years for drug sales and was living in a Department of Corrections halfway house in Johnstown when he decided to resume his drug operation.
Peoples concluded that Carter was not amenable to rehabilitation.
He said the only reason Carter dealt drugs was for financial gain, noting that Carter “polluted this community with illicit drugs.”
“Didn’t pull any punches”? He sentenced him to the equivalent of life without the possibility for parole for selling drugs. I certainly hope he wasn’t holding back.
The first jaw to hit the floor belonged to the defense attorney:
The sentence stunned Carter’s attorney, Scott Pletcher of State College, who said he knew Carter would receive a hefty sentence but at the most he thought it would be in the 30-year range.
In a statement to the judge, Pletcher said after representing Carter for more than a year, he felt the 40-year-old could be rehabilitated and could become a productive citizen.
He asked Peoples to give Carter a chance to “see a light at the end of the tunnel,” suggesting a sentence of 15 years.
In the Judge’s defense, perhaps he thought Attorney Pletcher asked for 150 years and thought he was giving the defendant a break. Also stammering in disbelief over the length of the sentence was the NAACP.
The Blair County branch of the NAACP has been following the case, and three members of the civil rights group were in attendance at the sentencing.
“We want the community protected,” said Donald Witherspoon, NAACP president. “[But] we just don’t believe it warranted that amount of time.”
“We just thought at this particular time the court went overboard,” he added.
Randy Feathers, the regional director of the Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotics Investigation, apparently isn’t a fan of LEAP.
“I agree entirely with what Judge Peoples said,” stated Feathers. He said Peoples “gets it” when it comes to the drug world.
Even after imposing the record prison sentence on Gene “Shorty” Carter, Judge Peoples wasn’t finished yet. In what can only be considered adding insult to injury, the judge also fined the defendant $520,000.
Gene Carter was convicted by jury of selling drugs and was going to do time. That part isn’t in question. But the harshness of the sentence should give every rationally thinking person cause to pause and wonder if this is truly justice. There is not even lip service given to the idea of rehabilitation in this case. Judge Peoples locked this man up and threw away the key for non-violent drug offenses. Haven’t there been enough casualties from this War?
Mr. Carter’s response to his sentence?
“File an appeal.”