Blair County, Pennsylvania: Fair and Just Criminal Sentencings

The Blair County criminal justice system knows its priorities.  They make sure those priorities are known by everyone in the community with the fair and just sentences they pass down to those convicted of crimes in this area.

For example, are you a non-white person convicted of dealing drugs?  You are in luck!  The county is dedicated to rehabilitating you.

Like Gene “Shorty” Carter:

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 by Blair County Senior Judge Thomas G. Peoples.

….

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.

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.

Or the man who once owned the record broken by Shorty, Efrain Hidalgo:

Efrain Hidalgo, now 36, was convicted a decade ago by a Blair County jury during a weeklong trial in which many of his former dealers testified against him.

Former Judge Norman D. Callan imposed the longest sentence ever handed down by a Blair County judge on a convicted drug dealer because of the harm caused to the community by the drugs that the Hidalgo gang was distributing.

Since he was sentenced in 2000, Hidalgo has been consistent in his claims that he did not receive a fair trial and that his sentence was unconstitutional.

His most recent claim went before U.S. District Judge Kim Gibson, who dismissed Hidalgo’s request for a new trial.

The convicted drug dealer calls his sentence “unreasonable” and claims that the judge showed “animosity” toward him because he “blamed [Hidalgo] for all the problems in the county.”

He claimed before Gibson that his sentence was “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Hidalgo complains that he won’t be eligible for parole until he is 86 years old, and he concluded that “rather than being a taxpaying, upstanding member of society, [he] will be a burden to other taxpayers for his entire life.”

In case you are interested, Hidalgo lost his appeal, as reported by today’s print Altoona Mirror.  I’d link to it, but the article is not online yet…

Ok, you may be saying, “Come on, Foster.  Those are kingpins.  They deserve what they get.”  To which I’d reply something about you not knowing what the Altoona area is like, and how these aren’t drug lords from Mexico border towns, or gang members in the inner city turning neighborhoods into war zones.  Their crimes were selling drugs, period.  No kidnapping tourists, or killing multiple competitors, or raping narcotics agents, or whatever.  But they were selling drugs for profit as a business venture, so I’ll concede half your point.  How about Kenneth Piner Sr.?  He was an addict who was selling drugs just for his own fix.  I’m sure his sentence was more fair….

Kenneth Jon Piner Sr. was sentenced to 36 to 72 years in a state correctional institution after being found guilty in April of 28 drug-related offenses.

Piner was arrested in November 2011 as the West Drug Task Force ended an 18-month investigation called Operation Last Call. Police used confidential informants and phone taps to break up a Baltimore-Altoona drug ring.

The judge also imposed $192,000 in fines on the 52-year-old Piner.

Piner’s cocaine dealing, Milliron said, brought “unfathomable torture” to drug addicts, their families and the community.

“Unfathomable torture”?  So that’s why people use cocaine.  Interesting.  I’m surprised at how light this sentence was.  I mean, when he gets out of jail at 88 he’ll still possibly have a year or two to sell more drugs, probably to elementary school students.  He is black, after all.

So I know everyone is now expecting this to turn into a rant for either drug legalization, decriminalization, or at least a sane and rational approach to the nations drug issues.  Psych!

I will save that for another day.  Instead, I want to mention this one other bit of news while you have the preceding information fresh in your mind.  For comparison.

Sex offender takes plea

Centre County man pleads no contest to assault of girl, 5

A 39-year-old Centre County man who entered a no contest plea to indecently assaulting a 5-year-old Tyrone girl will be required to register his whereabouts with state police for the rest of his life.

Kevin J. Ross, 39, 1052 W. Fowler Hollow Road, Port Matilda, agreed to the requirement in Blair County court on Monday, where he also pleaded no contest to corruption of minors.

Judge Jolene G. Kopriva handed down the negotiated sentence of three to 23 months in prison, followed by five years probation. Because Ross already served five months in prison before posting bail, he was credited for time served and allowed to remain free.

Blair County.  Sell a highly demanded product that is illegal to people who, make no mistake about this, will find a way to get the product whether or not you provide it, sacrifice the rest of your life behind bars.

Sexually abuse a five year old girl?  3 months and change.

Seems fair and just to me.

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