A 56-year-old Texas man on Friday was sentenced to 24 years in federal prison for selling marijuana. He had been convicted by a jury in January after a weeklong trial, reports KFOX 14.
David Lopez of El Paso will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars. The case highlights the harshness of mandatory-minimum drug sentencing laws. These types of laws are making a big comeback under the Trump Administration.Atty. Gen. Sessions recently asked federal prosecutors to go for the harshest sentence possible in drug cases, and apparently they were listening.
Lopez was convicted on charges of drug conspiracy (to possess more than 1,000 kilos of marijuana) and possession (more than 100 kilos of marijuana). In addition to his prison sentence, Judge Philip R. Martinez ordered Lopez to pay a $50,000 fine, reports KVIA.
Federal prosecutors claimed he had been shipping marijuana from El Paso to cities in Texas, New Mexico and Kansas from 2001 all the way through August 2015. The Kansas bust resulted in the seizure of more than 3,300 kilos of cannabis.Lopez, who owned several trucking companies, allegedly used commercial tractor trailers driven by himself and three other hired drivers to transport the marijuana.
He was caught after trying to hire a Drug Enforcement Administration informant and an undercover cop to haul weed for him, reports Keegan Hamilton at Vice.
His harsh sentence sends “a strong and unified message that drug dealing, at all levels, will not be tolerated, and in turn, we are making our communities safer,” said Will Glaspy, special agent in charge of the DEA’s El Paso Division. “With this conviction, DEA and our law enforcement partners are working together to have a positive impact at the local level,” Glaspy said.Lopez wasn’t linked to any acts of violence. He was only charged with selling marijuana.
El Paso County records show that Lopez had been owner of Lopez Trucking Co., Triple SSS Logistic, Evolution Rock Transport, and other companies, reports Aaron Martinez at the El Paso Times.
His lengthy sentence was because of federal rules requiring mandatory minimums for drug conspiracy charges. Prosecutors also sought additional time because Lopez was previously convicted of felony marijuana possession in Missouri 22 years ago, back in 1995.
In 2010, Lopez was stopped in Clark County, Kansas, where a police dog alerted on his truck. Officers found $130,000 in his suitcase, according to prosecutors. Lopez denied any knowledge of the cash, but a 2015 search of his residence revealed $53,000 packaged similarly in a safe.
The new case began under the Obama Administration, which had moved under Attorney General Eric Holder to reduce sentences for nonviolent drug offenders at the federal level. That was part of President Obama’s broader criminal justice reform effort. Like much of Obama’s legacy, it’s being assailed by the Trump Administration.Now under Atty. Gen. Sessions, the Department of Justice is cracking down and subjecting more drug defendants to to longest mandatory minimums chargeable under current law.
The new policy is rekindling the War On Drugs and will lead to more low-level, nonviolent offenders spending long stretches in federal prison, according to activists,
Lopez’s sentence of 293 months in prison puts him in an unenviable position. He is now among a group of at least 16 inmates known as the “marijuana lifers.” All of them are known to be serving life or “de facto life” sentences for cannabis charges.At his sentencing, Lopez had already been in federal custody since June 2016. If he serves his entire sentence, he will be 78 when he’s released.
Thousands of Americans are still being thrown into federal prison for marijuana. There were 3,384 cannabis trafficking cases in 2015. That accounts for about 17 percent of all federal drug offenders, according to data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
“We’re not about filling prisons,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein claimed on Friday, reports Tess Allen at Civilized. “The mission is to reduce violent crime and drug abuse and this helps us do that.”