Thanks to Doc Berman over at Sentencing Law and Policy for the link to this interesting article from the New York Times.
Justice Thomas Farber’s dilemma in a Manhattan courtroom on Thursday played itself out like a dramatic monologue.
How much misery was appropriate to inflict on a promising 19-year-old, who himself had inflicted misery on society by dealing drugs, the judge asked himself out loud.
“It’s almost an impossible calculus,” said Justice Farber, who sits in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
The young man, Yiskar Caceres, had been arrested four times in roughly 15 months for selling or possessing cocaine, and Justice Farber already had given him an opportunity to wipe his slate clean before his most recent arrest, in April.
Now, Justice Farber said, he had no choice but to sentence Mr. Caceres to state prison. But even in doing so, the judge showed some compassion: he gave Mr. Caceres four and a half years in prison, half the maximum sentence that prosecutors had sought. Because Mr. Caceres has already served 11 months and will be eligible for a drug-treatment program, he could be out in as little as two years.
“I have not given up hope in you,” Justice Farber said, adding that he hoped Mr. Caceres would see how drugs had destroyed some of the inmates’ lives, “see the connection between what you do and what they become.”
Before he was sentenced, Mr. Caceres read the judge a three-and-a-half-page letter he had drafted at the judge’s request, explaining what he was thinking when he committed his crimes.
“I first started selling drugs at the age of 16,” Mr. Caceres said. “I went from one day having nothing to the next day having over $300. It was an unexplainable feeling.”
He added: “While the money was coming in, so did the status of having money and the respect I received from the fact of me having money. All these things made me overlook the wrong I was doing to myself and others.”
New York Times