Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

I Turned Down 3 Years in Prison and Ended up with 15 to Life

by ANTHONY PAPA

A new report by Human Rights Watch titled “An Offer You Can’t Refuse” reveals that only three percent of U.S. drug defendants in federal cases chose to go to trial instead of pleading guilty in 2012. The report explains that the reason only three percent go to trial is because prosecutors warn defendants that if they refuse the plea and go to trail, they will be charged with a more series crime and end up with a much longer sentence.

Prosecutors live and die for convictions and they use mandatory minimum sentencing as a prosecutorial tool to secure convictions and get people to plead guilty without getting their right to a fair trial.

People’s fear of angering prosecutors by going to trial is real. The reports shows that defendants who chose to exercise their constitutional rights to go to trial routinely face sentences three times greater than the original plea deals. This is an astounding revelation.

I know the pressure to take a deal and the disatroious consequences of taking my case to trial. In 1985 I refused a plea deal of three years and end up being sentenced to 15 years to life under the mandatory provisions of New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws.

I was duped into delivering an envelope containing four ounces of cocaine for $500 by a bowling buddy. During the criminal proceedings the district attorney’s office discovered I was not a drug dealer but nevertheless, they wanted to secure a conviction.

During the trial the assistant district attorney approached me and asked how old my daughter was. I told him she was seven years old. He told me if I chose to go to trial the next time I would see my daughter is when she was 22, take the plea offer of three years to life because you will never win. I was afraid of being away from my wife and daughter for three years. I refused the offer and a few days later I was convicted and sentenced to 15 years to life. I could not believe it.

Not taking the plea deal of three years to life was the biggest mistake of my life. Because I refused the offer I was sentenced to more than five times the amount of time I was offered in the plea bargain. During my years of imprisonment I tried to commit suicide, I was stuck with a knife, and I was beat down with a pipe.

But nothing hurt me more than my separation from my daughter, Stephanie. Her child-like innocence gave me the will to live when I wanted to die.

Although I tried to keep a relationship with her, she suffered greatly from my prison sentence. No child should have experienced the horrible conditions she had to go through, such as body searches, long waiting lines and abusive correction officers.

Little by little, her beautiful child-like demeanor disappeared, and was replaced with a sadness and depression generally seen in a much older person. By the time she was 12, she had become psychologically damaged, and so traumatized by the prison experience that she could no longer visit me.

From my relationship with my daughter I learned that prison did not end at the wall that separated me from society. It went far beyond it, reaching loved ones and friends of those incarcerated. When I refused the plea offer my life changed forever.

I commend Human Rights Watch for exposing how prosecutors get drug defendants to accept plea bargains by charging them with extraordinary long sentences under mandatory minimums. It is time to end harsh mandatory minimums that both destroy lives and may a mockery of our “justice” system.

Anthony Papa is the author of 15 Years to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom and Communications Specialist for Drug Policy Alliance. He can be reached at: anthonypapa123@yahoo.com 

Anthony Papa is the Manager of Media and Artist Relations for the Drug Policy Alliance and the author of This Side of Freedom: Life After Lockdown.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
Michael J. Sainato
How the Payday Loan Industry is Obstructing Reform
Robert Fantina
You Can’t Have War Without Racism
Gregory Barrett
Bad Theater at the United Nations (Starring Kerry, Power, and Obama
James A Haught
The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality
Thomas Knapp
US Military Aid: Thai-ed to Torture
Jack Smith
Must They be Enemies? Russia, Putin and the US
Gilbert Mercier
Clinton vs Trump: Lesser of Two Evils or the Devil You Know
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyon
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
Gareth Porter
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]