Marijuana Farmer Gets 50 Years

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Mar 10, 2001.

  1. By Elaine Silvestrini, Freehold Bureau
    Source: Asbury Park Press

    Saying this was a case in which the state's mandatory sentencing laws required a penalty that is "simply too severe," a Superior Court judge nonetheless yesterday sent a convicted marijuana grower to state prison for up to 50 years.
    "The court imposed this sentence because the court felt obligated to do so under the law," said Judge Paul F. Chaiet, a former prosecutor. "Mandatory sentencing provisions can create difficult results. In the court's view, this is one of those times where the ultimate results are difficult to accept."

    Under the sentence, William J. Allegro, 32, of Bradley Beach, must serve 16 years and 8 months before being considered for parole.

    Even Monmouth County Prosecutor John Kaye seemed uncomfortable with the length of the sentence.

    Kaye stressed he harbors no sympathy for someone who operates a drug manufacturing facility and said he believes marijuana is a serious problem, especially since it is more far potent today than it ever was.

    But Kaye noted that prison terms are often not as long for offenses such as murder, rape, kidnapping and aggravated assault. Such a sentencing disparity, he said, "it throws the whole system out of kilter and makes people wonder about it."

    However, Kaye stopped short of saying he thought the sentence was too harsh.

    Allegro was convicted Aug. 9 of maintaining a drug production facility and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Allegro's marijuana-growing facility in his Monmouth Avenue garage apartment was discovered on Feb. 21, 1999, during a fire blamed on an overloaded electrical outlet.

    A total of 19 pounds of marijuana in two storage containers and heat lamps and other equipment used to grow it were found by firefighters when they looked around the apartment for an ax they had misplaced, according to Chaiet and Assistant Prosecutor Barbara J. Rynne.

    Jurors heard testimony about only eight pounds of marijuana. Another judge, James Kennedy, prevented Rynne from using as evidence another 11 pounds of marijuana, ruling that a firefighter should not have opened the second storage container after discovering marijuana in the first.

    After the fire, Allegro was a fugitive for three or four months before being arrested in North Carolina with $31,000 in cash.

    According to court papers prepared by Allegro's lawyer, public defender Thomas Largey, the defendant has worked in the construction field for several years and obtained his equivalency diploma in 1985. Largey described Allegro as someone with a drug problem who grew marijuana for his own use and to share with friends.

    Chaiet said Allegro had a "significant juvenile record" and was sentenced in 1993 to four years in prison for possession of about two-thirds of a pound of marijuana in a school zone with intent to distribute.

    Largey pointed out that Allegro's past record included only nonviolent offenses and the one indictable conviction, saying the sentence the prosecutor sought was "harsh."

    Without the state's extended-term sentencing law for certain repeat drug offenders, Allegro would have faced 18 years with seven to be served without possibility of parole, according to the judge, who said he "would have been perfectly comfortable" imposing that sentence.

    "The significance of the offense would have been recognized, his record considered and society protected."

    But acting under guidelines established by the state attorney general, Rynne made a motion seeking the longer term. Chaiet noted that unless he could rule that the prosecutor was being "arbitrary and capricious," he was required to grant the motion.

    Largey urged the judge to rule that the guidelines are unconstitutional because they don't allow for exceptions in the interest of justice.

    However, Chaiet said such an exception would not have changed the outcome in this case. And the judge cited case law stating that an interest-of-justice exception is not necessary.

    Later, Largey said the case would be appealed, and that the constitutionality of the attorney general's guidelines would be the main issue.

    Complete Title: Marijuana Farmer Gets 50 Years Despite Judge's Misgivings

    Source: Asbury Park Press (NJ)
    Author: Elaine Silvestrini, Freehold Bureau
    Published: March 9, 2001
    Copyright: 2001 Asbury Park Press

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