A West Virginia man was recently sentenced to 22 years in prison for drug trafficking. Richard L. Curry of Parksburg was sentenced in federal court in Charleston for possessing more than a kilo of cocaine during a drug purchase.
According to federal prosecutors, this was not the first time Curry delivered cocaine for purchase. On seven different occasions, Curry apparently delivered large amounts of cocaine to an unnamed informant in exchange for cash. Curry was finally arrested in May of this year during one such exchange at a Charleston complex. During the arrest, Curry resisted by firing a single shot with a Taurus .40 shotgun that he had hidden in his coat. No one was injured. After searching Curry, police found 1.2 kilos of cocaine on his person. A further search of his vehicle yielded 68 grams of crack cocaine and 73 grams of cocaine.
This past July, Curry pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute and to discharging a firearm during a drug trafficking crime. The sentence, delivered by Judge Thomas Johnston of the federal district court, was arranged so that 151 months were for one count of possession with intent to distribute and 120 months were for carrying, using, and discharging a firearm in the midst of a drug trafficking crime.
No one would argue that West Virginia has a serious drug problem. As Curry was being sentenced, another four people were caught in a drug bust — this time not for cocaine possession, but for running a covert methamphetamine lab. At the same time, one might question whether Curry’s sentence fits the crimes. If that was the sentence Curry received after pleading guilty, one might wonder what it would have been if Curry’s case had gone to trial and he was convicted.
Even if Curry’s sentence is fair, there are many people who are given sentences for drug possession that are excessive. One main reason is due to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which were implemented in the 1980s as part of a general “tough on crime” approach. The Sentencing Guidelines took sentencing out of the hands of judges and instead subjected it to a formula involving levels and zones of the offense. Even though the Sentencing Guidelines went from being mandatory to advisory, they still carry significant weight — especially since so many states have enacted their own versions, including West Virginia. However, the tough on crime approach has resulted in serious prison overcrowding, as people are put in prison for years as a result of nonviolent crimes. They cost states a considerable amount of money each year just to maintain. Fortunately, this state appears to finally be considering alternatives to locking people up for drug offenses, though it will likely be a while before the positive effects are felt. In the meantime, for those charged with a drug crime, it is incredibly important to get in contact with a West Virginia criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
The Wolfe Law Firm has been providing legal services for nearly 25 years. Located in Elkins, West Virginia, the firm provides services in the areas of personal injury, criminal defense, bankruptcy, and mediation. If you are looking for an experienced West Virginia attorney, contact us today.