Sentence: 11 years, 3 months
Offense: Manufacturing a substance or mixture containing methamphetamine
Priors: Possession of marijuana (2000)
Year sentenced: 2007
Age at sentencing: 24
Projected release date: June 14, 2016
Nature of priors: When Michael was 17, he was charged with taking two hits off of a marijuana cigarette.
Michael grew up in rural Missouri in a town plagued by methamphetamine use. He graduated from high school and became an electronics technician. Unfortunately, Michael also became addicted to meth by the time he was 20. Despite his addiction, Michael held steady employment and stayed close with his family, attending weekly Sunday dinners at his parent’s house and helping his father with yard work. Michael was ashamed of his habit and tried to hide his drug use from his family.
In April 2006, officers received information that methamphetamine was being manufactured at Michael’s residence. They searched the premises and found a bucket of wastewater in the backyard. Michael had let an acquaintance cook methamphetamine on his property in exchange for a small amount of the drug and the water was left over from manufacturing. Although the wastewater contained less than one gram of meth, police counted the entire weight of the water in the bucket, 2,718.9 grams, as “a substance containing methamphetamine.”
While searching the house, officers killed Michael’s dog, a routine police procedure, and confiscated a handgun and a rifle. Even though Michael had legally purchased the weapons, he received a sentence enhancement for the guns. The gun enhancement made Michael ineligible for consideration under the safety valve—a judicial protection for first-time nonviolent offenders charged with mandatory minimums. Although the government did not claim Michael was dealing methamphetamine nor benefiting in any way from the sale of the drug, he received a ten-year mandatory minimum and was sentenced at the bottom of the guidelines to 11 years, 3 months in federal prison.
Before Michael was incarcerated, he completed an intensive drug treatment program and proudly remains “drug, alcohol, and tobacco free” in prison. He has also taken many vocational classes, including carpentry, masonry, real estate, and business management. Michael has dedicated himself to furthering his education and has never had a disciplinary write-up in prison. One of Michael’s biggest regrets is the burden his absence has caused his parents. Michael’s family is not often able to make the six-hour drive to see him due to his father’s declining health. Michael’s father, who is suffering from cancer and a debilitating back injury, no longer has Michael’s support and help with daily chores.* Upon his release, Michael plans to seek employment in construction or as an electrician, apply to college and reunite with his family.
*Michael’s father passed away in fall 2009 after a hard battle with cancer.