Sentence: 15 years
Offense: Felon in possession of a firearm
Triggering priors: Oklahoma state: 2nd degree burglary (1997); 2 counts DUI (1992), escape (1997)
Year sentenced: 2007
Age at sentencing: 45
Projected release date: Aug. 2, 2020
Nature of priors: Patrick was sentenced to four years in state prison and fined $2,500 for his DUI offenses. Five years later, in the grips of a cocaine and methamphetamine addiction, he forged two credit card slips, broke into two buildings, and concealed property stolen from one of the buildings over a 12-day period. Patrick was charged with second degree burglary and sentenced to 40 years in Oklahoma state prison. Panicked at the prospect of a veritable life sentence, Patrick left his unsupervised prison work assignment and drove away in a truck that belonged to the city. He was apprehended two weeks later. His sentence was enhanced for the escape but later reduced from 40 to 20 years.
Patrick’s lengthy criminal record is closely linked to his early drug and alcohol addiction. He tried alcohol at age six and was drinking daily by his early twenties. At age 18, he began using methamphetamine weekly. This escalated to almost daily use until his arrest. Patrick was addicted to heroin, cocaine, Xanax, and Valium, using cocaine and consuming up to 15 pills every day. He would resort to stealing money and writing bad checks to get his next fix. Patrick attended college for several years in pursuit of an economics degree and found employment in the oil business. Despite his participation in many in-patient drug and alcohol counseling programs, he could not stop using drugs.
In April 2005, Patrick was paroled from state prison after serving nine years for his 1997 burglary and escape convictions. Eight months later, he relapsed and was back to using drugs and gambling at casinos for money. The son of Patrick’s girlfriend asked Patrick to buy his shotgun so that he could have Christmas money for his children. Patrick had extra money from his casino winnings at the time and agreed. Patrick paid the young man $300 and the gun remained in the trunk of his girlfriend’s car for a few weeks. One drunken night, Patrick retrieved the gun and pawned it for $200.When he sobered up, Patrick realized the gravity of what he had done: pawning a firearm as a felon. He attempted to rectify his mistake by trying to buy the weapon back from the pawn shop. He was later indicted and taken into federal custody.
Patrick pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The government categorized Patrick’s prior 2nd degree burglary, escape and DUI offenses as violent crimes, and charged him as an Armed Career Criminal, a statute that carries a 15-year mandatory minimum. At the time of his arrest, Patrick had been a drug addict for decades.
Since his incarceration, Patrick has committed himself to achieving sobriety. He attends Narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous and participates in Spanish and exercise classes. He also plans to take college courses. Patrick’s biggest regret is the pain his former lifestyle has caused his family, especially his two sons that have grown up without a father. Though he takes responsibility for his undeniably lengthy criminal record, Patrick wonders if a 15-year sentence is an appropriate punishment for pawning a shotgun.