Offense: Attempt to manufacture methamphetamine
Priors: Assault & trespass (1991); sale of marijuana (1992); possession
of marijuana with intent to distribute (1992); possession of cocaine,
resisting arrest without violence (1996); sale and delivery of
controlled substance (1999); battery, breach of peace (2000);
possession of methamphetamine (2000), battery on law enforcement
officer, resisting arrest without violence (2000).
Year sentenced: 2001
Age at sentencing: 38
Projected release date: None
Nature of priors: Ricky committed most of his prior offenses while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. He was convicted of assault and trespass charge after yelling at a neighbor for poisoning his dogs. The battery and breach of peace occurred when Ricky bumped another vehicle with his car after a verbal confrontation with the other driver. In 2000, he pushed a deputy that was attempting to arrest him, resulting in conviction of battery on a law enforcement officer. Ricky has a long history of traffic violations that began in his youth, including 12 counts of driving with suspended license, two DUIs, reckless driving and two counts of careless driving.
Ricky was born and raised in Niceville, Florida. He dropped out of school at age 16. Ricky was living alone and working various maintenance jobs when, shortly after his 20 birthday, he tried cocaine and quickly became addicted. He used several grams per week and sold the drug on occasion to pay for his habit.
In 1994, Ricky married the love of his life. Though he worked to be a responsible husband and father, he continued to struggle with depression and addiction. In 1997, Ricky was admitted to the emergency room after threatening to kill himself. In 1998, after a period of sobriety Ricky became drunk at a party and tried methamphetamine. Soon he was using daily. Ricky managed to hide his addiction from his daughter and his two stepchildren and ran a carpet installation business for 15 years before his arrest for the current offense.
In late 2000, a confidential informant (CI) told police he saw methamphetamine residue at Ricky’s house. Officers found 1.2 grams of methamphetamine, as well as acetone, matches, lighter fluid, and pseudoephedrine (a decongestant) inside Ricky’s home. Though there was no meth lab and just over a gram of actual methamphetamine, the Drug Enforcement Agency estimated that 191.5 grams of methamphetamine could have been produced from the pseudoephedrine pills. Sentencing guideline experts later determined that this estimate was far too high.
Ricky pled guilty. Though he had not served any prison time for his prior offenses, Ricky was sentenced as a career offender to a mandatory life term in prison. Judge Roger Vinson balked at condemning Ricky to life without parole: “The sentence…far exceeds whatever punishment would be appropriate… Unfortunately it’s my duty to impose a sentence. If I had any discretion at all, I would not impose a life sentence…I really don’t have any discretion in this matter.”
Ricky has now been sober for eight years. He has excelled in many courses, including business, real estate, and accounting, and has earned his GED. Ricky completed a 40-hour drug abuse education class but is not eligible for the intensive, 500-hour residential drug treatment program because of the length of his sentence. Since his incarceration, Ricky’s family has fallen apart. He and his wife divorced. His stepson died from a drug overdose and his stepdaughter is unemployed, singlehandedly caring for her two children. Ricky’s youngest daughter, Heather, a “daddy’s girl” who delighted in fishing and repairing things with her father, is now a teenager. Ricky’s elderly parents, who are retired and live on a fixed income, are her guardians.
Ricky writes, “With a clear mind it is easy for me to see that my judgments were poor…I worked hard at my business and fooled myself by believing that my drug use was not affecting me or my family. Loving my daughter was easy, but I failed to do the hard part. A drug addict is no example for a child. Looking back at my criminal record, I can’t help but feel foolish…I am sober for the first time in my adult life and it’s clear to me what I lost….I am doing my very best to make up for my mistakes."
Read more about Ricky's case in FAMM's 2009 testimony before the United States Sentencing Commission.