Family has always meant everything to Michael Charros. He worked at his father’s cleaning company and his life revolved around his wife and three children. When his father lost a leg to diabetes, Mike and his wife Geraldine (Gerry) moved him into their home. Mike cared for him during the day while Gerry was at work, then worked evenings at the family business after Gerry came home. When his father’s kidneys failed, Mike and Gerry took him to dialysis three times a week and carefully prepared the meals needed for his special diet.
Although he had done the best a son could do, Mike was devastated when his father died in March 1998. He had briefly used cocaine recreationally after high school, buying it from a friend. After his father’s death, Mike contacted the friend to again obtain cocaine. Gerry did not approve of Mike’s drug use and they often fought about it, but she understood the cause. “His father’s death tore his heart out,” Gerry recalled. “He was just lost.”
In early August, the supplier showed up at Mike’s home, asking him to store a shoebox overnight because the police were watching him. Mike had misgivings but agreed to do so. The supplier also sold him $20 worth of cocaine. Mike, Gerry and their son then left home to go out for dinner. The police pulled them over at gunpoint and brought them back to the house. The police found 240 grams of cocaine (about 8½ ounces) in the box, along with cash and drug paraphernalia. Both Mike and Gerry were arrested. Mike was convicted of trafficking and sentenced to a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years based solely on the weight of the cocaine. He was sentenced to an additional 2½ years for a “school zone violation” because the family’s home was within 1,000 feet of a school – even though school was not in session. Due to the 2012 sentencing reforms, Mike is now eligible for parole after serving 14 ½ years. Gerry was convicted of conspiracy to traffic in cocaine although she was released after 3½ years in prison when her sentence was overturned on appeal.
Gerry works hard to cover the family’s expenses along with paying off their remaining legal fees. Their son quit college and works to help her pay the bills. Mike’s mother and Gerry are both active FAMM members and frequently write to their legislators. Mike has spent many hours in the prison law library, educating himself on the law so he can help “stop this madness.” Not surprisingly, his main goals concern his family. “I want to be a son, a father and a husband again. You don’t know how much I miss my family. I want to start my life again.”
The Facts: Michael Charros
Offense: Trafficking in cocaine, school zone violation
Priors: Trespassing (1977)
Sentence: 17½ years
Year sentenced: 2001
Age at sentencing: 45
Projected release date: 2018
Eligible for parole: 2015