Robert Anger grew up amid the beauty of Vermont. He was happiest doing outside activities, such as fishing, swimming and basketball at his family’s camp on Lake Champlain. But Robert struggled with learning disabilities in school and dropped out at 17, although he earned his GED. After school, he also found it difficult to hold down a job. He worked construction or factory jobs for a few weeks before he quit or was fired.
Robert started using marijuana and alcohol as a teen, and was arrested for possession of both. He first tried oxycontin when he was 19. He soon found himself addicted, needing it on a daily basis. At that point, Robert began to sell cocaine to support his drug addiction. When oxycontin was not available, he turned to heroin to prevent withdrawal. Each time he tried to quit using drugs, he became very sick and resumed his drug use. Only his brother and his girlfriend saw him use drugs and knew about his addiction.
In 2004, Robert drove from Vermont to Massachusetts, where he had arranged to buy $15,000 worth of cocaine in Springfield. He planned to resell most of it to support his $300/day oxycontin addiction. The area was under police surveillance and officers intervened midway through the transaction, arresting both Robert and his supplier. The supplier fled before their 2006 trial; only Robert was convicted of trafficking over 200 grams of cocaine. At sentencing, judge Judd J. Carhart stated, “I wish I had discretion” before sentencing 22-year old Robert to a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years, based solely on the weight of the drugs. Due to the 2012 sentencing reforms, Robert is now eligible for parole after serving 12 years.
While out on bail after his arrest, Robert decided to change his life. With much support from his girlfriend and family, he was able to quit using oxycontin and heroin. “That was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” recalls Robert, “but I am proud that I was able to do it.” He also held down a steady job making furniture. His employer wrote a letter to the sentencing judge, describing Robert as industrious and reliable and stating his willingness to rehire him.
Robert’s family has been a strong source of support. They drive the nine-hour roundtrip each month to visit him. His mother frequently sends photos of the Vermont wilderness, sometimes getting up before dawn so she can photograph the sunrise. In 2008, Robert’s brother wrote to Governor Patrick, noting that Robert’s extreme sentence was longer than the national average for time served for murder. Robert is studying in order to take college level courses. Upon his release he would like to continue his education and get a job, perhaps working with at-risk teenagers. As he says, “Maybe they would listen to someone who has already lived through bad choices.”
The Facts: Robert Anger
Sentence: 15 years
Offense: Trafficking in cocaine
Priors: Marijuana possession
Year sentenced: 2006
Age at sentencing: 22
Projected release date: 2021
Eligible for parole: 2018