If the Law Is Wrong Now, It Was Wrong Then: The Case for First Step Act Retroactivity | FAMM

If the Law Is Wrong Now, It Was Wrong Then: The Case for First Step Act Retroactivity

The First Step Act helped thousands of people get shorter, fairer sentences. But as its name makes clear, it was just a start. Too many people have been left behind simply because of the date they were sentenced. The First Step Implementation Act would reunite them with their families sooner by making the First Step Act’s reforms retroactive. It’s commonsense reform that would help people still languishing in prison under outdated sentences. Here are the stories of just a few such people.

 

Darrel Hudec (right) and his mother

Darrell Hudec

My name is Darrell Hudec, and I am serving a 40-year sentence for bank robbery and 924c counts (two) stacked, a five- and a 20-year sentence on top of the eight 15-year sentences run concurrent for the bank robberies. I have just spent Christmas number 31 in here and would have been home long ago if they would make the FSA 924c retroactive. In these past 31 years my wife has died, as have my father, adopted father, my co-defendant cousin, grandparent, aunts, and uncles. My mother is elderly and in need of my help. My daughter has grown up without me and now I have a 10-year-old granddaughter I have yet to meet. I have been far from home most of these years. I am not the same person. I am older and have received over 100 certificates and have an associate’s degree in electrical tech from FCI Ray Brook. I have been pending clemency since Obama was in office. EVERY motion I have filed has been denied by the court. I am out of things to try. PLEASE help me out of this never-ending nightmare and make the First Step Act (FSA) under section 403 retroactive. My present outdate is August 24, 2026, and if this is made retroactive I would get an immediate release.

Timothy Casarez (third from left) and family

Timothy Martin Casarez

My name is Timothy Martin Casarez, a federal inmate (first-time offender) who pled guilty and took full responsibility for three counts of theft of mail, money, or other property by use of a deadly weapon and two counts of using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm during or in relation to a crime of violence. I received a total of 87 months (7 years and 3 months) for each of the robbery charges and 384 months (32 years) mandatory minimum for the 924c stacking enhancement law. Before I committed these crimes I was 23 years old, a young man, and a law-abiding citizen. I was trying to support my son, my now ex-wife, and our newborn daughter. After a couple of years of working, I ended up losing my job, which was my main income at the time. After a month or so of looking for a job with no success, a close childhood friend passed away, my wife left me, bills were piling up, and I had to raise my daughter on my own. This left me in a very stressful and desperate state of mind. In this state of mind I was around people who had negative influence on me, which caused me to make some irrational judgments that have now cost me about 17 years of my life, with 17 more years to complete my sentence.

I don’t use this as an excuse for my negative actions but rather an understanding of what caused me, a once law-abiding citizen, to make such irrational choices. Also, at this time of being sentenced none of these factors could be considered because of the mandatory guidelines. Since being incarcerated, I had to miss the majority of my children’s birthdays, graduations, special occasions, raising them which they are now young adults themselves. I also had to endure the deaths of my grandparents, aunt, among other loved ones with no way to pay my respects or have closure. In addition to this happening, I was sent to some of the worst and dangerous prisons in the federal system. I had to endure some serious situations and make some humbling choices. That is one reason why I am in a low-security prison now. I have also received my G.E.D, completed numerous courses, and worked a variety of jobs during my incarceration. I can honestly admit that I am no longer the naive, immature young man that I once was. I have also self-educated myself and made my thinking more rational when coming to stressful situations.

The First Step Act that was passed back in December 2018 has changed the harsh 924c stacking law to only be used for repeat offenders. As a result, I send my story, amongst other first-time offenders in the federal system, to be used to display to congressman or congresswoman the result that these harsh, draconian has on us prisoners (who have sincerely changed) and the families who stand with them through the hard times of being incarcerated. To hopefully have them support a Bill to make the 924c stacking law retroactive. My current release date is July 14, 2037. If FSA were to be made retroactive I would receive an immediate release.

Robert Lee Aguon

My name is Robert Lee Aguon. I am 46 years old and have been in the Federal Bureau of Prisons for over 24 years now. I am currently incarcerated for two counts of bank robbery and two counts of using a firearm during a crime of violence. I received 6 1/2 years for the bank robbery charges and 30 years for the using the firearm during a crime of violence charge. I received 10 years for one 924c conviction because the firearm was a sawed off shotgun. For the second 924c charge I received 20 years. The 10 years and 20 years were to run consecutive to one another and consecutive to the 6 1/2 years, for a total term of imprisonment of 36 1/2 years.

I was 21 years young when I was arrested and the young father of two baby girls. Now I am a 46-year-old. I’m asking Congress to please make the changes in the First Step Act stacking charges retroactive.

John Bonds

John Bonds

My name is Lavonda Bonds. My husband, John Bonds, was sentenced on June 7, 2010, to 293 months for conspiracy to distribute cocaine base (crack). John’s sentence was enhanced from 10 to life to 20 to life because of a prior marijuana charge from 2001 in which he only served five months. The prosecutor used an 851 enhancement to double his time. It’s just not fair — or just — that his mandatory minimum got doubled for a simple possession of marijuana prior. Without the 851 enhancement, my husband would be home now with me in Summerville, S.C. This 851 enhancement was reformed in the First Step Act, but it wasn’t made retroactive. Not making the First Step Act retroactive was devastating to prisoners and their families who were already serving time. Also, if crack and powder was 1 to 1 ratio, my husband would have maybe been sentenced between 57-71 months. Me and my husband are asking Congress to please get rid of the crack and powder disparity and make it 1 to 1 ratio, AND make it retroactive along with 851 and 924c enhancements so my husband and countless others can come home. We are willing to speak with anyone who will help rectify some of these unfair laws.

Timothy Freiboth

My name is Ciera Chesnut. I have a good friend, Tim Freiboth, who is currently serving 262 months in Federal Bureau of Prison for possession with intent to distribute at least 5 grams of methamphetamine. He is currently serving time in Pine Knot, KY. He was arrested and sentenced for 25 grams and his guidelines were 5-40. He was also given a 851 enhancement for one or more prior felony drug convictions and with this he was considered a career offender.

With the First Step Act being passed he should no longer be considered a career offender and this would also affect the 851 enhancement.

Please don’t wait – help FAMM support the First Step Implementation Act!

State:
Issue: Sentencing