Calling the sentence “needless imposition of pain and suffering,” a 32-year-old Baker man is asking a Baton Rouge state judge to reconsider the 50-year prison term he dealt him last month for attempting to sell heroin on Airline Highway.
Kedric J. Williams must serve the maximum term for possession with intent to distribute heroin without benefit of parole, District Judge Mike Erwin ordered March 15.
Williams’ attorney, James Rothkamm, argues in a motion to reconsider the sentence that Williams was employed at the time of his arrest, has two small children and has expressed sincere remorse for his crime.
“While it is agreed that this is a serious offense, (Williams) was not engaged in a crime of violence; he is a father, working to support his family and is an excellent candidate for rehabilitation,” Rothkamm contends.
Rothkamm also argues Williams committed the crime at the request of a previously arrested friend.
Erwin, while stressing that heroin dealers aren’t welcome in East Baton Rouge Parish, said last month he would have sentenced Williams to life behind bars if the penalty for the crime had not been reduced in 2001.
Rothkamm says the judge failed to consider mitigating circumstances and provided inadequate justification for the 50-year term, which Rothkamm labeled excessive and “nothing more than the needless imposition of pain and suffering.”
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Wednesday that the sentence was appropriate.
Ironically, Williams’ sentence came two weeks before President Barack Obama commuted the 50-year federal prison term of John E. “Boo” Milton III, a Baton Rouge man accused of being the ringleader of one of the city’s largest crack cocaine distribution rings.
Milton has served 19 years of his sentence. He is scheduled to be released in late July.
Obama has long advocated for doing away with strict sentences for drug offenses that critics say lead to excessive punishment and high incarceration rates. The U.S. Justice Department in recent years has directed federal prosecutors to pull back on the use of harsh mandatory minimum sentences and expand criteria for inmates seeking clemency.
The presidential power to grant commutations and pardons does not extend to state convictions and sentences.
Williams was on probation for aggravated assault with a firearm at the time of his arrest last May. He was convicted in February.
Although Williams’ case did not involve a fatal overdose, Erwin noted that heroin-related deaths in East Baton Rouge Parish have skyrocketed from five in 2012 to 38 last year.
“If a life sentence for dealing heroin were still an option, I would feel comfortable sentencing every convicted heroin dealer to life in prison without the eligibility of parole and truly believe it would be a start in the process of saving lives and hopefully run these criminals out of Baton Rouge,” the judge said last month at Williams’ sentencing.