12.26.07

Willie Aikens’ New Lease On Life

Posted in Baseball, The Law at 6:19 pm by

Despite his role as a crucial cog (.278, 20 HR’s, 98 RBI’s) for the 1980 AL Champion Kansas City Royals, 1B Willie Mays Aikens finds himself rotting in the stony lonesomeFCI Jesup, to be exact. Aikens, writes the Washington Post’s Darryl Fears, “is a poster child for what some jurists and civil rights activists say is the absurdity of the difference between the way federal law treats people convicted of crack cocaine offenses and those found guilty of crimes involving powder cocaine.”

Aikens received more than 15 years for possession of 64 grams of crack — about the weight of a large Snickers bar. To receive an equivalent sentence, he would have had to possess nearly 6 1/2 kilos — more than 14 pounds — of powder cocaine.

“You can supply a whole neighborhood with 6 1/2 kilos,” Aikens said by telephone from prison, where he is in the 13th year of his sentence.

Activists, lawyers and many federal judges say cases such as Aikens’s demonstrate the inequity of cocaine sentencing laws and validate the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s recent decision to ease prison time guidelines for crack offenders. The new guidelines will apply retroactively to about 19,500 inmates.

Within hours of the decision, Aikens said he was on the telephone with his lawyers, asking them to request a sentence reduction. They calculated that the new guidelines could shave nearly 2 1/2 years off his sentence.

“The disparity, as far as I’m concerned, is totally wrong,” said Aikens, a nonviolent offender. “This took me away from my family. My girls were 4 and 5 years old when I was sentenced. Now they’re 18 and 19.”

The sentencing disparity is more than two decades old. It was established after the cocaine-related death of University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias prompted Congress to pass the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. It allowed sentences for offenses involving crack cocaine, seen at the time as the more dangerous form of the drug, to be 100 times more severe than for crimes involving powder cocaine.

The law was intended to curb the violence associated with the crack cocaine trade in black communities. But opponents say it was fraught with problems.

More than 80 percent of defendants were, like Aikens, African American. According to this year’s sentencing commission report to Congress, the median weight of the crack carried by offenders was 51 grams. The median weight carried by powder cocaine offenders was 6,000 grams.

“Most of these crack dealers are, in fact, low-level offenders,” said Eric E. Sterling, president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. “Most of them aren’t violent. There is this vicious stereotype of black dope dealers armed to the teeth. But it’s not true. It’s a shame that this type of stereotype started coming out again in the debate over drug sentencing.”

12 Responses to “Willie Aikens’ New Lease On Life”

  1. Michael says:

    “This took me away from my family. My girls were 4 and 5 years old when I was sentenced. Now they’re 18 and 19.”

    Actually, your decision to become a crack dealer is what took you away from your family. I’m sure complaining about the disparity of the law helps you to justify your actions though. “They do this and only get this, and I only did this but have to do this…” It’s got nothing to do with it. You got caught intending to deal crack, a drug that absolutley destroys people’s lives- sorry, but deal with the consequences of your actions. No sympathy here.

  2. tbl says:

    Either the Post’s relevant copy editor confused FCI Jesup (GA) with MCI Jessup (MD) or that story’s the most subtle plug for The Wire I’ve seen so far.

    It’s a shame (in addition to his drug addiction) the first first baseman I rooted for has now been made an example of by the criminal justice system twice in his lifetime.

  3. Chuck Meehan says:

    The type of draconian sentencing that Willie Aikens is currently suffering was a direct result of the death of Len Bias in 1986. The Reagan administration and the Tip O’Neill-lead loyal opposition were all tripping over themselves in a frenzy to position themselves as the most hardline on drug abuse in the wake of the Len Bias tragedy. In addition to the sentencing disparity between powdered and crack cocaine, there are plenty of murderers, rapists and serious violent offenders serving far less time than some people who were low-level members of drug trafficking organizations or were just peripherally involved or just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and whom did not have information to trade down sentences with law-enforcement/prosecutors. Please take a few minutes and visit the site of Families Against Mandatory Minimums http://www.famm.org

  4. Dan says:

    I’m surprised Chuck didn’t mention this in his comment, but the Phillies actually defeated the Royals in the 1980 World Series. Mandatory minimums are horseshit, but that’s still no grounds for denying the Phils their one championship in the history of the franchise.

  5. GC says:

    TBL, Dan, the relevant corrections have been made. I picked a bad week to give up crack.

  6. Chuck Meehan says:

    Dan, I caught the error, but given that the entry was about Aikens plight rather than the 1980 baseball season, I didnt feel it was necessary to comment or correct it, much less take umbrage at it as being “denying” of my baseball teams lone place in the sun.

  7. Chuck Meehan says:

    Michael,

    I have a friendly acquaintance who is going to serve twice as much time for marijuana trafficking as somebody who murdered another friendly acquaintance of mine. Yeah, if you cant do the time etc, but seriously, 15 years mandatory is excessive for low-level crack peddling, regardless of the drugs nastiness. Are you in favor of countries that chop off people hands for stealing?. The crime just does not warrant that amount of punishment and I dont see where Aikens is “justifying his actions” by pointing out the disparity
    in sentencing.

  8. Michael says:

    Chuck,

    I understand drug laws are not fair. I use drugs daily. Obviously there is no comparison between dealing weed and crack so I’m not sure why you bring it up. RE: “am I in favor of chopping hands off” bit, you are making a huge jump of logic there that, since I don’t feel sorry for a fucking crack dealer spending a long time in jail, I must be totally inhuman and severe.

    I live in a neighborhood destroyed by crack. I see crack heads and dealers every single morning on my way to work, every evening after work, and every single fucking time I leave my house. I see them zonked out on my doorway and get to wake them up so I can get in my fucking door. I see them screaming at their wives. I see the wives slapping the shit out of their kids. Apartments get broken into, shit gets stolen. I’ve had my life threatened for my wallet multiple times. Crack completely destroys neighborhoods and people. I’m tired of seeing it and seeing people destroyed by it. If a dealer has to face 15 years in the clink, then boo fucking hoo. What a damn tragedy. I guess he won’t be able to beat his kid and ruin his wife’s life for 15 years then. Or maybe the deformed baby his wife is going to have because she’s crackin’ up won’t ever have to see his face. Christ. When so many people are treated horribly, that don’t deserve it, their lives fucked from the start, I guess it’s just real hard for me to worry about someone who was essentially planning on destroying people’s lives in order to make a buck. How is a crack dealer any different from the “leaders” of our goverment? They destroy and sacrifice people in order to make money. Fuck them. They are destroying entire lives and families. Won’t you think of the children?? Seriously, you want to get them back out on the street sooner so they can deal again? Prison isn’t going to help to rehab them or “change” their ways. If they only have to spend a limited time behind bars they are going to come back and do the exact same thing.

    Sorry for the rant but I just don’t understand the sympathy for someone who plans to destroy lives to make money…there are so many other things to worry about changing. It’s like worrying about if sentencing for pedophiles is “too harsh.” I’ll take too harsh over too lenient any day in cases like these where other peoples lives’ are at stake. Did you think about the people’s lives he planned to completely fuck up? Or perhaps those that weren’t fucked up because there was one less dealer on the street?

  9. Marc says:

    I, too, live in a neighborhood filled with crackheads and crack dealers. I feel your pain as I gaze out of gated parking lot every morning. I look forward to downtown Austin being revitalized by 25,000 upwardly mobile condo owners.

    In the meantime, quit killing the buzz man. Room 710 and Bull McCabes need the revenue generated by subletting that alley to the dealers.

  10. GC says:

    Marc,

    I hate to quibble. But your neighborhood is hardly filled with crackheads and crack dealers. Me and my close personal friend Mayor Will “Don’t Call Me Steve” Wynne would prefer to use the phrase “liberally sprinkled”.

    I am shocked at any inference Bull McCabe’s cannot support itself purely on ambience.

  11. tim hinely says:

    geez….don’t you guys remember the good ol’ days when guys like thurston moore, michael gira and tom paine used to write songs about the JOYS of having to step over crackheads on their way to band pratice ??!! you guus are no fun.

    actually i agree with michael, kill em’ all and let gg allin sort ‘em out.

  12. Janet says:

    Could you give me Mr. Aikens address please. One night at the Royals game My two sons and I were sitting right behind first base. A foul ground ball was hit to the first base side. Mr. Aikens scooped it up and came over to my sone and siad “Here kids” and he gave them the ball. They still have that ball. He may have sold crack but on that night he gave my children the thrill of their lives. I just want to write him a letter and tell him that despite what he did and what people say to them he was a hero. Thanks

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