Pubdate: Sun, 27 Dec 2009
Source: Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN)
Copyright: 2009 The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
Author: Jamie Satterfield
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


Illegal Immigrant Says Life Sentence Cruel And Unusual

A federal judge has rejected a bid by an illegal immigrant convicted
in a massive mail order cocaine conspiracy to escape a mandatory life

Vicente Corona argued that a mandatory life term for even a
thrice-convicted peddler like himself amounts to cruel and unusual
punishment that not even his native Mexico, where drug cartels reign
supreme, would impose.

But U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips disagreed, saying Corona
should have stayed in Mexico the first time he got booted out of the
United States if he wanted to avoid the control of U.S. drug laws.

"The United States deported defendant to Mexico in 1993, but he
illegally re-entered the United States and continued his drug
distribution activities," Phillips wrote.

Corona has been living in California for years and supported himself
and his American citizen wife by peddling cocaine supplied by a
Mexican drug cartel whose members killed his brother. He was twice
convicted in California of drug-dealing, but authorities there never
attempted to deport him, records show. In between those two
convictions, Corona netted a federal drug conviction and was deported.
He came back.

In 2005, Corona was indicted in Knoxville's federal court system for
his role of cocaine supplier to a network that funneled via the mail
some $2.6 million worth of the white powder from California to
Knoxville. A federal jury convicted Corona in February 2008.

Corona's attorney, Steve Johnson, has been waging a legal battle to
keep Corona from serving a mandatory life sentence ever since. He has
attacked everything from the outcome of Corona's trial to California's
spotty method of documenting criminal cases and labeled a mandatory
life term for dope dealers as "cruel and unusual punishment."

In a recent ruling, Phillips served Corona a defeat on all those

Johnson hasn't admitted defeat yet, though. He now is challenging just
how much cocaine Corona actually peddled, arguing Phillips should go
with a figure a few kilos shy of what the jury opined and, therefore,
a lesser sentence. Assistant U.S. Attorney Trey Hamilton calls the
argument flawed. Phillips has set a March sentencing showdown.
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