Pubdate: Sun, 16 Feb 2014
Source: Altoona Mirror (PA)
Copyright: 2014 Altoona Mirror
Author: Phil Ray, The Altoona Mirror
Note: MAP archives articles exactly as published, except that our editors
may redact the names and addresses of accused persons who have not been
convicted of a crime, if those named are not otherwise public figures or


Department Of Corrections' Ruling Called 'Outrageous' And 'Extremely

HOLLIDAYSBURG - Two local prosecutors who work closely with the West
Drug Task Force and the Altoona City Narcotics Bureau are upset that a
convicted drug dealer who is a native of Belize in Central America has
been paroled to the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for
deportation before completing his minimum sentence of eight years in a
state correctional institution.

Blair County District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio called the move
"outrageous," while Assistant District Attorney Pete Weeks, who is the
lead drug prosecutor in Consiglo's office, called it "extremely

Weeks pointed out that the drug dealer, [name redacted], now 26, was
arrested in 2008 as a leader of a Brooklyn-based Bloods heroin and
cocaine operation.

Then attorney general and now Gov. Tom Corbett announced in late
February 2008 that 29 members of the drug organization had been
arrested as the result of Operation Blood Clot.

Corbett at the time stated, "This is a very dangerous criminal

[name redacted] eventually entered a no-contest plea to drug
distribution charges and was sentenced by Judge Elizabeth A. Doyle on
July 6, 2009, to serve eight to 16 years in the state prison system.

According to Susan McNaughton, a spokeswoman for the Department of
Corrections, his minimum release date was Feb. 27, 2016.

However, McNaughton explained that the department has been
recommending that noncitizen inmates slated for deportation receive
early parole into federal custody, specifically the Bureau of
Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

She and a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and
Parole, Sherry Tate, both explained that it makes sense to deport
noncitizens rather than have the taxpayers foot the bill for their

The Corbett administration aims to lower the state prison population
in Pennsylvania while at the same time providing programs to prevent

That effort apparently is paying off, according to

On Tuesday, the Department of Corrections announced that the prison
population in 2013 experienced the smallest increase in 24 years.

Since the Shapp administration, the prison population has been growing
at about 1,500 annually, McNaughton said.

Under Corbett, the population has grown by 191 inmates in the last
three years.

DOC Secretary John Wetzel stated Tuesday, "Instead of an early
projected population growth of more than 3,500 inmates, the DOC only
has experienced a growth of a total of 191 inmates between January
2011 and December 2013."

As of the end of December the state inmate population stood at 51,512

While the effort to rehabilitate and release inmates may be a goal,
Consiglio and Weeks are strenuously objecting to a policy of releasing
individuals like [name redacted].

McNaughton explained that it is within Pennsylvania law to grant early
release to individuals like [name redacted], noncitizens who are in
prison for "nonviolent" offenses.

The key word is "nonviolent."

Consiglio and Weeks disagree drug dealing, particularly in [name
redacted]'s case, is an example of a nonviolent crime.

The gang [name redacted] was associated with collected guns in the
Altoona area and transferred them back to New York for distribution to
other gang members, Weeks said.

He said as a rule drug dealers use weapons to protect their supplies
of illegal drugs and are often used as threats in the course of business.

Weeks said drugs spur crime by users, and he said the group [name
redacted] was associated with was "a significant enterprise over a
period of years."

[name redacted], after being sentenced, learned that he faced
deportation because he was not a citizen. He maintained he never
realized he was not a citizen, having been raised in New York since he
was a young child. He petitioned Judge Doyle asking that he be allowed
to withdraw his pleas - which she denied - stating he would never had
entered them had he known it meant deportation.

This leads Weeks and Consiglio to believe [name redacted] will find
his way back to the United States and, as many past cases have shown,
back to drug dealing in Altoona.

Tate said if [name redacted] is not deported, he will be returned to
the prison system.

She said that recently more than 100 noncitizen inmates in the state
system have been paroled and deported.
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