Peoria pushes for local pot ordinance – Proposed to keep drug dealers and black gang members on the streets
PEORIA — The Peoria City Council will consider handling the possession of small amounts of marijuana as a violation of a city ordinance rather than a state misdemeanor crime.
Council members will vote Tuesday on the change. It would make the violation punishable with a ticket to be paid within 14 days and without the offender going to court.
Officials say the move would help keep small scale marijuana cases out of the criminal justice system and potentially steer extra revenue to the city, the (Peoria) Journal Star reports.
If the proposal is passed, anyone caught with less than 2.5 grams of marijuana would be issued a $500 to $600 fine. More than 2.5 grams would lead to a $600 to $750 fine. Possession of drug paraphernalia would be a $750 fine.
The size and scope of Carlos “Bader” Williams’ drug ring was so large that it even amazed U.S. District Judge Joe B. McDade who has presided over hundreds of similar cases in his 17-year career.
“You were a major drug dealer,” the judge said Friday. “This is one of the largest drug conspiracies I have seen.”
Conservative estimates linked Williams, 35, to 20 kilograms of crack cocaine, a staggering amount considering a standard dose is about 0.2 grams. The drugs were sold over a decade and had an estimated street value of about $2 million.
The numbers and the statements came at Williams’ sentencing, where he received a 30-year prison term, which was at the bottom of his guideline range. He had faced up to life.
Two others in Williams’ organization also were sentenced. William E. “Pookey” Sproling received five years behind bars and Daryl “Buck” Miller got 20 years, the mandatory minimum under federal law. All three pleaded to the same count, drug trafficking conspiracy.
More than 20 people filled McDade’s courtroom for Williams’ hearing. His attorney, Ron Hamm, sought the 20-year mandatory minimum, saying his client had a rough childhood and grew up to idolize his brothers, who were in prison on drug charges.
Williams himself gave a passionate and articulate plea, saying he learned and wanted to be a youth counselor when he got out of prison to teach people about the evils of fast money. McDade was touched by his statements but noted that Williams had a chance to do right and chose the easy way out.
But the judge also noted that everyone has a good side, taking note of those in the audience. Williams, he said, would have been hailed as a “hero” had he pursued a legal endeavor.
“What a waste. You have organizational skills. You have leadership, and now all of that is wasted,” the judge said.
The judge also lamented the draconian federal sentencing guidelines, which severely punish crack cocaine crimes.
“Anyone who wants to get into the drug business, anyone who sells crack cocaine is stupid,” the judge said, noting that with one prior drug conviction, there’s a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years. Two priors could get a person life in prison.
And then there was the money aspect. “In all my time here, I have never seen (it) except in maybe one or two cases. Where’s the money? It is all gone, and all that risk, all that hard work is for nothing.”
The arrests were part of Operation Rockclimb, a federal effort against the Black P. Stones street gang. Unlike past operations such as Crackshot, which took on the Gangster Disciplines in the mid-1990s, Rockclimb has made extensive use of wiretaps to build cases. More than two dozen people so far have been indicted.
And one of those made her first appearance in court on Friday, hours after Williams was sentenced. Tyrissa Carruthers, 26, of 2121 W. Starr St. was charged with drug trafficking conspiracy and to using a telephone to further the conspiracy.
Her indictment was returned Wednesday but sealed until she appeared in court. According to the charges, she rented an apartment for Williams to store drugs as well as delivered crack for Williams.
How on earth did driver of speedboat that killed our son get off scot-free?
Last updated at 01:01am on 27th April 2008
After six years of tireless campaigning for justice for their dead child, it was a crushing moment simply too much to bear.
Paul and Andrea Gallagher had invested their hearts, souls and £50,000 life savings in a fight to bring a manslaughter case against the three men they hold responsible for the death of their son, Paul Jnr.
The two-year-old died from terrible head injuries during what should have been a dream trip for the family to the Bahamas after an out-of-control speedboat ploughed across a crowded beach.
But last week, in a stuffy and crowded courtroom in the Bahamian capital of Nassau, the Gallaghers’ world collapsed.
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Three-quarters of the way through a two-week manslaughter trial against the boat’s driver James Bain and its owners Clifford Nottage and Evangeless Williamson, Supreme Court Judge Elliot Lockhart abruptly dismissed the case against them.
He ruled there was insufficient evidence of negligence, even though the boat had been unlicensed, had no insurance and Bain had traces of marijuana in his blood – all clear breaches of Bahamian law.
The couple, from Orpington, Kent, screamed in horror as the judge brought the proceedings to an end.
Mrs Gallagher broke down and wept while her husband shouted at the three defendants and had to be ushered from the building.
“It was like a physical blow,” Andrea said yesterday. “I was stunned. I started shaking and collapsed to the floor, crying.
“The last bit of strength I had mustered up to enable me to come to the courtroom, to face them, was knocked out. I literally had no energy left to hold myself up.
“We thought it was an open and shut case. We wanted justice, but also to make the beaches of the Bahamas safer for other holidaymakers.
“Now the judge has given out a firm message – you can break Bahamian law and get away with it.”
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The Gallaghers were told there was no right of appeal and that the struggle that had consumed their lives since the day Paul was killed during a £10,000 ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ holiday in August 2002 had ended without a satisfactory resolution.
“‘We have come back to the Bahamas several times for inquests, police investigations and preliminary hearings,” added Andrea, 41.
“But this time we hoped we would get justice from a jury. We both found it hard to leave our two other children, Heather and Andrew, at home.
“But we felt we had to return to the place where their brother died to fight for justice to honour his memory.
“We were filled with anticipation, hope even. But as we got off the plane, memories of that holiday came flooding back to me – little Paul digging in the sand, then, after the boat hit, our baby lying on the beach with a big chunk of his skull missing – the sand red with his blood.”
Now they are left with a bitter feeling that after struggling to bring the case to court – but winning support from Tony Blair, then-Foreign Office Minister Baroness Symons and a Scotland Yard investigation – they are the victims of a terrible miscarriage of justice.
“We didn’t expect it at all,” said Paul, 43. “Even though I thought throughout that the judge seemed more sympathetic to the defence, we still thought the ultimate decision would be in the hands of the jury.
“Even if the jury had decided against us, we would have been able to accept it. But by ruling that there was no case to answer, the judge took that away from us.
“Now it is almost as though we have had no trial. We feel as if we have been through all this for nothing.”
The couple both gave evidence on the first day of the trial, two weeks ago. Andrea was in the witness box for two hours.
She said: “It was horrendous. The defence accused me of being a bitter woman waging a vendetta. All I could do was tell the truth – that I am a mother trying to do the right thing for her son.”
The Gallaghers realised the odds were stacked against them right from the start of the hearing when evidence that would have helped their case was ruled inadmissible.
On the last day of the prosecution case, on Thursday, defence counsel J. Henry Bostwick QC asked the judge to rule there was “no case to answer”, claiming the prosecution had shown no evidence of negligence – and that the safety of people on the beach at a private resort could not in Bahamian law be regarded as the responsibility of the boat’s driver.
The judge ruled that Mr Bostwick was correct and that, in effect, the tragedy fell into a legal black hole.
Paul said: “If Bain had been driving a car which had mounted a pavement and hit little Paul, he would have been punished.
“That boat was a powerful machine – 200 horsepower – and Bain had no skipper’s licence or insurance and was under the influence of cannabis.
“How can he not be responsible? The men we know are responsible for the death of our son have got off scot-free.”
Andrea added: “I certainly never want to set foot on that island again. But I do think our fight has been worthwhile. We may not have got the verdict we wanted, but we have achieved a hell of a lot.
“Since Paul died, new water safety laws have been brought in to make the Bahamas safer. Now we can only pray the new laws are upheld and no family will ever have to suffer the way we have.
“This has cost us everything: our life savings, our business and our peace of mind. But we felt the authorities wanted to sweep Paul’s death under the carpet to protect their tourist industry from bad publicity.
“We may not have got justice, but no one can say that we did not try our hardest for little Paul.”