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Bronx Drug Gang Leader Palermo Is Sentenced To 15 Years After Cooperating Co Defendant Burgos Got Time Served

By Matthew Russell Lee

SDNY COURTHOUSE, June 4 – The lead defendant in a Bronx crack gang prosecution, Hector Palermo, was sentenced to 188 months in prison on June 5 by U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Gregory Woods.

 It stood in contrast to Palermo's co defendant Frederick Lee Burgos who despite facing a guideline of 100 to 125 months before Judge Woods back on May 20 received a sentence of time served, for cooperation, and a sealed transcript.

  Burgos was charged with firing an unlicensed gun in the air; the prosecution did not charge Palermo with any violence beyond telling a co-defendant in a March 2017 wiretapped conversation, "It's time to get this N-word already."

  While Palermo's defense lawyer Scott B. Tulman shook his head when Judge Woods recounted a state conviction for shooting a man in the knee, the only legal drama during the more than one hour sentencing proceeding involved the applicability of the Sentencing Guidelines to a previous trespassing conviction.

  Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Krissoff said that Palermo should have one fewer criminal history points under the Guidelines, that a trespassing conviction in 2010 didn't count. Judge Woods read the rule, that any trespass punished by more than 30 days detention does in fact count. The trespass at issue was punished by 45 days. AUSA Krissoff conceded the point - which was mooted by Palermo's status as a Career Offender.

  Before Judge Woods imposed sentence, at the lower end of the 188 to 235 month guideline, Hector Palermo spoke for himself. Referring to the term of art in the Sentencing Guidelines he said he became a Career Offender before he even knew he had a career.

  Palermo described a childhood of poverty, of wearing his "sister's sneakers, two sizes too small." His written submission, in a docket replete with sealed documents, described a step father beating his brother to death for crying.

  Judge Woods alluded to these things in explaining the sentence, noting Palermo's jobs at Jamba Juice (on 32nd Street and 5th Avenue) and at Baldor's Specialty Foods in the Hunts Point Market. He said he hoped Palermo would use this prison time - more than 15 years - to further his education. When he adjourned that proceeding, one of Palermo's children said "Bye, Daddy."

  The case is USA v. Hector Palermo, et al., 17-cr-290 (Woods). The next and last sentencing is that of Miguel Ramirez, whose lawyer Anthony Cecutti got it postponed to July 23, citing his involvment in May in the US v. Duncan fake slip and fall accident conspiracy trial which Inner City Press also covered, here.

 Back on May 20 when Frederick Lee Burgos came up for sentencing he faced a guideline sentence of 100 to 125 months in prison, and an additional 120 month mandatory minimum, as part of this 21-defendant Palermo case.

After a proceeding in which Burgos' Jenner & Block lawyer asked Inner City Press why it was in the courtroom, what it's interest is, Burgos received a sentence of time served. Then there was an order to seal the transcript of the proceeding.

This was in the courtroom of SDNY Judge Gregory Woods, who has imposed other sentences in the wider Palermo case. On April 15 Inner City Press covered the sentencing of another members of the conspiracy, Felix Cordero Senior, also described as low level but who did not cooperate, to 120 months: ten years.

  If the goal is to send the message the the U.S. Attorney's Office will minimize the gun-play and crack sales of cooperators, why seal the transcript? Why try to pressure the Press to leave the courtroom, or to not report on it? 

  The rationale appears to be that the cooperator is at risk. (Judge Woods gave weight to the fact that Burgos choose to remain at risk in the MDC in general population in order to see his son, rather than by moved to "GEO" further away.) But the Assistant U.S. Attorney said that Burgos' cooperation had been disclosed to co-defendant Ramirez, or at least to his lawyer. Was that under a confidentiality agreement? Is this any way to do justice?

Back on May 8 when Elvin Maldonado came up for sentencing on May 8 he faced a guideline sentence of 70 to 87 months in prison as part of the wider "Palermo" case. In the courtroom of Judge Woods there were family and friends of Maldonado, some of whom wrote letters as Maldonado did, handwritten, in the run up to sentencing. Judge Woods quoted from the letters, how Maldonado never really knew his father; he added from the sealed Pre Sentencing Report that Maldonado has not seen either of his own two children since 2017 and owes $20,000 in child support, on 23 July 2019 if not before.

  The government's pitch, by AUSA Krissoff, was that Maldonado had in fact been the supplier of the Drug Trafficking Organization, bringing in the ingredients of crack. Ms. Krissoff's sentencing submission recounts that "on or about March 30, 2017, a search warrant was conducted [sic] at Maldonado's residence. Law enforcement officers recovered... 30 grams of cocaine and approximately 2.6 grams of heroin, and over $11,000." Also, "Maldonado was intercepted on the Title III wiretaps in this case discussing the narcotics he was supplying to the DTO, as well as the payment for those narcotics," citing the sealed PSR at Paragraph 12.

  Judge Woods read that sentence, including the phrase Title II, then imposed a sentence of 66 months. He wished Maldonado well, and received in return thanks, from Maldonado and from the gallery. The mood was different, on June 4...


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