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After Challenge to Drug Cases Disparity SDNY Judge Rakoff Sentences Brito to 48 Months

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive, Patreon
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SDNY COURTHOUSE, Feb 22 – Racism in federal law enforcement in the Southern District of New York was alleged and argued on October 31, 2019 with five defendants in shackles and Inner City Press the only media in the SDNY courtroom of Judge Jed S. Rakoff. Only Inner City Press reported it at that time, here.

 And now on November 19, 2020, while Judge Rakoff waited for his MiMedx securities fraud jury to come back with its mixed verdict, he sentenced the last of the defendants in the case, Kevin Brito.

 Brito while on charges in the EDNY committed the crimes. His lawyer urged Judge Rakoff to fit his sentence concurrent into the 40 months imposed in the EDNY. Ultimately Judge Rakoff, noting he'd assigned 30 months to Wandy Dominguez who cooperated or almost cooperated, sentenced Brito to 48 months - but concurrent with the EDNY 40. So, eight extra months. And a mixed verdict in MiMedx.

  On December 14, 2019 another media reported on the case, here, amid the daily drum beat of other prosecutions and guilty pleas untouched by this one case.

  And now, typically, the collapse of the systemic challenge and the drum-beat of guilty pleas is hardly covered, with only Inner City Press at two guilty pleas in the case in the past week, here (Amaurys Hernandez) and here (the halting plea of Angel Crispin).

  Here's how the challenged died, in a February 3 Order: " JED S. RAKOFF, U.S.D.J. 19-cr-32 3 ( JSR) ORDER In an unsolicited letter dated January 24, 2020, the defendants in the above-captioned case, rather than submitting a motion addressed to selective enforcement as required by that date, instead sought further discovery. Essentially for the reasons stated in the Government's responsive letter, dated January 31, 2020 (to be docketed along with this order), the defendants' requests are denied. If defendants still wish to file a motion based on their claim of selective enforcement, they must now do so by February 10, 2020, a deadline that will not be extended for any reason. The Government's answer to any such motion will be due February 17, and any reply papers from the defendants must be filed by February 20. The Court will decide any such motion prior to the March 2 trial date, which remains firmly in place." Now the guilty pleas.

  A serious issue was raised with little coverage other than Inner City Press, taken up by others, then collapsed without a word from the proponents, back to business as usual, long sentences. We'll have more on this.
We'll have more on this.

 In the issue and statistics in that multi-defendant case is an asserted disparity by race in the targeting by law enforcement in the SDNY of reverse sting operations.

  On November 5 in yet another sting operation Robert Adriano Pena pled guilty to conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery before SDNY Judge Edgardo Ramos. In the briefing plea allocution there was mention of the case or issues before Judge Rakoff. It seems Pena did not get a plea deal, because pleading only to count 1, conspiracy. The case is US v. Pena, 18-cr-844-1 (Ramos).

 Pena's alleged co-conspirator Jose Martinez-Rentas already pled guilty. He then replead in light of the Supreme Court's decision in US v. Davis. But again, no mention of the case before Judge Rakoff.

  Is the assertion and litigation of the disparity a windfall, potentially, for some defendants but not others? Inner City Press will continue to cover these cases - and these issues.

    Back on October 31, Judge Rakoff asked lead attorney Christopher Flood whether the racial disparities he and his colleague are alleging are, in fact, statistically significant.

   Passed to Judge Rakoff via his deputy was the declaration of Profession Crystal S. Yang asserting "the racial composition of targeted individuals in DEA reverse-sting stash house cases brought in the SDNY" for the past ten years: "46 operations targeted 179 individuals of whom zero are White, two are Asian and 177 are Latino or Black." This is followed by regression analysis.

     Assistant US Attorney Domenic Gentile, alone at the prosecutor's table, doggedly returned to these particular defendants wearing face masks, and having been recruited through the lead defendant, Flood's client.

    Judge Rakoff said it was interesting, but how was it relevant? He committed to issuing an order on Flood et al's discovery motion by November 12, if only in bottom-line form, in advance of a March 2020 trial. The other defense attorneys on the discovery motion include Jennifer Luo, Michael Tremonte, John Diaz, Stephanie Carvlin, Xavier Donaldson, Dawn Cardi, and the omnipresent Calvin Scholar.

The case is USA v. Lopez et al., 19-cr-323 (Rakoff). Inner City Press will continue to report on this case, and on these issues.


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