Miami's Last Cocaine Cowboy Resentenced
I think The Sal Magluta - Willie Falcon case is one of the most fascinating cocaine cases in South Florida's history. I have been following the case since it was first brought ten years ago, through the trials, appeals and ancillary actions.
He was acquitted of the most serious charges against him, ordering murders of prospective witnesses. His conviction for bribing a juror in his first trial was later overturned on appeal. Thus, his only convictions were for non-violent money laundering crimes, each of which carry a 20 year sentence. The judge stacked the sentences.
How? Under the federal sentencing guidelines which allow the judge to consider conduct for which one is acquitted:
The jury's verdict notwithstanding, the judge decided that Magluta was responsible for the homicides and sentenced him accordingly. In a watershed 1997 opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal judges, in imposing sentence, may ignore jury verdicts of acquittal and determine whether defendants have done wrong. The Herald applauded the punishment, and the new U.S. attorney claimed that such a sentence sends a message about justice. It does indeed: The message is that prosecutors can lose and still win, that a jury no longer stands between an accused American and a life sentence.
From the Herald article:
Magluta's lead attorney, Jack Denaro, raised those issues again on Wednesday, arguing that his client deserved about 13 years' imprisonment. He decried her new sentence as ''unreasonable'' and ''unconstitutional'' under federal guidelines, comparing it to the penalty for Magluta's former partner, Falcon, who pleaded guilty and is serving a 20-year prison term. ''Even Einstein would not be able to calculate the net disparity of two centuries,'' said Denaro, who plans to appeal. ``How can Magluta, with this record, be 10 times worse?''
The Judge, in sentencing Falcon at the time,:
" ... called Falcon a gentleman, wished him "all the best," and told him, "Each day is the beginning of the rest of your life."
The Sal Magluta that was re-sentenced today was not the same person who last appeared before the judge in 2003 for sentencing.
Magluta, 52, a Miami Senior High School dropout, was no longer the defiant defendant. In 2003, he seemed contemptuous of the justice system when Seitz slammed him with the equivalent of a life sentence.
This time, as his parents, relatives and friends watched, Magluta cried before the judge as he spoke of life as a humbled man who reads the Bible daily.
''I can't change the past, judge,'' he said, as his voice cracked. ``If I could . . . I would. I wake up every morning -- it's a constant reminder of the errors I have made. You pray, you confess, you put it all out, but you can't get rid of it.''
He's 52 years old and incarcerated at Supermax, Alcatraz of the Rockies. As it stands right now, he'll be there until he dies.
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