Drug kingpin gets life without parole

November 10, 1990|By M. Dion Thompson

At the age of 24, Tommy Lee Canty Jr. found out yesterday that he has already seen his last days as a free man.

Canty, a Baltimore-area drug lord, became the first man in Maryland sentenced to life without possibility of parole in U.S. District Court under the 2-year-old "super kingpin" federal drug law.

"Every life he's touched has been ruined," said Jack V. Geise, an assistant U.S. attorney who, along with city prosecutor Andrea L. Smith,prosecuted Canty. "I suggest that any other lives he touches be in prison."

Mr. Geise said that Canty ruined scores of lives, including those of 22 children whose mothers have already been convicted for being part of Canty's drug organization.

Despite the evidence presented against him -- wiretapped phone conversations, ounces of heroin and cocaine -- Canty said yesterday that though he was involved in a drug conspiracy, he was not a kingpin and did not deserve life without parole.

"I didn't ruin nobody's life. I wasn't violent. I never hurt anyone," he said. "I didn't drive them to sell no drugs. They did it on their own."

From January 1986 to May 25, 1989, Canty headed a drug ring that sold 400 to 600 pounds of cocaine on Baltimore's streets. He called his product, packaged in small, glass, gold-topped vials, "New York Bullets." He used his mother to collect money for him and used his sister, who was 11 years old at the time, as a drug courier.

In June, Canty and 12 of his confederates were convicted after a 56-day trial. The charges against Canty include operating a continuing criminal enterprise, conspiracy and income tax RTC evasion. He was given an additional five-year sentence yesterday for carrying a semiautomatic Uzi.

Canty's attorney, Alan Drew, said his client's federally mandated no-parole sentence violated constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment and was "clearly disproportionate to the crime." Mr. Drew said he will appeal the case.

Though federal sentencing guidelines gave Senior Judge Herbert N. Maletz no discretion in sentencing Canty, Judge Maletz said he still would have sentenced Canty to life in prison.

"I think the evidence was overwhelming, overwhelming," said Judge Maletz. "In my judgment, Mr. Canty, I think the number of lives you've ruined by your actions is incalculable."

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