As she was led from the courtroom by U.S. marshals yesterday, Sandra Filbert Amos turned toward her supporters in the audience, smiled and waved.
Amos, 37, the Mrs. Filbert's margarine heiress who blew a fortune on drugs, smiled frequently during her sentencing in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. And with good reason.
She could be a free woman before this weekend.
Amos' original 14-year sentence for a conviction on cocaine offenses was trimmed to 37 months by Senior Judge Herbert N. Maletz. Having served 2 1/2 years, Amos ordinarily would be eligible for release in seven months. But the U.S. Bureau of Prisons has informed Assistant U.S. Attorney James Alsup that credit for good behavior could qualify her for release on Friday.
Judge Maletz ordered her to remain on parole for three years after her release, pay a $7,500 fine and pay for her own drug treatment, with reports to be sent to court officials every two months.
The judge, however, rejected a request from her lawyer, Barry Simon, that she be released yesterday.
Mr. Alsup said Amos should be detained until the Bureau of Prisons completes its calculation. He had agreed, however, that Amos should be sentenced at the low end of the federal guidelines of 37 to 46 months for two counts of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
Amos sat attentively during the proceeding.
The great-granddaughter of the founder of Mrs. Filbert's, the Maryland-based margarine company, inherited $2 million but spent much of it to feed her drug habit. Her lawyer said yesterday that since her arrest in December 1990 she has successfully undergone drug treatment at federal prison in Lexington, Ky.
Amos was convicted by a federal jury on March 8, 1990, on the two counts of possession with intent to distribute and one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine. The U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the conspiracy conviction in July 1991. Prosecutors then dismissed that charge when Amos agreed to cooperate against her co-defendant.
The co-defendant, Guillermo Moran, since has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
Judge Maletz imposed the penalty after reading a memorandum on the case that he prepared to explain why he reduced her penalty to 37 months from a sentencing guideline range of 70 to 87 months.
First, he found that she was only a minor player in the cocaine conspiracy of her boyfriend, Jeremiah Dennis Case. He said she received no drug proceeds after lending Case $10,000 in December 1990 so that he could buy an airplane for drug trafficking. She received cocaine for her personal use only.
Amos has admitted she had known the airplane would be used in drug trafficking and that she had contacted Case's lawyer before making the loan to learn that she would be criminally liable, according to court records. But the judge said Amos was pressured by Case into helping to finance the airplane, which transported 25 kilograms of cocaine to their home in Easton.
Also, Judge Maletz cited Amos' agreement with prosecutors earlier this year to testify against Moran. When Moran learned of her cooperation, the judge noted, he agreed to plead guilty, and he is scheduled to be sentenced in September.
"The defendant provided assistance to the government despite genuine concerns that cooperating against Moran might jeopardize her safety," the judge said. "Moran was known to the defendant to be an unsavory character, and Case himself refused to testify against Moran at a second trial."
Finally, the judge said, Amos was entitled to a lighter sentence by virtue of her "significantly diminished mental capacity," apart from her drug addiction, that contributed to the crimes.