Drug dealer makes tearful plea to have his prison sentence reduced

September 06, 1992|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

WESTMINSTER -- Taneytown drug dealer Fernando Hernandez stood in front of Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. and tearfully begged for a reduction of his 14-year prison sentence.

"I'm here today for your help and mercy," said the Colombian national and father of three at his court hearing Wednesday. "This has been a horrible punishment for me and my family. I know I did wrong, and I know I deserve punishment. I've changed after being in jail for nine months."

He explained that his confinement in Hagerstown was like being in a cage, and that if he were allowed out of jail he would do "2,000 or 3,000 hours" of volunteer work to "encourage kids to set goals in their lives."

Assistant State's Attorney Barton F. Walker III, who opposed reducing the sentence, told the judge that he's heard this kind of story before.

"This man concocted a scheme to import large amounts of cocaine into Carroll County and Maryland," the prosecutor said. "It's his doing that put him in jail, not the state's. . . . He . . . doesn't want to be in jail because it's not a nice place."

Hernandez was one of the first three people charged in Carroll under the state's drug kingpin law, which is used when large amounts of narcotics are involved. He and his wife, Bonnie, and his brother Henry, of Miami, were indicted by a county grand jury in January 1990 on charges tied to a Miami-to-Carroll cocaine ring.

As the case unfolded, none of the three were convicted under the law -- each of them entered into plea agreements with prosecutors.

Fernando Hernandez pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and possession with the intent to distribute cocaine. He was sentenced in December to 14 years in jail.

Bonnie Hernandez, who was in the courtroom Wednesday with the couple's three young children, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to distribute cocaine charge. She was placed on probation.

Henry Hernandez pleaded guilty to a similar charge and was given a suspended 10-year sentence because of his cooperation with state and federal drug officials.

But a federal policy that calls for deportation of all aliens convicted of a felony drug offense has landed Henry Hernandez in jail while he awaits deportation.

Part of the argument used by Fernando Hernandez's attorney Wednesday was that a lower sentence would lower the chances of his being deported.

Stephen P. Bourexis told Judge Burns that a reduction in the sentence to five years or less "would give him [Hernandez] a chance at going back into the community and raising his family in the United States."

Mr. Walker said Hernandez deserves to be deported. "So now he is deportable," the prosecutor said. "Frankly, we don't need drug dealers in this state, in this county or in this country. We have got to send a message and remove these people from society."

Bonnie Hernandez asked the judge to let her have her husband back.

"My concern is the kids," she said while the couple's son yelled "daddy, daddy" from the gallery. "It's so unfair that they have to suffer because of what we did. Our children our paying for it."

Judge Burns said he will issue a written ruling later.

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