How the Presentence Investigation Report Influenced My Sentence

By · Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

In 1987 I was arrested for leading a group that trafficked in cocaine. After a jury convicted me on all criminal charges, I participated in a presentence investigation with a US Probation Officer. I was confined in Tacoma’s Pierce County Jail at the time of my presentence investigation. My participation in the process was limited to responding to questions that the probation officer asked, and providing a written statement that offered my version of the events that led to my convictions.

I was convicted of leading what was known as a Continuing Criminal Enterprise. I was 23-years-old at the time and I had never been incarcerated before. Nevertheless, my conviction provided for a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, and a maximum sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

My sentencing judge was Jack Tanner. By the time Judge Tanner was ready to impose sentence, he had presided over my lengthy trial. Scores of witnesses had offered compelling testimony against me. Prosecutors presented a solid case that they predicated on testimony from several witnesses who had admitted to being a part of a conspiracy that I led. I perjured myself during the trial, telling bold lies form the witness stand in denial of my participation in the scheme to distribute cocaine.

My actions during the trial left Judge Tanner with an unfavorable impression as to the state of my character during my early 20s. He saw an unrepentant young man, grasping for any strategy that might absolve him of responsibility. Through the presentence investigation, I had an opportunity to give Judge Tanner a second look.

I have no way of knowing whether the responses I gave to my probation officer had a role in influencing Judge Tanner’s decision. The probation officer had come to speak with me in the jail within a few days of my conviction. By then, I had realized that I made some bad decisions with regard to the way I responded to my criminal charges. For the first time, I expressed remorse for my crimes and for my behavior during the trial. I vowed to work toward redemption.

The probation officer compiled a report that I thought was favorable, considering the predicament I had placed myself in. That report recommended a sentence of 15 years. Judge Tanner, however, used his discretion to impose a total term of 45 years. Since he had the authority to impose a life sentence, he may or may not have been influenced by the responses I provided to the probation officer and by the expressions of remorse I made in open court.

My own opinion has been that Judge Tanner imposed severe sentences for drug offenses, even in cases without weapons or violence. Had I not expressed remorse through my presentence investigation and in open court, I think Judge Tanner may have imposed the life term. As a prisoner, however, I will never know.

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