How Clerical Error Almost Cost MD Offender 14 Years In Prison


Thomas Perrin may not be a very sympathetic figure, but he’s still right, says the Baltimore Sun. He has a long list of criminal charges going back a dozen years, and a handful of convictions – including two for drug distribution. He was most recently convicted in 2006 in federal court of being a felon in possession of a gun and ammunition. He was never found guilty of distributing drugs a third time in the year 2000 – despite that conviction’s having been entered into a state judicial records database. That simple clerical error took Perrin nearly four years to correct and almost cost him 14 years of freedom. It has turned him into a cautionary tale in the federal court system, where a criminal history with three serious drug convictions can turn a six-year sentence into a 20-year term.

U.S. District Court Judge William Quarles resentenced Perrin on Friday to 77 months for his federal conviction, down from an original 235 months. “First off, I apologized to him” for the rare blunder, Quarles said. He then congratulated Perrin for his persistence, which, he said, “pointed out that you cannot always accept the records at face value, and we need to be reminded of that sometimes.” The initial sentence was based on a mistaken belief that Perrin had the three convictions necessary to make him an “armed career criminal” eligible for a significant sentence enhancement. “I guess the big takeaway is the necessity for a sort of enlightened skepticism” when it comes to records, Quarles said. Attorneys, court personnel and judges are now rethinking their quick acceptance of certain electronic records, based on Perrin, who’s been in and out of trouble for most of his life.

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