Baseball Player’s Case Illustrates Crack Sentencing Issue


Willie Mays Aikens, a World Series star for the Kansas City Royals, is serving a 15-plus-year federal prison term in Georgia for possessing 64 grams of crack — about the weight of a large Snickers bar, says the Washington Post. To receive an equivalent sentence, he would have had to possess nearly 6 1/2 kilos — more than 14 pounds — of powder cocaine. Critics say cases like Aikens’s show the inequity of cocaine sentencing laws. “The disparity, as far as I’m concerned, is totally wrong,” said Aikens, a nonviolent offender. “This took me away from my family. My girls were 4 and 5 years old when I was sentenced. Now they’re 18 and 19.”

Under new sentencing guidelines, thousands of cases like this will have to be litigated again in the courts where they were heard, and “those cases are going to detract from the many cases that are already pending in overworked, understaffed U.S. attorney’s offices,” said Steve Cook of the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys. More than 80 percent of crack defendants were, like Aikens, African American. “Most of these crack dealers are, in fact, low-level offenders,” said Eric Sterling, president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. “Most of them aren’t violent. There is this vicious stereotype of black dope dealers armed to the teeth. But it’s not true. It’s a shame that this type of stereotype started coming out again in the debate over drug sentencing.”


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