Justice Thomas Farber's dilemma in a Manhattan courtroom on Thursday played itself out like a dramatic monologue. How much misery was appropriate to inflict on a promising 19-year-old, who himself had inflicted misery on society by dealing drugs, the judge asked himself out loud. “It's almost an impossible calculus,” said Farber. The young man, Yiskar Caceres, had been arrested four times in roughly 15 months for selling or possessing cocaine, and Farber already had given him an opportunity to wipe his slate clean before his most recent arrest, in April. The New York Times profiled Caceres in July.
Farber said he had no choice but to sentence Caceres to prison, although he showed compassion by giving him 4 1/2 years, half the maximum sentence that prosecutors had sought. Because Caceres has already served 11 months and will be eligible for a drug-treatment program, he could be out in as little as two years. “I have not given up hope in you,” Farber said. Before he was sentenced, Caceres read a letter explaining what he was thinking when he committed his crimes. “I first started selling drugs at the age of 16,” Caceres said. “I went from one day having nothing to the next day having over $300. It was an unexplainable feeling.” Farber said he received many letters after the Times profiled Caceres, including one that read, “Nothing that they say about rehabilitation in state prison is true…Please consider any other options than this human warehouse.”