Alejandra Tapia smuggled aliens, abused drugs, and jumped bail. Now she’s beaten the legal odds, McClatchy Newspapers report. In an extreme long shot, Tapia’s public defenders convinced the Supreme Court to hear a challenge to her prison sentence. The case could resolve a big difference of judicial opinion and help shape sentencing nationwide. Tapia argues that a judge erred when he increased her federal prison sentence so that she might be eligible for a rehabilitation program.
“Rehabilitation is not an appropriate consideration for deciding whether imprisonment should be imposed, or for deciding the length of the defendant’s prison sentence,” said one of Tapia’s former attorneys, Doug Keller. Tapia’s attorney, Michelle Betancourt, said Tapia “has already experienced a lot, much more maybe than most” people under 30, including “her entry into motherhood at a very, very young age.” A victim of what her attorney called “sexual torment,” Tapia is serving a 51-month sentence at Federal Medical Center Carswell, near Fort Worth, Tx. She’s scheduled to be released in September 2012. If she wins her Supreme Court case, she could get out earlier.