An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Legal Catch-22 Keeps Drug Dealer in Prison

A one-time Washington drug gang leader thought he could get out of prison earlier under relaxed federal sentencing for crack cocaine offenders. But he was wrong. Back in 2005, Tyrone Davis, a boss of the notorious Seven Deuce Mob in Tacoma, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for making and selling crack cocaine.

At the time, judges were required, under federal drug sentencing guidelines, to hand down harsh sentences for crack cocaine. The law imposed five year minimum sentences for distribution of five grams of crack - about enough to fill a sugar packet - while the same prison term was mandated for 500 grams of powder cocaine, a hundred times more.

Congress tried to ameliorate the disparity with the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 which lowered prison time for crack cocaine offenses and made the sentence reduction retroactive.

So Davis - known as Ty Bud - applied to have his 18 year prison term reduced. But he was brought up short by a sort of Catch 22 in the sentencing law.

Davis was not sentenced under the mandatory guidelines, but instead, drew his long term under a plea bargain and he agreed to the 18 years behind bars.

Appeals court judges ruled this week that Davis could not take advantage of retroactive leniency because the elements of the sentencing guidelines were absent in his case. Other gang members sentenced at about the same time, however, under the harsher law can expect to get out of prison earlier.

Related Content