Robert Furlong’s Petition for Commutation

“Robbie is perfect example of what’s wrong with the war on drugs.  For those looking for a tangible way to resist the war on drugs and mass incarceration, please support Rob’s petition for commutation.”

Tim DeChristopher (Bidder 70)

The greeting line of your letter should read: “Dear Mr. President”.  Your letter should address what you have personally learned about Rob’s story (below) and his rehabilitation from drugs.  Some things to include are: 

·       Rob’s good behavior in prison and his total acceptance of responsibility of his actions.

·       The need for Rob’s release to rejoin his supportive family, especially his young daughter, Nesta.

·       The unfairness of 15 year sentence for a first time, non-violent crime.

·       The judge was bound by law to give Rob too much time

·       No violence occurred, nor were any victims involved.

·       The undue cost to tax payers on perpetuating a failed War on Drugs.

 

Your letter can be brief and still have an impact. Please send your completed letter to Robert by October 31 2012 at:  

Robert Furlong #20581-045

Englewood Federal Prison Camp

9595 West Quincy Avenue

Littleton, CO 80123

ROBBIE’S STORY:

In 2005, for many reasons, I moved from Denver, Colorado to Kansas City, Missouri. This move was not one I wanted to make as I was leaving behind my wife and daughter to move in with my parents. My wife and I were separated at the time and not getting along well, and my father was terminally ill with Multiple Sclerosis and a variety of other ailments. The move back to my parent’s house was twofold: I was trying to get my head together in dealing with my wife and, my mother had quit her job in order to stay home and take care of my father, so she needed my help around the house.

The initial plan I had was to stay in Kansas City for about a year and then move back to Denver to be close to my young daughter. When I could find the time and afford the cost, I would travel back and forth to see her on weekends. Back then, as I am now, I was a very caring and affectionate father. A job opportunity as an electrician came along and I took that job, sending money to my wife back in Colorado to help cover the cost of raising our child. My wife filed for divorce citing irreconcilable differences and a monthly payment of $490.00 was established for my child support. Unable to meet my monthly obligations, I began selling marijuana to make ends meet.

Around this time, life for me seemed to speed up while I was standing still. Riddled with anxiety and suffering from anxiety attacks, I stayed indoors for days at a time. Working as an electrician I struggled to keep my jobs straight and would abandon even a simple grocery store trip because of my increasing anxiety levels and agoraphobia. Seeking professional help seemed like the right route for my anxiety so I went to a clinic and began taking medication for my problem. The medication did not seem to help and, in fact, seemed to make my anxiety levels rise even more. I began smoking marijuana, as many people in our country do, to calm my anxiety.

The person I was buying marijuana from suggested I quit my job and grow the marijuana as a business of my own. After offering to fund the start up money for the marijuana business and saying I could pay him back, I agreed to the idea. This person was aware of my anxiety issues and my struggling to keep up at work and indicated that I could make enough money that I would not have to worry about anything in the future. The mental state I was in at the time contributed to me believing this ridiculous pipe dream and I agreed to only do the growing and he would do the selling. Hindsight being 20/20, I obviously could not have made a worse decision.

So it happened that in the spring of 2006 I began to grow marijuana and continued until my arrest in October 2007. First, I was charged in Missouri state court, then I was federally indicted afterward; the state charges were dropped upon federal sentencing. My charge was conspiracy to grow more than 1,000 marijuana plants along with a charge for possessing a firearm. Throughout the proceedings I accepted responsibility for my part in the conspiracy but originally objected to the gun charge. The guns I owned were legally purchased and possessed in my home so I filed a 2255 motion in an attempt to have the charges run concurrent based on interpretation of the 924(c) statue. Unfortunately, my lawyer convinced me I could not afford a trial and advised me to accept the charges given to me. I promptly followed his counsel and, in effect, saved the government substantial time and resources by my actions.

During my arrest I was completely cooperative with the DEA agent and the local sheriff’s department. My part in the conspiracy was fully revealed to them by myself, though I only showed apprehension in accepting the gun charge. At the time I knew of no other people committing crimes, yet, the prosecutor wanted me to indicate that I did in fact know of others. They seemed miffed that I had no other information to share with them and eventually I was sentenced on December 1, 2008. The Honorable Judge Dean Whipple led me to believe that he thought I deserved less time and voiced many opinions about unfair mandatory sentences and the arbitrary nature of the federal sentencing guidelines. Although Judge Whipple wanted to sentence me to less time, as he explained, the federal guidelines would not allow him to do so.

As a result, I received two consecutive mandatory minimum sentences: one for ten years and one for five years, a combined 180 months. This sentence was very harsh for a first time non-violent offender. While I was charged with conspiracy, my co-conspirator received no charges and was never indicted, which highlights the disparity in treatment when compared to my sentence.

The 120 months I received for growing more than 1,000 marijuana plants was calculated to a weight of 560 Kilograms, putting me in a sentence range of 57 to 71 months. Without the mandatory minimum of 120 months I would, by now, have already satisfied the lower end of the sentencing guideline. Thus, the time that I have already served is sufficient according to the views of the United States Sentencing Commission, based on historical data of similar crimes, but the mandatory minimum makes that impossible.  Pointing out the disparity of my sentence versus that of my co-conspirator is an exercise in futility as he remains free and I serve the sentence for our shared crime. The undue severity of my sentence highlights the issues in our modern society with unfair mandatory sentencing.

There are zero infractions on my prison record and I plan to keep staying that same road as I have proven myself to be hardworking and honest. During my incarceration I have maintained my sobriety, quit smoking tobacco and completed the non-residential drug abuse treatment program offered by the Bureau of Prisons. Throughout these steps I have learned much about myself and how to deal with negative emotion, conflict resolution, effective communication and living responsibly after my release.

Additionally, I have completed a parenting class, numerous video educational courses and a Spanish class is boosting my vocabulary and preparing me for communication in a diverse work field. Regular exercise and physical fitness have become constants in my life and improving my overall health via these routes is something I am taking seriously. All of these classes will aid in my finding a good job when I am released. Aside from my current offense I have no criminal history, save for a few traffic violations.

Deep regret is the only way to describe the way I feel about the negative impact my choices have had on myself, family, friends and my community. Disregard for law is not acceptable but at what cost do we punish those who break it? Now I can see the cost is not only monetary in value but a physical loss as well. My mother is without a son, my daughter is without a father and is growing up not knowing what it means to have me around to support her and watch her flourish. It deeply hurts that my daughter is growing up without the memories of a normal childhood in regards to me, due to my actions. Things such as these cannot be replaced in life and I fully realize that my actions and punishment have a ripple effect that extends into my family and into my daughters, gentle and precious life. Through it all, my family and friends have suffered by my side. As they wait outside the wall, their support has been essential to my rehabilitation.

In summary, I would like to say that I am not the same person that I was five years ago; a drug addict that was suffering with a mental illness and struggling to come to terms with the death of my father. Being clean and sober, proving that I am an individual capable of being trusted and having good work ethic shows that I am ready to reintegrate with the work force and rejoin my family. Riding bikes with my daughter, helping her with homework and being the father I was not before are things I look forward to upon my release. Guiding her toward becoming the magnificent woman she is destined to be is my priority as I feel I have been given a second chance at life. All I need now is a second chance at freedom.

    – Robert Furlong