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Defendant in Winchester drug ring facing 20-year sentence

By Joe Beck

One of six defendants accused by federal authorities of participating in a major Winchester drug operation should receive no more than the minimum sentence for the crimes he committed, his attorney argued in a sentencing memorandum filed Friday.

Sherwin Jacobs said his client, Jamaal Alon Darling, is the product of a difficult childhood who failed to understand how severely he could be punished under federal law.

Jacobs urged U.S. District Judge Michael Urbanski to sentence Darling to 20 years, the minimum sentence he could receive after pleading guilty to one count of distributing a substance with a detectable amount of crack cocaine. The maximum sentence is life imprisonment.

Jacobs also urged a sentence of as low as five to eight years if the prosecution decides to file a motion for downward departure from federal guidelines.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Grayson Hoffman called for a 20-year prison term in his sentencing memorandum filed days earlier. Hoffman cited the need to avoid sentencing disparities between Darling and other defendants facing similar charges. Hoffman's memo also noted that the sentence is the same as that contained in Darling's plea agreement.

"The defendant has a prior felony drug conviction; it is evidence, therefore, that the defendant lacks respect for the law, and still has not been deterred from committing serious drug crimes," Hoffman wrote. "Thus, a (20-year) term of incarceration is appropriate to deter him from committing additional crimes and will also will protect the public from further crimes by the defendant."

Jacobs contended that his client had a "somewhat difficult upbringing" as the youngest male among two older brothers and four younger sisters.

"His father was incarcerated when Jamaal was two years old, and he was just recently released from state prison," Jacobs wrote.

The crime-ridden neighborhood where Jacobs grew up also contributed to a "lifestyle where conforming to societal norms in school were seen as a sign of weakness," Jacobs said.

"Praise from his peers was reserved for bad, rather than good behavior," Jacobs added. "As a result, Jamaal began his oppositional defiance at an early age, including use of illegal drugs around the age of 16."

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com


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