Julia Diaco, the so-called "Pot Princess"
was sentenced on March 22 in Manhattan Supreme Court to 5 years
probation for drug dealing. Ms. Diaco was 18 years old when
she was arrested for multiple sales of drugs to undercover narcotic
officers from her dorm room at NYU University. Despite having
a "strong" case against her and facing up to 25 years
in prison if convicted, she received probation upon completing a
drug rehab and education program.
This follows another high profile case where Caroline
Quartararo, a former spokeswoman on Rockefeller drug law reform
for Governor Pataki received a similar minor sentence after being
arrested with crack cocaine. Ms. Quartararo was given treatment
and a $250 fine. She was arrested on December 20th for possessing
three rocks of crack cocaine. Ms. Quartararo pleaded guilty
to seventh degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.
"Julia Diaco and Caroline Quartararo's cases
remind us that, if you are rich and privileged you will likely receive
compassion from the courts," said Cheri O'Donoghue, whose son
Ashley is currently serving a sentence of 7-21 years, also for a
first-time non-violent drug offense. "While I support
the notion of compassion and access to treatment for people who
use and abuse drugs," continued Cheri O'Donoghue, "the
reality is that people of color who get caught up in the criminal
justice system generally receive neither. Although drug use rates
are similar between blacks and whites, approximately 92 percent
of the people in prison on drug charges in New York are Black and
O'Donoghue's son, a 23-year-old black man, sold cocaine
to two white students, who in turn sought to re-sell the drugs on
their Hamilton College campus. The students were caught, and
as with the Diaco and Quartararo, were given probation, while
Ashley was left to languish in prison, another casualty of the draconian
Rockefeller drug laws. Ashley is one of more than 4,000 people
sitting in NYS prisons convicted of B-level Rockefeller Drug Law
felonies. The B-Level offenders are a group of people for
whom the modest reforms to the state's drug laws in 2004 and 2005
did not have any impact.
"New Yorkers want to see meaningful Rockefeller
Drug Law reform," said Gabriel Sayegh, director of the State
Organizing and Policy Project of the Drug
Policy Alliance. "Even after the reforms last year, the
vast majority of people incarcerated under these failed laws are
still languishing behind bars. Our elected officials in Albany need
to take action to enact real reform of these laws, so that young
men like Ashley O'Donoghue can receive the same compassion as those
who are rich, well-connected, or, are employed by the Governor."
Anthony Papa is the author
of 15 to life: How I Painted
My Way To Freedom. He can be reached at [email protected].