According to the New Pittsburgh Courier:
A former judge’s regret could lead to the early release of a drug kingpin whose case became well-known because of its connection to an organ transplant that saved Pennsylvania’s ailing governor in 1993.
As a federal judge in 1996, Robert Cindrich sentenced Ronald Whethers to life in prison for cocaine trafficking because federal guidelines mandated it given the violence and the amount of drugs involved. Prosecutors proved Whethers’ group was responsible for about 390 pounds of cocaine being smuggled into western Pennsylvania from New York.
But Cindrich, now retired as a judge but still a practicing attorney in Pittsburgh, wrote a letter on Whethers’ behalf saying he would have imposed a shorter sentence had his hands not been tied by the sentencing guidelines. The guidelines were amended in 2014 and now recommend a prison sentence of 30 years to life.
“Because I view sentences of life imprisonment appropriate only for those so depraved and dangerous that they constitute an ongoing danger to the public and are incapable of reformation, I would have sentenced Mr. Whethers to something short of a life sentence,” Cindrich wrote in the letter defense attorney Adam Cogan filed with the court earlier this year.
Cindrich wrote that a 30-year sentence “would have been sufficient to punish the defendant, protect the public, and act as a deterrent to others in my view.”