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Not sure if someone else posted this last week, but even so, a great victory deserves great praise. :wink:

PROVIDENCE -- A federal judge sentenced a 32-year-old crack cocaine dealer to life behind bars yesterday, marking the first time in Rhode Island that a drug offender has received a life sentence with no chance for parole, officials said.

"What a waste, what an incredible waste," U.S. District Judge Mary M. Lisi said in sentencing Charles Brown.

Brown and two other men were accused of running a "fortified crack house" in South Providence. The police said surveillance cameras scanned the perimeter, drugs and money were passed through a slot in a steel-reinforced door, and a green light signaled that the house at 178 Burnside St. was open for business.

Federal law required that the judge impose a life sentence because of the amount of crack involved -- 164 grams -- and because Brown had two prior convictions for drug trafficking, federal officials said.

"I can't say this would be the sentence I would fashion if I had discretion to address your offense and give you an opportunity at rehabilitation," Lisi told Brown. But, she said, "I have no choice."

Lisi told Brown that he had the ability to succeed as a legitimate businessman. "You are a highly intelligent and very talented and capable businessman who had amassed a small fortune in real estate," she said. "You were very good at rehabilitating properties and making them available for rentals. You could have made a very good living doing just that. But you decided to supplement your income with a very dangerous business."

Lisi said, "You ran a fortified crack house in the middle of a residential neighborhood. You and your cohorts decided to make your quick money there. And that decision will cost you your freedom for the rest of your life."

Thomas M. Connell, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office, said Brown was the first drug offender sentenced to life without parole in federal court in Rhode Island. And life without parole is not possible under Rhode Island law, said a spokesman for the attorney general's office.

In 10 years on the bench, Lisi has had only one other trial in which she has handed out life sentences without a chance for parole. That case involved members of the Latin Kings gang and murder.

Before being sentenced, Brown addressed the court, saying, "I thought life [sentences] were set aside for specific incidents like murder, rape, child molestation.

"I know what I was facing," he said. "I had a chance to cop out at any time. Just before I walked into the courtroom, I had a chance to take a deal. But I'm not taking a deal because I feel as though I'm innocent 100 percent."

Brown said he did not receive a fair trial, and questioned evidence and police testimony. For example, he said, "From what they showed, there was a green light in the hallway. Can you see the green light from outside? No, you can't. That's another assumption they made."

Brown also objected to the jury makeup, saying, "They were not from Providence, where they have a mysterious [police] evidence room where drugs come up missing. You need people from Providence to see what's going on."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Adi Goldstein said the government does have sympathy for Brown's family, but she said, "It's important to recognize the defendant does not face this sentence because of what the government has done. He had a business, strong family support, he's an intelligent person, yet he decided over and over in his life to pursue the business of drug dealing."

Defense lawyer John F. Cicilline argued that the two prior convictions, which involved marijuana, should be treated as one because the cases were disposed of on the same day and involved the same amount of prison time. But Lisi rejected that argument, saying the convictions were clearly distinct.

Lisi said Brown's testimony during the trial was "absolutely not believable." And she told him, "Where today you had an opportunity to address your actions, you chose instead to blame everyone but yourself."

Lisi said she would not impose a fine because Brown has six children. "Whatever assets you have should be liquidated for the benefit of the children," she said.

During the sentencing, 27 students from the gifted and talented program at East Providence's Edward R. Martin Middle School looked on from the jury box. "One of the students was crying because she felt he was probably guilty but she was stunned he was so young to spend the rest of his life in prison," teacher Mary E. Cabral said.

After the sentencing, Providence police Lt. Thomas Verdi, commanding officer of narcotics and organized crime bureau, said, "This is an impact case. These three defendants are notorious in Providence. This sends a message -- that these individuals who are dealing drugs and involved in violent crimes will be apprehended and face serious, serious prison sentences -- not locally, but in the federal system."
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