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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

Did this drug dealer deserve plea offer?

Thursday, September 2, 2004

I find the case of drug dealer Luther Henderson beyond my imagination. The Kansas City criminal actually shocked the court this week when he rejected a plea bargain that would have spared him a life sentence. What amazes me however is that Henderson was offered the bargain in the first place.

Here's the background.

Henderson was arrested last October following a car chase and found with a rather large amount of cocaine. This was not his first brush with the law but I'll get to that in just a minute.

Henderson was offered a deal. If he cooperated with federal prosecutors and testified against others in the drug trade, his life sentence would be reduced to 20 years. But Henderson said he wasn't interested. That decision absolutely shocked the judge. Either Henderson is a criminal with honor or the more obvious reason, he was scared to death about testifying against the drug kingpins. Either way, Henderson, 27, is now starting his life sentence.

Prosecutors must have believed Henderson had some extremely important information. By any measure, Luther Henderson seems an unlikely candidate for a plea bargain.

Henderson is a four-time convicted felon, twice for distributing drugs near a school. But in a curious twist, the courts have been extremely gentle on the drug dealer. In his first drug sales conviction, he spent four months in "shock time" on a five year sentence. In the second drug sales conviction, his 15-year sentence was suspended. Back in 2000, Henderson was fighting with a Kansas City police officer when he was shot in the face. And then last year, Henderson tried to flee police only to be caught with cocaine and cash.

I'm not at all certain how prosecutors determine which criminals are eligible for "deals" and which are so anti-social that they should head straight to prison. But Henderson seems an ideal candidate for a long prison sentence. Unless the courts were certain that Henderson had important information, he seems like a criminal for which a "deal" wouldn't even be a possibility. In this case, of course, we'll never know since Henderson rejected the offer.

The ugly side of the war on drugs is that not all bad guys are treated the same. By offering deals, prosecutors hope to go higher on the drug food chain. But in that process, some of the lowest elements of society benefit. Maybe there's no other way to fight this war.

A criminal who fights with police, who flees from police and who sells drugs near a school should have but one destination. Luther Henderson has now arrived at that destination and he'll have many years to pay his debt to society.

But we'll always wonder why the courts tried to reduce that debt.

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