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Columbia man gets 21 years in federal prison for dealing drugs

A 28-year-old South Carolina man pled guilty to possession with the intent to distribute crack cocaine. He sold the drug in and around Columbia and was sentenced in the federal district court. The man received a sentence of 21 years.

The court concluded that the defendant had distributed at least 15 kilograms of cocaine in both powder and crack form. Crack carries some of the most serious consequences of all drug charges. For example, federal guidelines direct courts to give harsher sentences for crack cocaine than for powder cocaine. The sentence for crack cocaine is 18 times the sentence for the same amount of powder cocaine. Prior to 2010, the penalty for crack cocaine was 100 times that of powder cocaine.

South Carolina state laws are also much harsher for those caught with crack cocaine than for those caught with powder cocaine. For example, the first conviction of possession of less than a gram of crack cocaine is a felony that can result in a sentence of five years. The first possession of less than 10 grams of powder cocaine is a misdemeanor that can result in a sentence of up to only two years.

It is unclear whether any plea negotiation mitigated the man's punishment. Often a defendant can reduce charges or negotiate a lesser sentence by entering a guilty plea. However, United States Attorney Bill Nettles said that the sentence imposed on the man was the result of his use of a firearm and threats of violence, significant quantity of crack and cocaine as well as his long criminal history.

Source: FBI.gov, "Columbia Crack Dealer Sentenced to 21 Years in Prison," Oct. 18, 2012

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