Latest Drug War News
These stories can't be told without your help.
Shawn and his girlfriend Catherine
My name is Catherine, and first I would just like to say thank you November Coalition for all the work your organization has done and continues to do! I have found myself in a nightmare that I wake up to on a daily basis. I have included pictures of my fiancé Shawn Sorrels (himself, he and I, two with he and his mother, and even a picture of the place he currently calls home, a federal prison.) I never, in my wildest of imaginations, thought I would ever know anyone in any prison let alone see the inside walls of one. Now, every single Friday and every other Friday and Saturday combined (of each month) I drive four and a half to five hours from Dalton, GA to Lexington, KY to visit the most precious thing in my life, for a few hours, who is incarcerated in a federal prison. I just turned 21 on April 3rd and Shawn; my fiancée had his 26th birthday yesterday April 23rd. This is his second time he has spent his birthday in prison.
Shawn Sorrels, (Federal Inmate Number 40609-074) was federally indicted in May of 2003 for Conspiracy to Distribute Illegal Substances (Drugs), Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Offense, and Possession of 5 ounces of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute. In this conspiracy there were around 20 co-conspirators indicted for similar charges such as Shawn's. Out of everyone in this conspiracy, Shawn was the only one to plead Not Guilty, and to take his case to trial. All of the others signed plea bargains and 10 of them received "time off" for testifying against Shawn. Shawn chose the path that very few in similar situations take. He did not assist the DEA, FBI, or Assistant US Attorney with information -- he didn't have any.
His trial began March 10, 2004, and revealed itself to be the most disturbing event I have ever experienced. No recorded phone conversations, no undercover purchases, no surveillance, NO PROOF other than the words of his co-conspirators receiving downward departures in exchange for his or her testimony. His name was only brought up after the arrests of several other co-conspirators on the day of their arrests. Shawn's name was added to a search warrant based on one girl's account, and his apartment manager stating that he had a lot of people going in and out of his apartment. This was disputed by his attorney and was allowed into evidence by the presiding judge. The search of his apartment was the only tangible proof of evidence presented at his trial. I believe 10-14 people were prepared to testify against Shawn, (but I believe only 6 did so), and on these rehearsed and "paid" testimonies given by admitted drug dealers Shawn was found guilty on all counts.
The gun found in his apartment was unloaded, in a holster, in his closet -with only one bullet in the entire apartment. Those that testified against him were all held in the same jail cell for about 6 months, and in jail for 9 months before Shawn's trial. On June 30th, 2004 Shawn was sentenced to 180 months (fifteen years) in prison.
But that's not all... Shawn received the most time out of anyone else involved in the conspiracy- more time than the man charged with the King Pin Offense. One man that testified was caught with a pound of methamphetamine- received less than 5 years. Others that testified received 7 or 8 years and were caught with 10's of thousands of Ecstasy pills; kilograms of cocaine, pounds of methamphetamine; pounds of marijuana and most were caught with firearms. To make matters worse... he has been sent to a prison, which is also home to two of his co-conspirators that testified against him. One caught with a pound of marijuana and a gun will be out next month in May, the other caught with kilos of cocaine will be out this coming August of 2005. How, HOW can the government be given the authority to cause this. Shawn was punished for taking his case to trial and "wasting the courts time," to use the exact words of the judge, and what was perceived as not cooperating with the government to turn in others involved with drugs.
Shawn, like many others did need help for drug addiction. He did use drugs, and he was very much so addicted to drugs. We all do things we regret, and most of us are willing to accept the consequences of our actions. But how are you supposed to spend every day of your life serving time in prison knowing that the crime you are guilty of is being a drug addict who new other drug addicts including people to buy drugs from? 15 YEARS!!!!
I do not even know how to begin to face reality. This doesn't seem real. Shawn saved my life. He is the only person that reached out to help me get off of and stay away from drugs. He showed me that life could be beautiful, that I can be happy, and that I am ok just the way I am. I had made 3 attempts to commit suicide during the two days prior to meeting Shawn. I hated myself, life, and people- and I truly wanted to die. Shawn saw me at my absolute worst and was able to love me when no one else could. Not once did he ever turn his back on me. That is just who he is. He would not set up people he knew, his "friends" to "save himself." He knew he was not guilty of what he was being accused of, and thought the truth would set him free. If I could serve his time for him I would because I have never met anyone who loves life and people the way Shawn does. I cannot picture my life without him in it, and so I sit here helplessly waiting as time passes by.
An appeal has been filed. His attorney has been paid a total sum of over $40,000.00, but won't even return our phone calls regarding Shawn's case. The attorney actually lost the 1st set of transcripts we provided him with, and sent a copy of the appeal he filed to Shawn's dad saying that he didn't know where Shawn was. I just want people to know that this can happen. I am a college student, I went to private schools, came from a good family, and never needed or wanted for anything growing up. I wanted to be in the FBI from the age of 11 until my sophomore year in college when I met Shawn.
I never thought this could happen in our country, and I never thought it could happen to me. Shawn comes from a similar background that I do, except his family was more loving, supportive, and functional than mine ever will be. Shawn wasn't a bad kid, ever. He did not try drugs until his freshman year in college. Shawn is extremely intelligent and talented person, but he enjoyed the high he felt from drugs and couldn't give them up. The people that confess to committing these huge, large scale drug offenses that really commit the crimes can name a simple small time user, anyone they know and lie about them selling drugs and then get a reduced sentence and drug rehabilitation and hand the punishment off to someone they know was never involved. So who the hell is in jail? Not the big time drug dealers, they know lots of people that buy and sell drugs.
They asked Shawn about the other people he was getting drugs from, and when he said there isn't anyone else honestly- he became a criminal, in fact he went from himself to being one of the biggest drug dealers in Chattanooga, TN. At least that's what those co-defendants that had 6 months in the same jail cell to get their stories "right" said. One after one they got up and told the jury of all of these specific times Shawn dealt with drugs. Shawn had never even met most of these people. If you have more than two people in this world that would lie about you to save them selves, especially if you have used drugs, this can really happen to your life or someone you care about.
I am so very grateful that organizations such as yours exist and are as active in trying to find a solution to this madness as November Coalition is. I am sure many of the same stories are sent in to you guys everyday, and I do not think myself to be any different or special from anyone having to deal with similar circumstances. Drug offenders are receiving greater sentences than rapists, thieves, and even some murderers. More money is spent to pay for prisons to house the ever-increasing amount drug offenders than towards our country's school systems. Worst of all real people, good people are having their lives taken away and a lot of them are at an age where their lives have not even begun. I had nothing to do with anyone or anything involved in Shawn's case other than Shawn, and yet I feel like I am being punished as well. I just want to graduate from college, marry the man I love, and begin a life together with him- but I have been given a 15-year sentence as well.
Shawn Sorrels 40609-074
PO Box 1000
Lewisburg, PA 17837
Back to the Wall
Next Prisoner of the War on Drugs
Meet the People Behind The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines
Questions or problems? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org