Linda Rojas -- #79002-079

10 Years -- Heroin Conspiracy

Linda Rojas, prisoner of the drug war
On Sunday, October 6, 1997 I went through customs at Houston International Airport. This was one route considered to be safe. A customs agent approached me and stated that I fit a particular M.O. For the next three hours I endured a grueling interrogation, a rigorous search of the contents of my luggage and a traumatic experience of my body being searched. My profile was that I was a native Colombian and had several other Latin American countries stamped on my passport. The customs agent instructed the other agents to pull up my entire file. Noticing I had two previous drug-related felonies, he really put his canine nose to sniff. The other agents were apologetic for his treatment towards me. The last resort was to have me sign forms so I could be taken to a hospital for inner examination and x-rays making sure I hadn't swallowed any pellets, as in the profile for Colombians. Through this phase, a female agent insisted on the cosmetic bottles in my luggage to be x-rayed. Alas! The drugs were found.

I was handcuffed and placed in a small, barren room until two federal agents came to interview me. My Miranda Rights and all else were read. I was arrested.

What am I doing here? I could answer this question. This is my third offense, yet I haven't actually served any time except for a total of eight years on probation and four months at Ricker's Island, Queens, New York. Through a friend's offer, I was enticed to the tax-free cash and travel adventure to mule; carrying liquid heroin from Panama, Central America to the United States.

At my first arraignment the prosecutor's commencing statement was that he was seeking a life sentence, if not enhancement, again for being a native of Colombia and a career criminal. I was numb-face to the reality of the political and the prejudice criminal justice system. Needless to say, I urged my court appointed lawyer to have the prosecutor changed. It happened!

At the third court appearance for bail, it was denied on the grounds that a friend, who had been detained on Wednesday, October 9, under the same circumstances as I, had named me on her indictment. Yes, I was aware of her travels, as we were employed to mule by the same people. This made my case potentially worse. My friend and I were kept separate through the entire ordeal. But, at one court appearance, the mistake was made. We were placed in the same holding cell.

At this time, she was able to describe in detail about the feds taking her to New York for a day, searching her apartment completely, trying to implicate her husband, making contact by phone twice with the persons in charge of awaiting the drugs, wired her and set-up meetings­­but no one showed up. It was like an action movie, as told by her.

On sentencing day, my lawyer and I were hopeful for six years. The new prosecutor had promised to drop the life and enhancement since my friend had helped so much. We also received a 5K ruling opened for a year. I was very faithful for the six until the judge stated my friend had given a written, contradictory statement which named me as the head (kingpin) of this organization. He was irritable and didn't want to hear any other statements on my behalf. The inability to be heard was shattering.

I was sentenced according to the guidelines, without facts as of the extent or evidence of my role, to 121 months. I was not in any way the head/leader, just a mule/carrier. My friend was given the six years. I didn't appeal due to the fact that my lawyer advised me that the least time on my category would be 120 months, once again, due to my previous record. I have served 44 months. I feel it has been enough of a punishment to keep me away from my family and especially my 13-year-old daughter. I am ready to return to them and to society as a productive member.