Cory with his family during prison visitation
It all started in the summer of 1991 when I began using LSD along with meditation and yoga to expand my consciousness. I have never been a "druggie" in the common definition of the word; I merely used LSD and other psychedelics as part of my own spiritual quest, and then only occasionally.
Fast forward to May 1992: my friend Cliff Brown and I had purchased an old Victorian house which we were renovating. Cliff brought his friend "Adam" over to help with some construction work This is when things began to fail apart.
Suddenly in late May. and seemingly without reason, the city put a stop-work order on our project They would request changes in the blueprints for which I had to pay an engineer $800. Then another change would be requested; I would pay again; and another change; again I paid. and so on. Two months and $4000 in architect's fees later, and with $15.000 in lumber and equipment rotting, I became financially desperate.
Throughout this time, "Adam" was constantly pestering me to provide him with 10,000 doses of LSD. Even though I wasn't a dealer, he knew I had connections. As I was desperate and on the verge of bankruptcy, I finally capitulated to his incessant besieging and provided him with 5,100 doses. This was in late July, 1992. Several days later he was back asking for more and continued to do so until October, despite the fact I told him "no more".
He must have finally realized there would be no more because he stopped calling. Several days later, on October 7, 1992. I was arrested. and on October 15, I was released on bail. Cliff Brown and "Adam" were also charged; Cliff was also arrested, but "Adam," never was.
I do not use the name "Adam" to protect his identity but because it was the name by which I knew him until I was arrested. He was listed on the indictment as Ken Anderson but he had told me that was a fake identity.
It soon came to light that Cliff had been traveling to Colorado with Ken to sell LSD. Unbeknownst to me, Cliff was charged with seven deals as compared to my four, of which I am guilty of only the first. I was not involved in the other six deals, nor did I have any knowledge of them. I agreed to plead guilty under the threat that conspiracy charges would be filed against my girlfriend and further charges would be filed against me.
The plea agreement promised a sentence of 84 months and no enhancement for "role in the offense". I pled guilty to Charge 1 (5,100 doses) Because of ambiguous wording in the plea agreement and inept legal counsel. I did not understand that the quantities from the three dropped charges were used as relevant conduct.
My life completely fell apart in the months prior to my September, 1993 sentencing date. My girlfriend left me, unable to deal with being apart seven years; I was involved in a serious auto accident requiring reconstructive knee surgery; my home was liened by the Utah State Tax Commission; and I was forced into bankruptcy. I began to drink heavily.
Unable to cope, I made a rash decision three days before my sentencing: I acquired a false passport and fled to England the morning I was to appear in court. I simply felt that I would be unable to survey prison in my mental state. Seven years seemed forever to a 23 year old. I remained a fugitive for 18 months, during which time I completely cleaned up my act and matured greatly. I contacted the U.S Marshal's office through my father to turn myself in, but while waiting for instructions, I was arrested in Liverpool, England, on March 16, 1995 (March 15 in the U S), and extradited to the US a month later. I waived my extradition hearings.
Several months later 1 was sentenced to 188 months in prison. I went to the sentencing expecting 84 months, but my downward departure for "acceptance of responsibility" was taken away and "obstruction of justice" and "role in the offense" enhancements were added in violation of the plea agreement. A marshal who my father had told of my intent to turn myself in was summoned as a witness for the prosecution. He lied by omission by denying knowing of my intent.
Despite the fact that 1 had pled guilty, I received the top of the guideline range for 18,900 doses (the amount from all four charges), an extra three years. The 84 months in the plea bargain was prior to the guideline change. With the change it would have been reduced to no more than 70 months and possibly as low as 44 months. So in effect I received 144 months (12 years) for failing to appear at the sentencing. If I had gone to prison instead of taking flight and later escaped, I would have received a maximum of 60 extra months and likely only 18 to 24.
Is this justice?
I lost my direct appeal because my original lawyer, a public defender, failed to object to the violation of my plea agreement at the sentencing. The Supreme Court denied my petition of certiori. I am currently waiting on my 2255 appeal.
Ciiff Brown went to trial and fought an entrapment defense. He was convicted and sentenced to 97 months for a larger quantity of drugs, (convicted of all 7 charges) than myself. Even though they came to England for me, "Adam", or Ken Anderson, was never arrested, and they knew exactly where he was.
I know this case was entrapment although the DEA has never admitted that Adam was a confidential informant. He enticed me into agreeing to supply the LSD and possibly caused the financial problem that forced my decision by getting the building permit canceled.
According to Cliff, Adam set up all the deals in Colorado. He must have supplied the drugs in the other indictments because he told Cliff that all the drugs came from me even though they didn't. Cliff had a lot of evidence for presentation at his trial for further implicating Adam and the DEA of entrapment, but I have not seen it.
I have lost almost everything that was important to me: my girlfriend who I still love dearly (we remain friends); my home, my dog, my business (electronic tax filing) in which I was part owner; and my computer skills. And my youth is slipping away.
All I have left are my wonderful and very supportive family who are 850 miles away, and my hope for justice and a future. Each day is a struggle in a void of intimacy. Only my studies, dreams, meditation, and hope keep me together. Next year I will complete my MBA degree. After that I have no idea how I will stay occupied for the nine years remaining of my sentence.
I am a first-time non-violent offender. I committed a crime, but I am not a criminal, because I have no propensity to commit further crime. I deserve some mercy, justice, and a second chance. Next time I will not fail; I refuse to accept that what has been done to me is justice. I will continue to fight even after I am free, until all of the many thousands of victims of the drug war's injustices are freed.
A country is judged on the quality and quantity of its compassion, mercy, and tolerance. I do not believe that these are yet truly lost in the people of America.
Cory Stringfellow was pardoned in 2000 by President Clinton.