Eric Jensen -- #16551-018

11 Years -- Cocaine Conspiracy

Eric Jensen, prisoner of the drug war
My name is Eric Lee Jensen. I am serving 11 years for conspiracy to distribute cocaine. I am not a first time offender. The government used the "Three Strikes, You're Out" law against me -- they use the term "career criminal." This enhances my sentence many times over by making me pay all over again for my past. It does not take into consideration attempts one has made a rehabilitation, accomplishments made between offenses, or mitigating circumstances.

Yes, I am an addict, and I sold drugs to support my habit, but I have always had steady employment and paid my taxes. After my 1993 arrest for marijuana I decided I was sick of that lifestyle, the betrayal, the losses, the pain of separation, and the years of imprisonment. At that time I had received eight years of incarceration and received no treatment. I sought help on my own and took a nine-month in-house residential drug program. When I was released in 1996 I took an additional six-month aftercare program.

I was doing well. I had been clean for five years and had my own painting business with five employees. At the time I was living with my girlfriend Jennifer and her two children, along with two of my own girls from a previous marriage. Jennifer was diagnosed as having Acute Miodic Leukemia. She lost thirty to forty pounds and became so weak she couldn't leave the bed to go to the bathroom and lost control of her bowls. She was forced to wear a diaper, which I changed regularly. Needless to say, this took a toll on the children and me. I was a wreck. The business suffered, the bills piled up, and I became dysfunctional.

Richard, a man for whom I subcontracted, just happened to be the one who offered "a shoulder to lean on." He knew my past, and was formulating a plan. Preying on my history of addiction, he started feeding me cocaine, while all the time pumping me for information as to where he might get a better quality product to use or sell. He was setting me up to help a friend (Tim) who'd become an informant to avoid going to jail on drug charges.

I told my probation officer and psychologist at rehab that I was having severe mental problems and suffering from extreme depression because of Jennifer's illness. The psychologist set up an appointment with a psychiatrist for a diagnosis because they believed I might be suffering from a chemical imbalance. However I had to wait thirty days to be chemically free for treatment. During this time Richard showed up with cocaine and we partied.

Richard said he couldn't find a source of cocaine and wanted me to help him find one. I was living in Tampa, Florida at the time and told him I didn't know anyone in Florida, but I knew a man named Ralph in South Carolina. Richard suggested we go to see Ralf and I could ask him for some cocaine. Richard gave me three ounces of cut and told me to add it to the four ounces that Ralph had agreed to front me. This was to up the quantity to make it worse for me, since he knew it was a setup.

When I got back to the motel where we were staying, Richard told me that if his friend Tim came over to buy cocaine I should tell him it cost $1600 an ounce. So, when he showed up that's exactly what I did, not knowing there were people from law enforcement waiting outside the motel room door and that Tim was wearing a wire. I was arrested.

My family was forced to sell what little we had to raise funds for a private attorney. At trail we tried to tell the jury what the government had set up a deal giving Tim and Richard total immunity.

While I was waiting for trial in the Lexington County jail, the government sent an inmate with a hidden tape recorder, who wanted me to hire his people to kill Tim and Richard. I didn't fall for it, but the government attempted to misconstrue my words to say I did. I demanded they polygraph the inmate and me, but they said they didn't want to take the chance of discrediting him because they needed him for other cases.

The government realized I was going to take it to trial because I felt it was a case of total entrapment. Just ten days before the trial the government filed an 851 enhancement, using a 15-year old offense to justify it. They told me that if I went to trial and lost I would be facing a mandatory minimum of up to life without possibility of parole. My attorney strongly suggested that I take the plea because the government would make it costly. He said he could get me a deal of fourteen years for less than 200 grams of cocaine, something that is ordinarily only a three-year sentence.

I admit participating in a crime, but I was suffering from extreme mental anguish and depression. I committed the crime at a very desperate moment: trying to deal with my fiancé's leukemia, her kids, and my kids. This made it easy for Richard to take advantage of me. Even the judge believed I was suffering from severe mental problems and part of my sentence when I get out of prison is to participate in a three-year mental health program while on supervised release.

I thank God that my family has stood behind me through all this misery and will be waiting for me when I get out, including Jennifer, God willing. In the meantime I am still trying to get some needed mental health care here, but to no avail. I really don't know what I am looking for, other than an alternative to this broken system. The government continues to destroy the fiber of the family unit, creating more and more dysfunctional families. Really it is treatment that we need. Incarceration only succeeds in creating angry individuals.