Robert Van Doren -- #47726-198

20 years -- Drug Conspiracy

Robert Van Doren, prisoner of the drug war
Dear Friends and Relatives:

My second anniversary is soon coming up (two years incarcerated). It all started on May 31,1996. I will try to explain some of the things that I have been faced with.

Yes, I committed a felony on that day. I was wrong and pled guilty on January 7, 1997. Why and what went wrong I will try to explain in the next few paragraphs. I will not bend in my belief that I was sentenced unfairly and unjustly -- there are 19 co-defendants in my case. They received 22 to 204 months jail time. I was given a sentence of 240 months (20 years).

My sentence is based on;

1) I was on probation at the time of my arrest for a minor State charge.

2) This previous arrest was used by the government to double my sentence.

3) The government convinced the Judge (Hon. Marilyn Huff) that my part in the conspiracy was major, although a mere 60 grams was recovered at the arrest scene and at a co-defendants home.

The following is a verbatim extract from the Court record:

Robert Van_Doren, prisoner and former professional football player
"Lack of criminal history besides the two criminal history points that with his age that's a significant sentence to him. And if the Gov't. wishes to agree with the Court and agree to that sentence, then that would be the sentence of the Court. The problem is that I cant just ignore the law because of the defendant's age. There is a sentencing enhancement that's been filed. So I'm faced with a 20 year mandatory minimum sentence. At the same time, we do have 19 other defendants, some of which have worse criminal history records than this defendant, and if there was a way that I could equitably give a sentence, I would think that the 10 years would be sufficient deterrence for this individual who would serve 85% of the time. I think it's an incredibly sad case where you have somebody so talented at the high school level and at college and an NFL player that goes on to have a successful career. Life then apparently took a turn for the worse and his circumstances where he got involved with the wrong people that led him into drug trafficking. If it were up to the Court, if I had discretion, I would think that 10 years would be sufficient punishment and would more in line with the sentences that the Court has given the 17 others that I've sentenced."

I am now in direct appeal, which will take up to one year. I feel optimistic about the future, and the facts of my case. I have contacted an organization by the name of FAMM. They are giving a ray of hope to thousands of young people that have been trapped in the Congressional Mandatory Minimum sentencing quagmire. All signs are pointing to a chance in the laws. The Sentencing Committee itself has gone on record that there should be a change.

Why did I choose to commit this crime?

Back in 1993-94 I came to the realization that jobs were going to be scarce. I had lost my job at North Island Repair Base and was fast becoming unemployable. Prostate and Colon Cancer were detected and life was getting complicated. All those bills and no job. I was losing all traces of self-esteem. No one wanted me. I soon became associated with people who decided to show me a way to make it on my own.

It was an insidious force and I was ready for anything that would keep me going financially. The radiation treatment and minor surgery generated side effects, and I was easily convinced that this could be my means of earning a living. Hindsight is 20-20 as they say.

I have just passed my 69th birthday.

Thank you for your help and loyalty during these past two years.

(Robert played professional football for the San Francisco 49ers in 1953)