The 10 Most Outrageous Marijuana Sentences

Selected by Beth Curtis, editor of lifeforpot.com

No. 1 John Knock

No. 1 John Knock

Age: 67. Prison: Federal. Release date: Death.

John is my brother, so let’s start with this kind, calm and humorous man. He’s serving life without parole for a non-violent first offense.

Our father was Presbyterian minister in a small Midwestern town. Our mom was a homemaker. John moved to San Francisco in the late 1960s and joined the Good Earth commune in Haight Ashbury. He was out of the business and living in Hawaii in 1994 with his wife (then completing her Ph.D. in biology) and his son (now 23) when he was indicted as part of a loose group of entrepreneurs who imported marijuana in the 1970s and 1980s. Read more…


No. 2 Paul Free

No. 2 Paul Free

Age: 64. Prison: Federal. Release date: Death.

Paul, former manager of the Coronado Playhouse theatre in his California hometown, had completed a marine biology degree from the University of San Diego shortly before his arrest in 1994. At the time, he was living in Mexico, teaching English and organizing a school. These skills helped him teach GED classes and achieve the highest graduation rate in the federal prison system.

Today, Paul is recovering from an apparent stroke suffered two years ago. His devoted mom died a few years ago at age 100. This talented man, serving life without parole, doesn’t deserve to die in prison for a non-violent marijuana offense. Read more…


No. 3 Leopoldo Hernandez-Miranda

No. 3 Leopoldo Hernandez-Miranda

Age: 76. Prison: Federal. Release date: Death.

Leopoldo has been called “The most deserving clemency candidate you’ve never heard of.” A Cuban fisherman with a fourth grade education and limited English skills, he lacks the ability to advocate assertively for himself. A minor player in a phony marijuana importation effort/DEA sting, Leopoldo was a day laborer who was harvested into a life without parole sentence that is entirely undeserved. Leopoldo is the victim of one of the nation’s most disgraceful marijuana sentences. Read more…


No.4 Antonio Bascaro

No.4 Antonio Bascaro

Age: 80. Prison: Federal. Release date: June 2019.

Antonio is a historic figure in two ways. First, he has been in prison longer for marijuana than anyone in United States history — nearly 35-year years. Second, this amazing man was a Cuban war hero who battled Fidel Castro during the revolution and again during the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion.

In 1958, Antonio crashed a plane that is now featured in Cuba’s Museum of the Revolution. Antonio, captured, had breakfast with Raúl Castro — Fidel’s brother and now Cuba’s official leader — who tried to convince the young pilot to change sides and head the revolutionary Air Force. Antonio refused.

Antonio's plane, a popular site for tourists visiting Cuba's Museum of the Revolution

Antonio’s plane, at Cuba’s Museum of the Revolution.

After escaping execution, Antonio was a role player in a group who helped import marijuana from Colombia to the U.S. by fishing boat in the late 1970s. The Cuban who ran the business was released in 1994. The legendary American pot wholesaler who bought and distributed all the pot was released in 1996. Only Antonio, now 80, now in a wheelchair, remains in prison. Read more…


No. 5 Kenny Kubinski

No. 5 Kenny Kubinski

Age: 67. Prison: Federal. Release date: Death.

Ken, now 67, is serving life without parole for marijuana

Ken, now 67

Kenny, 67, won three Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for valor in Vietnam. Our nation repaid him with a life without parole sentence.

Kenny owned a construction company with his brothers when he was arrested in 1993 for marijuana and a little cocaine. He was taken away from his wife Jacquelyn, a preschool teacher, and three kids (a six-year-old boy and a two preschool girls).

In retrospect, Kenny believes he was suffering from PTSD, a condition not well-understood at the time.  His release would honor our nation and be an act of compassion for his wife and children, who are now grown. Read more…


No. 6 Larry Duke

No. 6 Larry Duke

Age: 67. Prison: Federal. Release date: Death.

Larry is a non-violent grandfather and master tinkerer serving life without parole for marijuana. He’s been locked up since 1989.

When Larry, a decorated Marine who served in Vietnam, was asked what he would like to say in an article about him, he wrote: “A lifelong friend, Marty Brennen died and his burial at Arlington National Cemetery is scheduled for December 2014. I would sure like to show up and say good-bye.”

What we would like to say about Larry: He is a remarkable man — an inventor, dreamer and problem solver — of so many accomplishments that he cannot easily be summed up in a few sentences. Read More…


No. 7 Billy Dekle

No. 7 Billy Dekle

Age: 65. Prison: Federal. Release date: Death.

Billy, the kid

Billy, the kid

Billy was a smart, adventuresome cowboy of a young man. He flew planes in high school, joined the Marines upon graduation and transported bales of pot in his twenties.

“Gringo Billy,” as he was called, went where the pot was – Colombia, Nicaragua, Jamaica, the Bahamas and Belize — and brought it home to American consumers. He was a character  from a Jimmy Buffett song, making $20,000 or more some months and pissing it away as fast as it came in. He was arrested in 1990 and is serving life without parole.

Dekle adult

Billy, the grandpa

Today, “Gringo Billy” is “Pape Billy” to his grandkids. He’s eligible for Social Security and Medicare. He has a bum knee. His wife, a school administrator, and his two grown daughters — teens when he went away, now in the forties — want this good man home for his final years. Twenty-five years for pot is more than enough.  Read more…

 

 


No. 8 Craig Cesal

No. 8 Craig Cesal

Age: 55. Prison: Federal. Release date: Death.

Craig’s life without parole sentence shows how federal “conspiracy” law produces outrageously unjust results — legal but entirely disconnected from reality.

Craig owned a towing and truck repair shop near Chicago for 23 years. He had 14 tow trucks and a big garage. His customers included truck rental companies and cops (16 police departments, two Illinois State Police Districts and the Cook and DuPage County Sheriff Departments).

One of his repair clients, Sun Hill Trucking of Florida, was accused of using their trucks to smuggle marijuana from Mexico. Craig was never charged with buying, selling, possessing or using marijuana. But the government claimed the truck repairman knew what Sun Hill Trucking did and help repair (and prepare) the trucks for smuggling. Craig was was responsible for every ounce of marijuana that Sun Hill Trucking may have touched — whether he saw the pot, profited from it, or even knew it existed.

He pled guilty in 1992 but tried to revoke the plea bargain and was sentenced to life without parole. Wonder why so many hold the federal criminal justice in such low esteem? Read more…

 

 

 


No. 9 Jeff Mizanskey

No. 9 Jeff Mizanskey

Age: 61. Prison: Missouri. Release date: Death.

Jeff Mizanskey is an inmate who’s gathered considerable support for his unjust Missouri state sentence of life without parole for marijuana. Jeff is No. 5 on The Clemency Report’s list of all inmates deserving clemency and has nearly 400,000 signatures (!) on his change.org petition.

He received life without parole for buying a few pounds of pot. Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, has refused to act on Mizanskey’s clemency request. Why? The governor has dodged the question. Politics and justice are a poor match in Missouri.  “My dad is, and always has been, a good man,” says his son, Chris. Read more…

(Visit his Facebook page.)


No. 10 Fred Cundiff

No. 10 Fred Cundiff

Age: 68. Prison: Federal. Release date: Death.

Charles “Fred” Cundiff had been behind bars for nearly a quarter century for a non-violent marijuana offense. Fred was a married father of three when he got caught up with eight others in a reverse sting to buy marijuana in Tallahassee in 1991. Fred wasn’t key person in the deal but, under conspiracy law, all defendants are held responsible for the entire weight of the cannabis. Fred had two previous minor convictions for growing pot and that goto him a mandatory life without parole sentence. Read more…


Grandpas in prison for pot. Silly and outrageous!

No. 6 Larry Duke (left) and No. 7 Billy Dekle

No. 6 Larry Duke (left) and No. 7 Billy Dekle

Beth Curtis

beth curtis photo dec 2013The nation’s No. 1 expert on extreme marijuana sentences.

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