Everyone loves stories. I’ve written dozens of articles over the years tackling every aspect of crime, incarceration, drug trafficking, and the truth about the federal prison population, to debunk the widespread myths of the political class supporting the Soros-Koch jailbreak agenda. But facts, trends, and rational arguments covering every angle of this issue fall on deaf ears in the political class. Like good liberals, the pseudo-conservatives supporting “criminal justice reform” trot out sob stories about the guy who did nothing but take a whiff of marijuana and was supposedly locked up in federal prison for life. Well, if you want stories that more accurately depict who federal prosecutors target for long sentences, here is your man: Sergio M. Robles, aka Checko.
An article from Tuesday at the Chicago Tribune reads, “Gang member tied to 2 murders sentenced to 27 years.”
That is essentially the whole story of federal prison and the federal criminal justice system. Most of the people targeted by federal prosecutors on racketeering, drug, and firearms charges are hard-core gangbangers responsible for most of the urban warfare in this country and are often tied to murders or committed them directly. However, given how hard it is to land a conviction, prosecutors often hit them on drug charges instead. This allows virtue-signaling leftist groups as well as pseudo-conservatives to come and agitate on their behalf by obscuring their backgrounds and depicting them as low-level offenders. But there’s nothing like looking at a fresh federal case when we all know what happened, such as the case of Robles in Cedar Lake, Indiana.
Looking at the headline, your average person would say, “Twenty-seven years for two murders? Why not life in prison or the death penalty?
The reality is that he wasn’t convicted on murder charges. He was convicted on drug charges and RICO. Thus, this is the the type of case where agitators could come several years from now and declare outrage over locking someone up for 27 years on RICO and drug charges. But really, he was only targeted because he was a Latina Kings gang leader responsible for much of the murder and mayhem spilling over from Chicago into northern Indiana. The stiff sentencing allows prosecutors to get him off the streets. Obviously, those who only commit RICO and drug trafficking aren’t sentenced to this long. Just last week, a major Latina Nations gang member in Chicago was convicted on drug trafficking and 17 firearms charges! Yet he still was only sentenced to nine years, even though he is likely responsible for a lot of drug deaths. Why? At the end of the day, there was no murder.
“Checko” was sentenced to 27 years on RICO and drug charges because he’s a gang leader responsible for murder. Here’s the synopsis of the case from the U.S. Attorney’s office:
At sentencing, Robles was held responsible for participating in the December 2003 murder of Jonathan Zimmerman in Hammond, Indiana, and the May 2008 murder of Jose Cortez in East Chicago, Indiana. The Latin Kings suspected Zimmerman was involved in a drug transaction with counterfeit currency. Accordingly, Zimmerman was shot and killed by a co-defendant. Jose Cortez was shot to death by another co-defendant because the Latin Kings believed Cortez was a member of a rival street gang. According to documents in this case, Robles possessed a firearm in furtherance of the gang’s activities and was involved in a conspiracy to distribute 150 kilograms of cocaine and 1,000 kilograms of marijuana.
It’s important to understand that this was part of a broader prosecution of 21 members of the Latin Kings gang. Many of these gangs are fueled by the influx of illegal aliens and are responsible for the increased death toll in the Chicago area. These are not the exceptions, but the general rule, of federal prosecutions on drug and firearms charges. According to Texas’ Department of Public Safety, the Latin Kings are on par with MS-13 in terms of “Tier 1” threat level to Texas and are responsible for the distribution of drugs. This is the nexus of immigration policy, the drug crisis, and criminal justice “reform.” It is beyond Orwellian that at such a time as this, lawmakers are crafting a bill that will provide numerous sentencing reductions and early-release provisions to the people in federal prison responsible for the drug crisis and for the murder in major cities.
People with short memories forget that this how Reagan’s federal sentencing policies lead to a 70 percent decline in violent crime and homicide the following decade. All of these gangbangers engaging in firearms and drug trafficking were committing most of the murder, armed robbery, and aggravated assault. By having stiff sentencing for those crimes, which were easy to prove, prosecutors were able to deter or remove the violent criminals from the streets when it would otherwise be tough to land convictions on the more violent crimes. This is the big lie of those who say we lock up too many people for “nonviolent crimes.” They are ignorant of the federal system, as distinct from the state criminal justice system. The feds only go after dangerous people, especially in recent years.
Those engaging in small-time drug dealing won’t even be pursued by federal prosecutors, certainly not for simple possession. If someone is prosecuted for relatively low-level dealing, it’s because prosecutors believe they are likely responsible for mayhem in the city and are top gang leaders. That is what any good federal prosecutor will do.
Which brings us back to Checko. Ironically, the drug trafficking charge is actually pretty light, much lighter than the typical case we see in the federal prison and exactly the type that would get reduced sentencing and early release under the First Step Act. Yet he is a murderer and a gangbanger, which is why they threw the book at him. Someone who is truly a first-time offender already has access to multiple safety valves and would never be sentenced to anything close to 27 years.
This is the heart of the big lie underpinning the jailbreak movement. Chuck Grassley, Mike Lee, and many other supporters will trot out props of cases where people were locked up for 30 years on seemingly light charges. Yet they will never publicly release what is called the “presentencing report,” which is the document that the judge uses to determine the sentencing. This tells the full story of the life of the convict. If he truly was just a one-time, relatively low-level drug dealer, without evidence that he likely committed murder or a career of other harmful crimes, he wouldn’t be sentenced to such long imprisonment. Of course, there are always mistakes in any justice system, but for every one person over-sentenced, there are thousands of others under-sentenced or even unconvicted. These people never seem to trot out the victims of those crimes who never achieved justice.
So the next time you see the Gang of Jailbreak use a sob story as the poster-child of over-incarceration, just remember that the very gangsters fueling the murder problem in Chicago and the drug crisis nationwide are overwhelmingly the people prosecuted in the federal system on what they refer to as “low-level offenses.” In reality, these are the people whom Trump referred to as “animals.”
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.