For the People (2018) s01e05 Episode Script

World's Greatest Judge

1 Welcome to the Mother Court.
Ms.
Krissman, I'm on duty today.
TINA: When cases come in, I e-mail them to you.
Anybody who's new, this is United States Attorney, Douglas Delap.
My mother came by for lunch and wanted to say hi.
Senator Knox.
A pleasure.
Calling your mommy is never a power move.
KATE: I don't want fun.
I want challenging, interesting.
You're smart, attractive.
You're a catch.
I'm gonna grab something to eat if you? Think I'm out for this one.
Good night, Kate.
[DOOR OPENS] [SIREN WAILS IN THE DISTANCE] [INDISTINCT CONVERSATIONS] May I come in? [ALARM CLOCK BLARES] I don't want much I just wanna be a better man To my baby Mm, mm What can I do? What can I do? To get back to your heart I'd swim the Mississippi river If you would give me another start, girl What can I do? What can I do? To get back to your heart I'd swim the Mississippi river If you would give me another start, girl [HORNS HONK] Shade grown.
Macadamia milk.
[CLEARS THROAT] And still I'll drink it.
- Why are you working out here? - Mm.
My office there's stuff in it.
You could move it.
And I like looking up at that.
- Duty.
- Duty.
- Duty.
- This makes you happy? - A little bit.
- What do I do on duty? Mm, you have two choices.
You can walk across Foley Square and tell Tina Krissman you're on duty, in which case, she'll give you this Okay.
I got it.
Okay.
or you can check your e-mail.
Either way.
Hey, what are you doing here? - I work here.
- Fraud.
No, seriously.
I was sworn in with you guys.
That's my office right there.
I got a fraud case.
You had a fraud case, right? Against Kate Littlejohn.
Is your case against Kate Littlejohn? No.
Then you should be fine.
I meant, what are you doing here so early? Drug hearing.
And now I'm late.
What kind of fraud? JUDGE VAUGHN: Wine? BROTI: Yes, Your Honor.
The defendant, Mr.
Mahler, is a wine forger.
As alleged the indictment, Mr.
Mahler was filling bottles that appeared to be rare and expensive vintages with cheap, fake wine.
Basically fair, but I wouldn't really call it "cheap".
No talking.
The indictment alleges he made millions.
Those assets were frozen by the government, Your Honor.
Which is why he needs a public defender.
- Yes, Your Honor.
- Thank you.
With the standard restrictions and the added requirement that Mr.
Mahler refrains from the manufacture, sale, or consumption of wine, I'll release him pending trial.
We'll stand in recess.
I'd like for you to come by my office this afternoon so we can discuss some things.
- It's a date.
- It's not a date.
I can bring lunch.
Don't.
[ELEVATOR DINGS] October 5th, 1998 you remember anything about it? I was in sixth grade.
Phil Stoller's wedding day.
Congressman Phil Stoller from the New York 16th? From the front page.
He's having an affair.
Wasn't a great wedding.
Bad oysters.
An ice sculpture that melted into the shape of a penis.
First dance to "Mustang Sally".
I knew the marriage was never gonna work out.
I didn't know it was gonna take me out.
Out of what? The woman Congressman Stoller was having an affair with was also married to a printer.
Two days after he found out about the affair, Stoller paid half a million dollars in federal campaign funds to the husband's printing business.
Hush money, so he wouldn't expose the affair.
That's the question.
If we can prove Stoller paid the money in order to keep the affair secret, we have a case against him for misappropriation of campaign funds.
If we can't, then we don't.
Roger's conflicted out because he went to the wedding.
I've already suffered terribly.
That sculpture it haunts me.
So, this is yours, son.
I honestly have no idea who you are or where you came from, but you have Roger's attention.
Nail this case, and you'll have mine.
What are you doing? Getting ahead of things.
You're getting ahead of work in my office? No, I'm getting ahead of you coming to my office and interrupting my work.
If I start in here, I figure I might be safe for the day.
I'll probably still come by.
I've got a big drug case.
This guy gets paid $100 to deliver a package, throws it in his backpack, goes into the station at 116th Street, jumps a turnstile and gets stopped by a few beat cops.
- Mm-hmm.
- That package? 57 grams of meth.
- 57 grams? - That's right.
This is 57 grams, and anything over 50 is a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison.
The only thing big about your case is the sentence.
Thanks for the visit.
My cousin's friend had this friend.
Heard I knew this other guy from back in the day.
Said I could make some money if I was willing to be a go-between.
Had you done this before? - Maybe a few times.
- Mm.
I'm a father now, you know? I'm just trying to provide.
I didn't know what was in the backpack.
- What did you think it was? - I don't know.
Something.
I didn't ask.
But I didn't know.
You think there's maybe a way out of this? I'll do everything I can.
I completely disagree.
Did you read the paper today? I don't read the paper.
This kid, Julien Barley, got stomped to death in prison.
Prison's a tough place.
He didn't belong there.
A lot of people don't.
He lived next door to a stash house.
He went over to play video games with one of his friends and the cops raided the place.
There were 12 kilos of cocaine hidden away in the house.
And Julien? Got 10 years for playing video games.
This is why I don't read the paper.
Why are you making me wait? Right.
Just another day, Judge.
MAN: All rise.
- Mr.
Oliver? - SETH: Thank you, Your Honor.
Rodrigo Puente is charged in Count 1 of the indictment with the possession of a controlled substance with an intent to distribute.
What substance? Methamphetamine.
Mr, Puente, have you had an opportunity to read the indictment? Yes, Your Honor.
And do you understand the nature of the charges against you? Yes, Your Honor.
Was Mr.
Puente selling? No, Your Honor.
- He was a courier? - Yes, Your Honor.
How much meth? 57 grams.
57 grams? This is a mandatory minimum of 10 years.
SETH: Yes, Your Honor.
Any criminal history? - Two prior convictions.
- For? Shoplifting and driving with a suspended license.
- Misdemeanors.
- Yes, Your Honor.
Non-violent offenses for which Mr.
Puente served no jail time.
And yet still, two criminal history points under the statute, which means he's ineligible for the safety valve.
SETH: Yes, Your Honor.
In terms of a trial date, we propose I don't like this case, Mr.
Oliver.
I'm sorry, Your Honor? I don't like this case.
If Mr.
Puente is convicted, I'll be forced to impose a sentence of 10 years in federal prison with no chance of parole on someone with essentially no criminal history for carrying a package of meth the size of your phone.
This is the same mandatory minimum Mr.
Puente would face for sex trafficking a child.
I am not going to sentence Mr.
Puente to 10 years in prison.
Not today.
The judge wants us to take another look - at the Puente prosecution.
- Done.
He's unhappy with the charges.
He's unhappy with the law.
Tell him to write his Congressman.
Do you actually want me to tell him that? Or you can tell him to rev up the DeLorean and take Mr.
Puente back in time to before he decided to carry 57 grams of meth.
I'll probably just tell the judge our position stands, - leave out the rest.
- Either way.
Who's the judge? Byrne.
JILL: Doesn't sound like Judge Byrne.
Is this unusual? Judges will sometimes express their displeasure about something.
I've never heard of something so direct.
It was pretty direct.
Who is that? No idea.
That's her duty case? Really? [KNOCK ON DOOR] Roger and Delap just gave me a new investigation.
I'm incredibly happy for you.
Really? No.
I don't care.
It's a sensitive case, so I can't get into the details Perfect.
If I can make this, I think I'll really be on Delap's radar.
You okay? I'm fine.
Yeah? Yeah.
I'm going to donor lunch tomorrow with my mom.
She always likes it when I show my face, do a little "grip-and-grin".
If you're interested.
I don't grip, I don't grin.
Zero interest.
Yeah, you seem fine.
- TOBY: Thanks for having me in.
- I'm your lawyer.
Still.
These are serious charges, Toby.
Well, then, I'm glad I have a serious lawyer.
Too serious, maybe? What is that? The judge specifically said no manufacturing, sale, or consumption.
This is a gift.
Have you ever had a 1982 Chateau Blanquefort? - It's evidence.
- Of God.
It's transcendent.
Lush and supple.
Velvet on the tongue, visceral.
Like nothing you've ever experienced in your life.
The real stuff, anyway.
This is a fake.
Here, have it.
You'll never be able to tell the difference.
I can tell the difference.
You can't.
Most people can't.
Most people have no idea what they're drinking.
If the label is attractive and the price is high, it's good.
If it's cheap and unattractive, it's not good.
You went to Yale, right? - Yes.
- Same thing.
I hear "Yale", I think "you're a great lawyer.
" I don't hear "Yale", then I wonder what are you? I'm a great lawyer.
Ah, I hope so.
The point is, I love wine.
I dropped out of community college when I was 19.
I worked for a year to save up money to go to France, and the day I had my first real Burgundy, I knew.
This is what I was meant to do.
I loved everything about it the craft, the history.
Started collecting.
I was happy.
And then one day, I accidentally bought a fake bottle.
It actually broke my heart.
I started to see it all around me.
The posers, people pretending to care about wine when all they cared about was the money, the status.
Forgery was my revenge.
You know, if I hadn't slipped up and made these little typos, nobody ever would have known.
Your watch it's a fake.
This was a gift from my parents.
It's the thought that counts.
People need to know the truth about Congressman Stoller.
SARAH: The truth is, I wanted to leave my husband and marry Phil.
He begged me to wait until after his reelection.
He told me he would leave his wife, too.
That was four years ago.
I let him string me along until he and my husband settled on a price.
Now I'm stuck in this hotel room.
No home to go back to.
I can't go outside without the tabloids chasing me.
Your husband found out about the affair on the morning of the 14th? Yes.
And he confronted Stoller on the 15th.
Two days later on the 17th, your husband's printing company got a huge order from the Stoller campaign half a million dollars.
Phil paid him off to keep the affair quiet.
That's certainly what it looks like, but it's circumstantial.
Except it's not.
He told me.
My husband said he was gonna make Phil pay.
- He said that? - More than once.
And Phil called me and said he was gonna pay.
Do you have any e-mails or texts or any written communication about any of this? No.
But you have me.
Mr.
Oliver.
Has the government had an opportunity to reconsider its position? SETH: Yes, Your Honor.
The government's position is unchanged.
Tell Roger Gunn I want to see him in my chambers.
I've spoken to Mr.
Gunn and advised him of the circumstances, Your Honor.
I'm here.
I represent the United States Government.
Mr.
Oliver.
Please approach.
Did you represent the United States Government in the Locarno matter when you added charges to the superseding indictment for the sole purpose of pressuring Ms.
Locarno into a plea deal in violation of the US Attorney Manual 9-27.
300? I want to talk about Rodrigo Puente.
- I know why we're here.
- He's facing 10 years.
I didn't write the law.
- If he had seven grams less - He didn't.
I'm just trying to talk with you.
That's what this is, a talk? Without defense counsel, without a court reporter? I don't like this kind of talk.
What are you doing, Judge? I'm trying to do the right thing.
"I don't care about what you believe.
Win the damn case!" That's what you taught me when you had my job and I was Seth Oliver.
I was wrong.
No, you were right.
You were tough.
You believed that if we got emotional about every case, we couldn't do our job and that our job is important.
You said drugs had victims and we cared about those victims.
You were right.
I'm not letting this go.
Then Rodrigo Puente isn't the only person who's gonna suffer here.
MELORA: [CHUCKLES] Well, that's a hell of a question, Steve, how the Senate will handle banking reform.
And you want me to answer that with all these bankers standing 10 feet away? [LAUGHTER] Thanks a lot! Fortunately, I get to change the subject and introduce my eldest son, Leonard, who thinks I didn't see him slip in.
MELORA: Jim Orsua at Hartmann-Carlyle? - Yes.
- You talked to him? Yes.
He introduced himself.
He went to Harvard, too.
So did everyone in that room.
Charlie Phillips at Rincon.
Darren Caner from Rock River Equity.
Steve Hewes at Vonner Capital.
They've all been good supporters.
I talked to them all.
I need to get back.
To your investigation of Congressman Stoller? When were you gonna tell me? You're interviewing his campaign staff.
It's all over Washington.
I don't have ravens watching you.
I can't talk about Congressman Stoller.
I don't want to talk about the Congressman.
I want to talk about you.
This isn't good for you.
It could be.
If I win.
And if you don't? When was the last time I didn't win? When you were a 1L.
I won the Hotchkiss prize.
Second semester, not the first.
I don't care about Stoller.
And I would never interfere with a federal investigation.
All I'm saying is that you need to be careful.
And I'm saying this as your mom.
I know you are.
And I appreciate it.
But I got this.
[SOFT PIANO MUSIC PLAYS] - Just the two of us? - JUDGE BYRNE: Yes.
Are you sure? Yes.
Puente needs to trade up.
If he can give the government something You don't think I know this? I know this.
This is what I do.
This is what I did with you many times.
He doesn't have anything to trade, Judge.
He has to find someone.
Well, he can't make someone up.
He doesn't deserve this.
Neither did Jordan Ahmed.
Or Michael Frontiere.
Or Merced Jimenez, and that was just last week.
We defend people like Rodrigo Puente every day, and every day, they don't deserve this.
Today is different.
The only thing different about today is you.
[SCOFFS] You've imposed this sentence more times than I can remember.
When you went to the bench, I wasn't optimistic.
I'm speaking frankly, just the two of us.
But you've surprised me your compassion, your mercy.
You've also had blind spots, and this was one of them.
This is a good thing, whatever's happening to you.
SANDRA: "Stainless steel", blah, blah, blah.
Something about Geneva.
Okay, here it is each watch has a unique serial number engraved on the back.
"H" followed by six numbers.
Toby's right.
It's a fake.
Mm.
Do you have any idea how much my parents paid for this? Don't think about it.
- Have more fake wine.
- [SIGHS] - Mmm.
Ah! I really can't tell the difference.
This guy is good.
- Looking.
- That too.
How is it that your first time on duty, you get him? Great packaging, I confess, but this is a hard case inside.
He made fake wine.
They found a lab.
None of this is really in question.
I should probably get rid of this, huh? Why? Because it doesn't have an authentic serial number? Who cares? You love that watch.
And it works.
Does it work? Or do you think that's why you get in late? It bothers me it isn't real.
Are we really just going to give up on that idea? That there is something important about quality and authenticity? Am I really supposed to believe that what's on the inside doesn't count? Toby believes that.
He didn't always.
He didn't always believe that.
That's it.
[KEYBOARD CLACKING] LEONARD: Let's talk about Vonner Capital.
You know I have a tight schedule.
What's this all about? Vonner Capital's where Phil Stoller went for the money to pay off his mistress' husband.
The top three executives of Vonner Capital are all huge donors of yours, too.
- I wasn't aware of that.
- I think you were.
I think that's why you wanted me off this case.
If Vonner Capital gets implicated in a federal criminal investigation, you're linked to tainted donors, forced to return millions in contributions.
Your own fundraising goes under the microscope.
If I was so worried this investigation would tarnish me, don't you think I'd ask you to drop it - instead of dropping off of it? - You're too smart.
That'd be obstruction.
My career does not depend on one donor.
Your career depends on putting yourself first.
Ahead of your own son.
How can you even think that? First campaign you ever ran, how many TV ads did you stick me in? Four? I was a prop to you.
I still am.
You begged to be in those ads.
I was 10, and maybe I just wanted to be with my mom.
It's not my career, Leonard.
It's ours.
In fact, yours more than mine.
And you're gonna go a lot farther than I have.
You're gonna go all the way.
JAY: If we can give the government someone higher up anyone it might help.
I don't know anybody.
The person you got the package from.
A.
P.
A.
P.
? He made less on this than I did.
Is there anybody else? I'm not in the game.
It was just easy money.
This judge, he's all right, right? He doesn't want to sentence you to 10 years, - but if you don't - [SCOFFS] 10 years.
10 years? My son, he's six months old.
He's doing that thing where he he pulls himself up.
He's so proud, he's standing, and then boom, he's flat, you know? Like where the hell did that floor come from? SETH: How long have you been with the DEA, Agent Manello? 11 years, 10 months.
Based on your training and experience, Agent Manello, do you have an opinion as to whether drug organizations ever use couriers who are unaware of what they're transporting? I've never seen that, sir.
Agent Manello, you weren't the arresting agent - in this case, correct? - That's correct.
And you have no previous history with Mr.
Puente? Correct.
So is it fair to say that you have no personal knowledge as to whether Mr.
Puente was aware that the package he was carrying contained methamphetamines? I can only testify to my experience.
And in my experience, drug couriers always know what they are carrying and when detained, always claim not to.
But isn't it possible that Mr.
Puente thought You ever order take-out? Yes, Your Honor.
Ever pick up at the restaurant? Bag is stapled.
You grab it, walk away, don't look in the bag.
I suppose I have, Your Honor.
Now let's say you get stopped on your walk home.
Police look in the bag.
Find out every carton in your take-out is packed with cocaine.
What would you say? I asked you a question.
I would say I didn't know that was in there.
So you'd agree it's at least possible Mr.
Puente was carrying something he didn't know the contents of, right? I can't say.
Well, you've done that.
You just testified you've done that, right? Answer the question, Agent Manello.
Objection.
Yes or no.
Objection.
I'm entitled to ask questions in my own courtroom.
And I'm entitled to object.
This isn't gonna work.
What you're doing it's never gonna work.
You're right.
It's not.
I'm gonna instruct the jury that if they convict Puente, he faces a mandatory minimum - of 10 years in prison.
- Judge You cannot tell the jury about the potential sentence.
You cannot do that! I can, and I'm going to.
That is a flagrant violation of judicial conduct.
Jill, this is wrong.
I have a client.
I work for Rodrigo Puente.
I'm going to instruct the jury about the sentence.
I'm not sentencing Mr.
Puente to 10 years in prison.
Forget your past with him for a second.
- This isn't about my past with him.
- He's a good judge.
I don't agree with him a lot.
I don't.
But he's honorable.
If he's willing to try something this extreme, don't you think there might be something here worth taking a minute to There is nothing I can do.
You could drop the quantity of drugs from the indictment.
That gets him out from the mandatory minimum.
I don't want to get him out from the mandatory minimum.
You're working from the wrong assumption.
This is the law.
I'm trying to enforce the law.
The Congressman places a massive order with a small, unproven, never-used-before printing company owned by the husband of the Congressman's mistress.
Bring charges.
Congressman places a substantial but much-needed order with a legitimate printing company in the last days of an expensive and competitive reelection campaign.
Don't bring charges.
The case relies entirely on the testimony of a credible, sympathetic witness with a consistent story and nothing to materially gain by lying.
Bring charges.
A case that relies entirely on the uncorroborated testimony of a self-righteously angry witness with a thirst for revenge.
- Don't bring charges.
- [SIGHS] What's the score so far? It's a three-way tie between "bring charges," "don't bring charges," and "I shoot myself.
" - Do you want to know what my gut says? - No.
My gut says this a rare opportunity to make a personal impression on the United States Attorney and the chance of that happening again anytime soon is slim to nada.
Don't do that.
Mix English and Spanish in the same sentence.
- It's - Awesome? Terrible.
Look, there is evidence and strong arguments on both sides.
There's no right answer here.
You just have to make a call.
Can you grab me that binder? You gave up on what you cared about.
You love wine, but you're helping to destroy it in the name of revenge.
Don't do that.
If there is rampant fraud in the industry, why are you making it worse? Why not try to stop it? This is my defense? Actually, it is.
1984 Garmeaux et Fournier.
Correct.
Hmm.
2005 Domaine Greuze Bourgogne.
This one isn't here.
It's probably claiming to be that bottle of 1997 Domaine Sagnier, which is a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay, but it's actually a mix of Gamay Pinot gris.
That is correct.
Here's the deal.
You can continue with this case against a small player like Toby, who got into this forgery for noble, albeit misguided reasons, or you can retain the exclusive services of one of the most distinguished palates in the world to help you in the detection and prosecution of systematic, large-scale wine fraud the kind of fraud that you actually really care about.
I really want to take you to France.
[HORN HONKS] Go ahead.
I believe that Congressman Stoller misappropriated campaign funds for the purposes of concealing the affair he was having.
File the case.
But I don't believe I can prove it.
I can walk you through my rationale.
If there's no case, there's no case.
Walking out of my office now would be just fine.
Thank you, Mr.
Fox.
Knox.
Mr.
Knox.
Doesn't sound like the Nick Byrne I know.
He used to be a judge.
ROGER: People change.
File an emergency Writ of Mandamus in the 2nd Circuit.
That'll prevent Byrne from giving the jury instruction.
If he ignores that, he's finished as a judge.
We can file a superseding indictment without any quantity of drugs.
That would give the judge the flexibility to avoid the mandatory minimum.
We don't do that.
This is an exceptional circumstance.
Why? This defendant has no priors with jail time.
That doesn't sound exceptional.
That sounds like what the law contemplates.
Have you gone soft, Roger? File the Writ.
File the Writ.
Yes, sir.
[CHUCKLES] Young and ruthless.
Remember that? You shouldn't have done that.
I was given an order.
You can question an order.
You have an ethical obligation to question an order you don't believe in.
[CHUCKLES] "You're prosecuting the case because I told you to.
I told you to prosecute the case because she broke the law.
" That's what you said last time I questioned an order of yours.
Maybe I was wrong.
I don't think you were.
I filed the Writ.
- No charges.
- Okay, then.
I think I made the right decision.
I'm worried my mom got into my head.
Your mommy is in your head and you're in my office.
Everyone is suffering.
Are you jealous? - Of what? - Me.
Why would I be jealous of you? 'Cause I got the high-profile case and you didn't.
You mean the secret investigation that turned into nothing? No.
Not jealous.
I'd understand if you were.
What do you want from me? You want me to drop everything to make you feel important? You need to find somebody else to babysit your self-esteem.
I don't want that job.
You're so judgmental.
Is that supposed to be an insult? - I can do better.
- Unlikely.
You're cold.
Ouchy.
You're self-righteous.
You're rigid.
You're boring, predictable, bland, callow, shallow, pretentious, sententious, whiny.
These are insults.
I want you to leave my office.
- Would it work? - Would what work? Us.
Would we work? You asked me out for a drink and I said no.
Because I worried about what would happen to us.
Would it work? It was just a drink.
I'm sorry if I gave you the wrong impression.
Nothing to be sorry about.
Leonard? I scored it 7-6 in favor of "no charges.
" You did the right thing.
Thanks for keeping score.
[HORNS HONK] [ELEVATOR DINGS] Who delivers the Writ? Tina? I think so.
I don't know.
This is weird.
Yes.
Like, not in that way where we don't know anything and we think everything is weird.
This is actually weird.
That way.
Yes.
When Byrne started 30 years ago, he probably walked in here every day.
Feeling righteous, waking up, wanting to do the right thing, putting the bad guys in jail.
I'm sure it's intoxicating, in theory.
But it never ends.
There's always another bad guy, and sometimes the bad guys aren't that bad.
It must break you a little every day.
Not you I don't mean you.
Just [SIGHS] the idealism the belief in the law and all that's right and beautiful about it.
Maybe it's hard to sustain.
And then someone makes you a judge, and now now you have the power because you decide.
But you don't, not really.
Not all the time.
At what point does some clerk find you in your chambers rending your garments and carving "no hope" into your chest with a picture of your dog looking over you? Dude.
Yep.
Sorry.
[SIGHS] Just talking.
I don't think Byrne's lost his idealism.
I don't think he'd be doing this if he did.
I think that's what this is about.
It's real.
That righteous feeling you wake up with ever day.
I wake up with it.
So do you.
The Second Circuit granted the Writ.
You can't issue those instructions to the jury, which means I know what it means.
[SIGHS] It's time for me to step down.
Then you don't know what that means.
This all has to end somewhere.
Julien Barley is dead.
That is a fact.
It is a cold, sad fact, but a fact nonetheless.
I looked it up.
You sentenced Julien Barley.
A cold, sad fact.
And nothing you're doing is gonna bring him back.
I don't normally lecture grown men because they're stupid and they don't listen, but you need to hear this.
You are rare.
You are good.
You're not the world's greatest judge, but you're better than most.
You are fair.
You are a black man.
You keep hot sauce in your drawer.
You do more staying on the bench than nailing yourself to this cross.
That's it.
I'm done.
You're a grown man.
The choice is yours.
Just let me know if, uh I got to get my own.
Darling There's something that you don't know I said some things before Not so sure anymore I lose Give me something that you can't choose We've been lost in this show We've mistaken the foe Give me something my heart can choose Guess you stole the unknown Brought me something I know Didn't you I'm in need of your love I'm in need of your love Is it the meaning of love I'm in need of your love I'm in need of your love Please me I don't need all your fears, there's Something you lose When we love Please me Heal my wound again Give me something that you can't choose Maybe higher we'll grow We'll disappear in a blow THERESA: All rise! The honorable Judge Nicholas Byrne presiding.
I'm in need of your love JUDGE BYRNE: Will the defendant please rise? Mr.
Puente, you have been found guilty of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.
This was a non-violent offense.
You have been honest and forthright in this courtroom.
You have shown remorse.
As far as I can tell, you are a decent young man who found himself in a bad situation.
I am not from New York, but I am a New Yorker.
I cam here on a Greyhound bus from Gasden, Alabama in 1965.
This city has changed substantially since then.
There are no cars in Times Square.
Brooklyn is filled with high-rises.
Black folks are a minority in Harlem these days.
Crime is at an all-time low in Manhattan.
But no one ever seems to ask the question they should be asking in between their Broadway shows and swanky dinners.
"At what cost?" Here, from this bench, listening to cases just like yours, I see the cost.
The cost looks me in the eye.
The cost runs deep.
It shatters lives, splinters families, destroys futures.
It is unrepentant.
This is rightly a bitter pill to swallow, Mr.
Puente but you are the cost.
Julien Barley is the cost.
[DOOR UNLOCKS] We are cannibalizing a generation of New Yorkers [DOOR CREAKS OPEN] but this is happening all over the country.
Low-level, non-violent crimes that trigger disproportionate mandatory minimum sentences.
And I'm part of the problem.
I have not spoken out against these sentences.
I've failed you, I failed Julien Barley, I've failed thousands of other underrepresented people.
I have not done my duty as a New Yorker, as a black American, as a father to protect people who look like me, walk the same streets as I do, from laws that are not designed to rehabilitate, but to destroy.
My hands are reluctantly and unwillingly tied in this situation.
I have no choice but to sentence you, Mr.
Puente, to 10 years in federal prison.
I have no business asking anything of you, Mr.
Puente, but I would ask you to take a long look at your family on your way out of this courtroom.
Lock that picture in your head and do not let go of it.
Hold on to it.
That is hope when there's no hope left.
Please do not let anyone take that away from you.
One last thing, Mr.
Puente.
I'm so very sorry.