The opinion of the court was delivered by: Glasser, District Judge:
Prior to proceeding with the pronouncement of sentence upon
this defendant, the government was advised of the court's
intention to depart downwardly from the guidelines and
announced its readiness to proceed with sentence.
I began with summarizing the facts upon which my sentence
determination will be based.
Ms. Handy pleaded guilty to a single count indictment
charging her with conspiring with William Johnson to distribute
and possess with intent to distribute cocaine. The events
leading up to her arrest describe a reverse buy — that is to
say — the defendants were not selling cocaine to an undercover
officer or to a confidential informant, but were negotiating to
buy cocaine for a stated price. The money with which to
consummate the purchase was in a handbag on the floor near Ms.
Handy and totaled $75,000. Also in her handbag were a diluent
used to "cut" cocaine and glassine envelopes.
Johnson was, for the preceding five years, Handy's boyfriend.
On the day prior to her arrest, he requested her to accompany
him to New York City to buy narcotics. She agreed to accompany
him and to carry the purchase money. She denied ever having
done so before. She admitted to knowing for at least two years
of Johnson's involvement in illegal activity based upon the
inconsistency between his lifestyle and his earnings as a meat
cutter and she suspected that the illegal activity was drug
The facts which identify this defendant as Nadine Handy, a
person, rather than an objective manifestation of discrete
criteria to which are assigned numbers which, when added
together yield a sentencing result, are as follows:
She was born in Baltimore, Maryland, thirty-six years ago.
She was one of ten children whose father died when she was
three and whose mother died at the age of forty when the
defendant was fifteen years old. She is the mother of three
out-of-wedlock children. She gave birth to her first child when
she was seventeen and still in high school. He is now nineteen
years old and is a strong candidate for a basketball
scholarship to college with aspirations of playing professional
Ms. Handy has been gainfully employed for the past thirteen
years. For the past eight years she has been employed by the
same firm, Farm Fresh Food, Inc. in Baltimore to which she
returned to resume her work when released on bail. She has
borne the sole responsibility for rearing her three children
and supporting them without public assistance. She also
undertook to care for the two children of her boyfriend,
Johnson, when they came to Baltimore from California. Letters
written on behalf of Ms. Handy describe her selflessness in
that regard and the positive influence she has had on their
The picture of Ms. Handy portrayed by the salient facts I
summarized and by the many letters on her behalf, is of a young
woman born into and reared in poverty in an urban environment
which is a socio-economic minefield through which she threaded
her way and emerged unscathed, relatively speaking. That is to
say, she abjured the suffocating effects of the world of
welfare for the independence and dignity-reinforcing world of
work and has been steadily and gainfully employed for thirteen
years. She has single-handedly and successfully guided three
children through the socio-economic minefield of a not
atypically treacherous urban environment. Letters addressed to
the court attest to the high regard in which she is held at
work and in her community. What then brings her before the
court? The explanation which is all but inescapable is that
this single parent fell in love with the co-defendant, William
Johnson and despite her many other strengths did not have the
strength to say "no" to him. The story is as old as the story
of civilization — he offered her an apple and she did eat.
That the government did not view her as a sophisticated,
knowledgeable drug dealer is indicated by its stipulation at
the time of her plea not to oppose a four point guideline
reduction for her minimal role in the offense. There is no
indication that the defendant was drawn to trafficking in drugs
by the lure of the huge sums of money incident to such traffic.
Were that the case it would be reasonable to assume that she
would not persist in working as a meat wrapper at an average
salary of approximately $250 per week.
Is a downward modification appropriate and justified by the
statutes and the guidelines promulgated pursuant thereto? I
believe it is. I believe that the conclusion I reach is one a
sentencing judge is permitted to reach within the framework of
the guidelines. I do not depart as an expression of general
dissatisfaction with the guidelines. It is rather late in the
day for that and would be tilting at windmills. In addition
such dissatisfaction has been expressed quite eloquently by
others. See, e.g., dissenting opinion by Chief Judge Merritt in
United States v. Brewer, 899 F.2d 503, 512 (6th Cir. 1990) ("In
devising a fair sentencing system, there is something worse
than small disparities in sentencing — mechanistic rules that
impose unjust or arbitrary punishment because they preclude the
sentencing judge from considering all relevant factors and
nuances in the case.").
What is the framework of the statutes and guidelines within
which I depart?
I begin with Policy Statement 4(b) of the U.S.S.G. at pp.
1.5, 1.6 (Nov. 1, 1990), which, in relevant parts read:
The sentencing statute permits a court to depart
from a guideline-specified sentence only when it
finds an "aggravating or mitigating circumstance
of a kind, or to a degree, not adequately taken
into consideration by the Sentencing Commission in
formulating the guidelines that should result in a
sentence different from that described." 18 U.S.C. § 3553(b).
The Commission intends the sentencing
courts to treat each guideline as carving out a
"heartland," a set of typical cases embodying the
conduct that each guideline describes. . . . the
Commission does not intend to limit ...