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UNITED STATES v. DELGADO

February 19, 1998

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA against MARIA DELGADO, Defendant


The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEINSTEIN

 WEINSTEIN, Senior District Court Judge :

 I. Introduction

 People often live lives of silent desperation. Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or Life in the Woods 9 (Vintage Books 1991)(1854). This defendant, faced with a desperate situation, resorted to criminal action quite inconsistent with her past life and probable future. Under the circumstances, a downward departure in her sentence is appropriate.

 II. Facts

 Defendant, born in Cali, Columbia in 1950, was one of six children. Her father was a sanitation worker, her mother sorted coffee beans. The child had only three years of school. She was frequently beaten with a belt and stick by her father.

 At sixteen she left her family's home to marry. While defendant was unemployed, had a six month old infant, and another child on the way, her husband was killed in a fishing accident. Emotional counseling was required, but did not fully compensate for her ensuing emotional instability, evidenced in part by her crawling under her bed when visitors came to see her. At the sentencing hearing, defendant was unable to discuss her husband's death of thirty years ago without sobbing.

 After becoming a widow, defendant worked at low pay for a short period at a shirt factory. Subsequent employment as a meat counter salesperson continued for over fourteen years. Relying upon her earnings, defendant raised her two daughters and sent them to school. She herself attended night school, earning a professional salesperson's diploma.

 In 1992 her employment was terminated as no longer useful to the company. She had to sell her home to pay off her mortgage and bills. Efforts to start a business were unsuccessful. She borrowed at high interest to pay living expenses. Her creditor insisted that only if she went to the United States carrying drugs would her debt be erased. As an added inducement, she was promised $ 6,000.

 Defendant declined. Pressure continued.

 Early one morning the creditor telephoned to say that travel arrangements had been made for her to go to the United States. Her flight was leaving at noon and agents were already on the way to take her to the airport. Defendant's protests were ignored.

 A man and a woman soon arrived to escort defendant to her plane where she was provided with a ticket John F. Kennedy International Airport. They took her handbag and substituted a suitcase which had been packed with clothes and some 700 grams of heroin.

 Detected by our customs agents at once, she was arrested and pleaded guilty to one count of importation of heroin. 18 U.S.C. § 952(a).

 At sentencing, defendant, slight in stature, with no previous brush with the law, was exceptionally anxious and upset. She appeared to be ...


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