Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bias in Cocaine Sentencing Remains

By Kara Gotsch

Willie Mays Aikens was not a drug kingpin, but he received a kingpin-sized sentence for selling crack cocaine. A former Kansas City Royal and 1980 World Series record holder, Aikens received a 21-year sentence for selling 63 grams of crack. At the end of his baseball career he had become addicted to powder cocaine but had no previous record for drug distribution when an undercover officer asked him to sell the drugs that led to his lengthy incarceration in 1994. This month Aikens received a sentence reduction after 14 years in prison -- authorized due to the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s determination that penalties for crack cocaine offenses are unnecessarily harsh. He returned to his major league hometown, Kansas City, to enter a halfway house, and hopes to soon reunite with his daughters, who live in Mexico with their mother.

Aikens’s release coincides this month with the 22-year anniversary of the death of Len Bias, another prominent sports figure who played basketball at the University of Maryland. His legendary cocaine overdose on the night he was drafted by the Boston Celtics launched the punitive legislative reaction by Congress that would later subject Aikens to a stiff mandatory sentence for selling crack cocaine.


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