Friday, March 14, 2008

Former SC State Treasurer sentenced to prison

Left: Thomas Ravenel on his way to court, September 2007, photo by Alan Devorsey of the Greenville News.

Judge delays former treasurer's sentence for 5 months

Friday, March 14, 2008

By Tim Smith

COLUMBIA -- Former state Treasurer Thomas Ravenel was sentenced to 10 months in prison, but the start of the sentence was delayed for 5 months. He also was fined $250,000, including $28,000 restitution to the state for the special election held to replace him.

The delay is to see what comes from the information Ravenel and his co-defendant Michael Miller, provided investigators.

A third man charged in the case, Pasquale Pellicoro, an Italian citizen, fled before his arraignment and has been sought ever since by the FBI. He was charged in a second indictment in the case, following the original indictment of Ravenel and Miller.

"We’re still looking for him," McDonald said today.

Ravenel, a Charleston multimillionare, and Miller, a Mount Pleasant disc jockey, are scheduled to be sentenced this afternoon by U.S. District Judge Joseph Anderson.

Both pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy with intent to distribute cocaine. Miller also pleaded guilty to a count of distribution of cocaine.

Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, but a pre-trial report recommended 10-16 months for Ravenel, according to his lawyers.

Miller sold cocaine to Ravenel, who used it and gave it to friends, according to prosecutors.

In their "downward departure" motion filed Thursday, prosecutors argued that Ravenel and Miller had been cooperative.

"He has given a complete debriefing of his participation in the drug conspiracy and the participation of others involved in the conspiracy and provided the government with historical information concerning drug distribution in the Charleston area," prosecutors stated in identical motions for both men.

"Based upon this information, the government has indicted another individual who is a fugitive from justice."

Common Cause of South Carolina, a non-profit watchdog group, has asked Anderson to require that Ravenel pay for the cost of the special session by lawmakers to choose his replacement, said John Crangle, director of the organization. If Anderson follows the group’s suggestion, he said, it would be a first in the nation.

"The significance of it in our view is this is a national precedent," he said. "No judge, as far as we can tell, has ever required a public official who is a criminal defendant to do this kind of restitution before."

He said the cost totaled about $30,000. If other federal judges were to follow such a precedent, he said, it could mean defendants who were congressmen would have to repay states millions of dollars for the cost of the elections held to select their replacement.

Ravenel and Miller were indicted last summer by a federal grand jury.

Gov. Mark Sanford suspended Ravenel, and Ravenel resigned in September and pleaded guilty.

Miller originally also faced a state charge of trafficking in cocaine. The charge was later dropped, and he was indicted on seven counts of distribution of cocaine. Miller pleaded guilty last year to one of those counts.

Giving Ravenel a break is justified, his lawyers argued in a motion earlier this year.

"He has already begun actively trying to make amends in a variety of ways ranging from treatment and resignation to cooperating with law enforcement authorities," lawyers E. Bart Daniel and Gedney Howe wrote in their motion. "The additional punishment of jail time is not necessary in this instance."

The lawyers described his crime as a "modest scale, first-time offense."

"It is unusual in terms of the manner of distribution," they argued in their motion. "The offense has already carried with it severe and much publicized ramifications for Mr. Ravenel. Mr. Ravenel has and is learning from this experience."

Daniel declined to comment this week on his client’s sentencing.

Both men are free on bond. Miller was briefly detained late last year after he was arrested by Mount Pleasant police on charges of striking an officer and disorderly conduct.

Leaders of the black community told The Greenville News in November that African-Americans in the state are watching the case to see how Miller is treated in comparison to Ravenel, a white 45-year-old Charleston multimillionare.

Former U.S. Attorney Reggie Lloyd has said what is important isn’t that both men are treated equally, since the facts of their cases are different, but that both are treated fairly.

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Anonymous said...

Pasquale Pellicoro