Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Michigan: Commutation of Sentence

The Free Press reports that Gov. Jennifer Granholm has granted a commutation of sentence to Joseph Puertas, a businessman whose family's assets were seized "in a high-profile and widely criticized drug case -- one where no drugs were ever found." Puertas, 81, who suffers from bladder cancer and congestive heart disease is expected to leave a correctional facility in July. He will have served 15 months of a 2- to 40-year sentence. An Oakland County prosecutor has not yet responded to requests for comment. The Free Press provide this background on the case:

Puertas' long, winding trip through the justice system began in 1997 when 100 drug officers, with drug-sniffing dogs, raided the MegaBowl, a bowling alley owned by the Puertas family in Orion Township, and several other family businesses. They found no drugs, no record of drug dealing and no drug paraphernalia. But they did locate $1.9 million in cash the family had in safes.

Gorcyca's office charged Puertas with drug dealing, contending the cash was proceeds from the drug business, and sought to seize the money under the state's controversial drug forfeiture laws.

The case against Puertas rested mostly on the testimony of Joseph Sweeney, a drug addict and twice-convicted felon police recruited to investigate Puertas, who had served time in prison in the 1980s for drug dealing.

Sweeney testified during Puertas' 1999 trial that he bought cocaine from Puertas at the bowling alley six times in late 1997.

But police, using hidden cameras and audio surveillance equipment, never were able to document a sale, nor did undercover officers inside the bowling alley ever witness a sale. A jury convicted Puertas of delivery of a controlled substance and running a criminal enterprise.
See this very interesting story here.

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