I’m a little late to this story, but it’s (seemingly) crazy enough that it’s worth addressing. A fellow in Florida named John Horner was 46 years old and had been legitimately prescribed some painkillers after losing an eye in an accident. A few years later, he sold four bottles of apparently left over painkillers to someone who turned out to be a government informant. The informant had befriended Horner and pretended to be in pain. The informant claimed that he could not pay for both his rent and his prescriptions to handle the pain. So Horner sold him pills. Horner’s record, apparently, consisted of a 28-year-old conviction for statutory rape at age 18. His sentence for selling the painkillers? A mandatory 25 years, minimum.
That’s disturbing enough on its face, but also disturbing is what the officials told him after he was arrested: give us five more guys like you and we’ll reduce the sentence to 10 years:
Under the deal he signed with prosecutors, he agreed to plead guilty. But if he helped make prosecutable cases against five other people on drug-trafficking charges – charges carrying 25-year minimum terms – his own sentence could be reduced from 25 years to 10.
I’m disturbed by the idea that one can cut their sentence so drastically, but only if they successfully make out a specified number of other prosecutable cases. Making a deal with someone on condition that they tell the truth can be appropriate. Making a deal with someone on condition that they cooperate with you in trying to solve crimes can be appropriate. But I’m bothered by the existence of a quota. To me, that creates an incentive for someone to cut corners or go over the top. Which, just from the description of Horner’s case, appears to have happened to him. Having someone approach you claiming they are in pain and that they can’t pay for their pills is a pretty aggressive approach.
By the way, Horner made the deal, but couldn’t come through:
Horner failed to make cases against drug traffickers.
As a result, he was sentenced to the full 25 years in October last year and is now serving his sentence in Liberty Correctional Institution, outside Tallahassee. He will be 72 by the time he is released.
He has three young kids.
I often find that stories about crimes leave out details that make the defendant seem less sympathetic, and that may be the case here. I have contacted the Osceola County Attorney to ask them about the case, and if they tell me anything of interest, I will let you know. It’s hard to imagine what they could say that would make me feel right about this guy getting sent away for 25 years, but you never know unless you ask.