G. OIG Analysis of Ross' Allegations
The San Jose Mercury News and Ross himself have made a number of allegations relating to the prosecution and sentencing of Ross. Chief among these claims are: (1) Ross was targeted even before his release from prison because of his cooperation against the corrupt police officers in the "Big Spender" trial or because of racism; (2) federal prosecutors improperly barred Ross' defense attorney from pursuing the issue of the CIA and the Contras at Ross' trial, possibly with the encouragement of the CIA; (3) Ross should not have been convicted because Blandon imported and sold cocaine on behalf of the Contras with the knowledge of the United States government in the 1980s; (4) the government violated its constitutional obligation to disclose certain information it had about Blandon, and (5) Ross was unfairly punished when compared to the treatment of Blandon.
The similarities between Ross' claims and those in the Mercury News articles are not coincidental. Several times during Ross' trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney L. J. O'Neale noted for the record that Gary Webb was present in court. In a "Timeline" prepared by Webb and provided to the OIG by Swiss journalist Georg Hodel, who helped Webb prepare the articles, Webb quotes some cross-examination of Blandon from the Ross trial and states in parentheses, "one of my questions, by the way." Ross told the OIG that Webb was the source of the cross-examination questions that Ross' attorney put to Blandon about the Contras and the CIA. Ross also told the OIG that he had initially negotiated with the same agent who had arranged a movie deal for Gary Webb based on the "Dark Alliance" series. Ross now plans to produce his own movie about his life, so he can guarantee that the story is told correctly.
We will address each of these main allegations raised by Ross.
1. Allegation that Ross Was Improperly Targeted Before He was Released From Prison Because of His Prior Testimony Against Corrupt Police Officers or Because of Racism
Ross has alleged that DEA targeted him prior to his release from prison, despite a lack of any evidence that he was engaged in drug trafficking, because of his cooperation against police officers in the "Big Spender" trial. He later alleged that he was targeted by Blandon because of Blandon's dislike of African-Americans. Our review did not support either allegation, and the trial court also rejected these claims.
a. Allegation of Improper Targeting of Ross Before Release from Prison
In the August 12, 1994, memorandum that DEA SA Jones prepared for Assistant U.S. Attorney O'Neale in connection with Blandon's successful Rule 35 motion for a reduction of sentence, Jones set out a "list of significant violators and other information provided by Blandon after his sentencing." Among other items, this memorandum stated:
Ricky ROSS - Mr. Blandon remains in contact with Ricky ROSS and his associates in the Los Angeles area. ROSS and associates are responsible for the distribution of major quantities of rock cocaine in the Southern California area. It is anticipated that Mr. Blandon will be able to reestablished [sic] himself with Ricky ROSS and his organization if released from custody.
When Blandon was released from prison in September 1994, Ross was still in prison, but was himself released shortly thereafter. According to O'Neale, Blandon's wife, Chepita, was friends with Ross' former secretary. Shortly after Ross got out of jail, Ross' former secretary called Chepita and said that Ross wanted to talk to Blandon. Chepita gave her Blandon's number in Nicaragua. Chepita then called Blandon and told him that Ross was going to call him collect. On October 16, 1994, Ross called Blandon in Nicaragua and mentioned a proposed drug deal. The call was taped by Blandon. O'Neale learned about the tape, but said that no one thought much of it at the time because it did not sound like Ross would be able to come up with any money in order to complete a drug transaction.
O'Neale said that Ross later introduced Blandon to someone named "Chris" who wanted to do a drug deal. Once again, no one believed that Chris was able to go through with the deal. Blandon told the DEA that there was "no way" that Chris could actually complete a deal. But Ross came back to Blandon on February 23, 1995, and talked "real money," according to Blandon, making it appear as though Ross was prepared to go through with a narcotics transaction. O'Neale said he did not open a case on Ross until this time. O'Neale characterized it as a "reactive" case instead of proactive. He said the case was completed in about a week. Leroy Brown acted as the "money man" and was the main defendant.
DEA SA Jones told the OIG that he was not familiar with Ross when Blandon first started discussing him. He recalled that the investigation of Ross started only after Ross called Blandon collect in Nicaragua and discussed a possible narcotics transaction. Jones also stated that Ross had not been targeted because of his testimony against the Los Angeles officers. Jones said that he could not even recall whether he had known about this testimony when the investigation started or had learned of it later.
As discussed above, SA Jones was cross-examined about the August 1994 memorandum he wrote regarding the potential targets that Blandon could work on. Jones testified that he "used Mr. Ross' name as an indicator" of the group of people with whom Ross associated. Jones testified that when Blandon got out of prison, he told Jones that Mike Smith would probably be the most productive target of the group that included Ross.
The government later filed a declaration in support of post-trial motions from Jones stating that, as Jones had testified at trial, he had written a memorandum at the time of the Rule 35 motion in Blandon's case detailing the past and potential value of Blandon as an informant. His statement in the memorandum that "Ricky Ross and his associates" were targets was intended to mean the "Ross organization, members of which were continuing in drug trafficking." The declaration stated that Ross was not personally a target of any investigation at that time. Rather, there were two other specific members of the Ross organization who were targeted. The declaration also stated that after Ross telephoned Blandon in Nicaragua on October 16, 1994, Jones followed his usual habit and custom when he considered someone a possible target by ordering a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) records search, as well as a photograph and search of criminal history records. Jones' declaration reported that he ordered a DMV record search for Ross and his photograph on October 20, 1994, after the collect call from Ross to Blandon. Jones attached a copy of the search request, which included a computer generated date of October 20, 1994 on it.
More evidence that Ross was not targeted in retaliation for his testimony against the corrupt police officers comes from the fact that the government gave him an opportunity to cooperate after his arrest. SA Jones told the OIG that Ross had announced that he wanted to cooperate immediately after his arrest, and had provided information on a real estate developer with whom he was associated. Ross made some phone calls to the realtor, but the DEA agents decided not to place Ross on the street due to his past record and flight risk. SA Jones told us that the DEA would not have even considered releasing Ross, given his long criminal history, his recidivism in the drug industry, and his high-speed flight from the arrest scene. Efforts to make a controlled delivery of drugs to the realtor were unsuccessful. Ross also spoke with Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) Task Force agents about the realtor's involvement in an arson, but the ATF agents soon concluded that Ross was also involved with the crime. Assistant U.S. Attorney O'Neale recalled that Ross made a half-hearted attempt to cooperate after his arrest, but that it never went past the preliminary stages. O'Neale characterized Ross' efforts to us as "self-serving and ineffectual."
In response to the defense allegations that the government's actions constituted outrageous government misconduct because it allegedly released Blandon to target Ross, the trial court found: "Merely providing a defendant the opportunity to commit a crime is not outrageous conduct. Ross did not have to participate in the crime or bring other drug dealers in contact with Blandon. Furthermore, Blandon was not solely targeting Ross, but was providing extensive substantial assistance to the government." The court found that the declaration of Jones and DEA radio operator Everett Penny, who ran Ross' criminal record and ordered his photograph on October 20, 1994, corroborated the trial testimony of Jones that: (1) Ross had not been considered as a possible target until after the October 16, 1994, phone call in which Ross asked Blandon for cocaine; and (2) it was not until October 20, 1994, that Agent Jones ordered information and a photograph of Ross. The court added: "Even if Blandon decided that Ross was one of his former drug associates that he would contact earlier than October 1994, this does not constitute outrageous government conduct." The court also found that there was ample evidence to support the jury's rejection of Ross' entrapment defense.
Based on our review, we also conclude that the government did not improperly target Ross. We will not address the narrower question of whether the government's dealings with Ross constituted entrapment, since entrapment was an issue for the jury in Ross' case. The jury rejected this defense, the trial court found no reason to disturb its verdict, and the matter can be considered by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where Ross' appeal is pending.
It should be noted, however, that the jury did not even get to consider some additional evidence that Ross was predisposed to buy cocaine from Blandon, which was relevant to the entrapment claim. After Ross' trial, an inmate named Jack Hutchinson contacted the prosecution and reported that he had been incarcerated in the MCC with Ross in the summer and fall of 1995, when they had become friendly. According to Hutchinson, Ross had said that, immediately after Ross' release from prison in Texas, he had returned to Los Angeles to reestablish himself in the drug business and was selling approximately 25-30 kilograms of cocaine a week. Ross said that he had usually received the cocaine from Leroy Brown, with whom he had formed a record company so that Ross would have an explanation for his association with Brown, a well-known drug dealer. Ross also had spoken of spending time with a probation officer named Jim Galipeau in order to conceal his drug activities. Hutchinson also reported that Ross said he was already in the drug business when he originally met Blandon, and that Blandon charged him more for cocaine, but "cut him some slack by fronting the cocaine."
Reports from jailhouse informants must always be treated with some caution. And, as we note below, we found Hutchinson not to be credible on other matters.
b. Allegation that Blandon targeted Ross because of racism
On September 9, 1996, Ross' defense counsel, Alan Fenster, filed a motion to dismiss Ross' convictions and a motion for the production of certain evidence. These motions stated that Fenster had been called by Rafael Cornejo, who was then being prosecuted in another federal narcotics case. Cornejo had told Fenster about 60 tapes that Cornejo had received during discovery in his case. The tapes had been recorded during the DEA's investigation of Blandon in 1990 and contained drug-related conversations involving Blandon. According to Fenster's motion, these tapes contained numerous racial slurs against African-American people, "as well as statements of Blandon indicating his predisposition to target African-Americans as particular recipients of his cocaine distribution network."
The government noted in its response, however, that although someone on the tape did use a racial epithet, that person was not Blandon. The epithet was made by another person after Blandon had stated that his customers were not Japanese but black. Blandon did not respond to the racial epithet on the tape, and the government noted that Blandon made no statements suggesting any predisposition to target African-Americans.
2. Allegation that the Government Prevented Ross from Raising the CIA Issue at Trial
Prior to trial, Ross' defense counsel Alan Fenster complained that the government had failed to turn over, as required by Maryland v. Brady, documents that allegedly showed that Blandon sold drugs for the Contras as early as 1979. At a hearing, Fenster noted: "We know that the CIA became involved with that whole operation and it was guns and drugs and monies supplied by the government and it was a whole corrupt situation."
On March 4, 1996, the court ruled that the government had not violated Brady by failing to provide a CIA file regarding Blandon because there was no evidence that any such file existed. The court also stated that the defense had an obligation to follow procedures under the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) if it wished to obtain classified information about any subject, but the defense had not done so in this case. However, the court denied the government's written motion to restrict defense questioning about the CIA, stating "I don't see that the national security and the interests of the United States are greatly impinged by this."
However, although Ross' defense counsel was able to raise the issue of CIA involvement with Blandon and drug dealers, he did not do so.
After Ross' conviction, the court ordered that the CIA declare whether it had any files on Blandon. On November 1, 1996, CIA Information Review Officer William H. McNair filed a declaration with the court stating that the CIA had identified no records regarding Ross and had no records that the CIA had "any kind of a operational, contractual, or employment relationship with Blandon, Menesis [sic], Lister or Weekly."
McNair's declaration also discussed what information was in CIA records about Blandon, Meneses, and Lister. The information in McNair's declaration consisted primarily of inquiries to the CIA about them, when they claimed a CIA connection and the CIA' responses, which we have described previously in this report.(64)
We find no impropriety in the efforts by the prosecutors to prevent Ross from raising a defense regarding the CIA that the prosecutors believed had no basis in fact and that the prosecutors thought was a calculated effort to deflect the jury's attention from the issue of whether Ross had conspired to traffic in narcotics.
3. Allegation that Ross was Not Guilty Because of Blandon's Affiliation with the Contras and the CIA
Ross has gone beyond claims relating to withheld documents and also argues that because the government was involved in Blandon's drug dealing, the case against Ross should be dismissed. On August 22, 1996, Ross' counsel moved that the indictment be dismissed because of an alleged United States government role in supplying cocaine to Ross for resale to African-Americans throughout the United States. The motion argued that the government had "created and nurtured [Ross'] role as a major drug dealer."
In response to these defense claims, the court found, as an initial matter, that government importation of cocaine into this country in the early 1980s would constitute outrageous government conduct, but it would not be a legal defense to Ross' cocaine trafficking in 1995, which was the issue at his trial. The court stated:
Noting that defendant Ross does not allege that the CIA had anything to do with his specific 1995 drug transactions, the court finds that these alleged CIA activities of the early 1980s are far too attenuated to constitute a legal defense for these convictions. Nevertheless, the court will address the CIA issues raised by defense counsel.
In examining the "CIA issues," the court found that, as noted above, the CIA had conducted a record search and reported to the court that there was no record of any Agency relationship with Ross, Blandon, Meneses, Lister or Weekly. The court also found that there was no merit to the claims of CIA involvement in drug trafficking and of interference with the October 1986 LASD search warrants. The court stated that the San Jose Mercury News articles written by Gary Webb were not evidence and could not be relied upon to support the defense position. The court stated that many prominent newspapers had criticized the Webb articles and that:
[T]he San Jose Mercury News itself now states that it never said that the CIA was responsible for distributing crack cocaine in the United States. Therefore, not only are these newspaper articles not legal evidence, but this "source" for Ross' "proof" that the CIA was involved in distributing cocaine to support the Contras has itself denied that it ever made such a claim. Furthermore, the court has serious questions about the journalistic impartiality of news stories written by an investigative reporter who was negotiating a book or movie deal about the subject matter of the articles around the same time the newspaper is purporting to report the news. . . . The same agent who represented Webb also offered a movie deal to Ross, until Ross ceased the services of that agent.
4. Allegations of Brady Violations
After his conviction, Ross again alleged that the prosecutors failed to provide all information on Blandon material to its defense. The trial court rejected this claim and found that the government had acted properly. The OIG does not have any additional information than that before Judge Huff when she made her ruling. An appeal in this matter is pending, and the appellate court is the proper forum for review of the court's ruling. We do not believe that the OIG should review the court's ruling on these Brady violation allegations, especially since this ruling is subject to appeal to an appellate court. However, we set out below facts relating to this allegation.
On March 11, 1996, in the middle of trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney O'Neale informed the trial court that he had received information that he believed could constitute Brady material. O'Neale had spoken to FBI SA Keith Bennett who told him that, on February 21, 1996, he had taken a proffer from a cooperating defendant named Castrillon. Castrillon had said that in the summer of 1995, a Nicaraguan named "Oscar" had paid Castrillon to recruit drivers to smuggle cocaine and marijuana across the border. About a week later, Castrillon's lawyer told SA Bennett that Oscar's name was "Oscar Blaydon" and gave Bennett a telephone number that was an unlisted number subscribed to by Blandon's wife. O'Neale noted that, although the government did not believe Castrillon's information to be accurate or reliable, O'Neale was notifying the court so that it could determine whether the information constituted Brady material that should be turned over to the defense. The court ordered that the statement should be disclosed to the defense.
On August 6, 1996, after the trial had ended, the government again submitted potential Brady evidence to the court in camera for its review. The evidence was a statement from Karl Most III -- a defendant in an unrelated methamphetamine distribution case -- taken on July 10, 1996, in which Most had told of meeting a "major cocaine trafficker" in December 1994 in Chula Vista, California. Most was told that the dealer's name was "Oscar" and nicknamed "el profe" (for "the professor"). Most stated that he knew Ricky Ross from prison in Arizona and the MCC in San Diego, and that when Ross had showed Most a picture of Danilo Blandon, Most had said "it's the same guy." The government argued that Most's statement was not credible and had been manufactured by Ross, because Most included facts known to Ross and that Most had included certain key mistakes in his statement. The court found that the information was not Brady material that would be helpful to the defense.
On November 21, 1996, the court ruled that the government had not violated its obligations under Brady such that a new trial or dismissal would be warranted. The Court found that all of the defendants' allegations of Brady violations concerned Blandon, and stated that Ross' claim:
assumes that it was solely the testimony of the confidential informant [Blandon] which led to the guilty verdicts, and ignores all the other evidence that was introduced. The court finds the defendants' convictions were fully supported by Ross' taped telephone conversations, the actions of the defendants in the presence of an undercover agent, Ross' flight from the scene, and Ross' own trial testimony.
Addressing claims of improperly withheld "CIA information," the court found that the defense failed to follow the proper procedures under CIPA to obtain information from the CIA. The court also found that the CIA records that existed -- which were provided to the court prior to sentencing, and consisted of the request for information about Blandon by the FBI following the LASD 1986 search warrant, discussed in Chapter II, above, and the response from the CIA that none existed -- would not have been material to the defense and thus could not constitute a Brady violation.
In addition, the court ruled that the government's failure to turn over files related to prior investigations of Blandon did not constitute a Brady violation. The court noted that Brady requirements do not mean that the government must turn over "every bit of information that might affect the jury's decision; it need only disclose information favorable to the defense that meets the appropriate standard of materiality." The court found that cross-examination of Blandon about his prior drug dealing had been extensive and that any additional information would only have been cumulative.
With regard to the statement by Castrillon, the court noted that defense counsel had been provided with a copy of the statement and given an opportunity to cross-examine Blandon about it. As for the statements of Karl Most III, the court noted:
Having presided over the trial in this case and having reviewed the post trial statement made by Most in camera, and having numerous contacts with Most in his own case, the court found at the time that this information did not constitute Brady material that would be helpful to the defense and declined to turn it over to the defense. The court also notes that Most has recently filed two of his own lawsuits against the government. Most's first suit contains the statement "U.S. Gov - evil empire has taxed my body and soul for 20 years," and the second is against the CIA based upon many of the same allegations Ross has also made. Accordingly, the court concludes that the statement is not discoverable under Brady.
5. Two additional post-trial matters
We will address two other post-trial matters relating to allegedly undisclosed information, which the court did not address. According to San Diego U.S. Attorney's Office records, a private investigator named Jeremiah S. Boehmer, who was employed by defense counsel for Ross, swore in an affidavit dated February 14, 1996 that he had interviewed Gary Webb and that Webb had showed him a copy of a document purported to be from the Iran-Contra Independent Counsel files. Boehmer related in his affidavit:
This document, identified as SAC LA 58A1588 under code name "Front Door", contained the name of Oscar Danilo Blandon-Reyes, and indicated that he was a participant in said conspiracy as a seller of drugs for the United States Government for purposes of raising money to pay for weapons to be used by the Nicaraguan insurgency.
According to Boehmer, Webb had refused to turn over a copy of the document, claiming journalistic privilege.
As noted previously, "Front Door" was the code name for the FBI's investigation of alleged Neutrality Act violations by United States government officials in the covert sale of arms to Iran -- an investigation later taken over by the Independent Counsel in the Iran-Contra Investigation. The OIG obtained the only FBI document from Los Angeles related to code name "Front Door" that was provided by the National Archives to Gary Webb. The document is a cable recounting the interview of Lister's real estate agent, discussed in Chapter V, section E, above. The cable, dated December 12, 1986, recounts: the open FBI drug investigation on Blandon; Lister's allegations about his "CIA contact" when his house was searched by the LASD in October 1986; and Blandon's attorney's alleged comment that he thought the CIA "winked at this sort of thing." The cable does not provide any factual basis for Boehmer's claim that the document indicated that Blandon was selling drugs on behalf of the government to help the Contras.
In addition to the cable provided to Webb, the OIG has reviewed all the documents relating to Blandon in the FBI "Front Door" file. The only other documents relating to Blandon in the "Front Door" file are the bank records that were seized from Blandon's house in October 1986 and later forwarded to the Independent Counsel for review because they appeared to be Contra bank records.
A similar story of allegedly suspicious official documents came from inmate Jack Hutchinson (whose claim about Ross is described previously in this section). When the OIG interviewed Hutchinson in the federal prison in Indiana, he stated that in the summer of 1995, while he and Ross were inmates at the MCC in San Diego, Ross had received a manila envelope from a reporter that contained reports concerning Blandon. These documents were stamped "Property of U.S. Government, and May Not Be Copied or Reproduced." Hutchinson said that the documents were on CIA and DEA letterheads and pertained to a 1983 investigation of the Blandon organization in Sacramento, California. Hutchinson alleged that the documents indicated that Blandon had been associated with Colonel Oliver North and that Blandon had imported 330,000 kilograms of cocaine for Colonel North. Hutchinson also asserted that one of the documents indicated that Blandon had $2 billion worth of assets that were seized by the government. One of the documents allegedly mentioned that Blandon was an outside contractor for the CIA.
The OIG did not find Hutchinson to be a credible witness. The OIG reviewed DEA, FBI, and prosecutive files on Blandon and did not find anything suggesting that Blandon had any affiliation with Oliver North or that Blandon was a contractor for the CIA. In addition, Hutchinson's allegations that Ross and Ross' attorney possessed documents indicating Blandon's association with North and the CIA make little sense, since they presumably would have used them at trial (or at least made them public) if they had had them.
6. Allegation that Ross was just a "little fish"
Another complaint by Ross is based on a comparison of Ross and Blandon's criminal activities and the sentences they received. Ross has essentially challenged the "fundamental fairness" of the system, stating that Blandon, a big fish, has gone free; and Ross, a little fish, is in prison for the rest of his life. Ross told us:
The system is set up to where the big fish go to prison for the longest sentences. In this situation, the big fish didn't do no time, the little fish did four times more time than the big fish."
Ross went on to suggest:
I believe it's a black thing. We're the only ones that get punished. . . . I don't think it's Gary's story that really shook everybody. Just, the black community know. I mean, everybody in the black community know how much time you get when you go to prison because people like me call home and tell them, you know. Man, they gone crazy here. When they hear this guy gets 28 months. That's sickening to anybody."
While such claims of disparate treatment are inherently subjective and highly charged, we believe it is appropriate to make several points regarding Ross' claim. First, Ross can hardly be called a "little fish." Ross admitted that he got his drugs from Blandon and from another supplier, and Blandon stated that Ross had at least four suppliers. Whatever the truth of the matter, the fact remains that Ross has admitted to making over a $1 million a day on his good days and to having about 30 people working for him. Ross told the OIG that he was the "biggest game" in Los Angeles "at one time." Allegations that Blandon was a large-scale supplier of cocaine are certainly true; allegations that Ross was a simple street-level dealer are not. Blandon and Ross were both big distributors; their relationship was like that of a wholesaler and a retailer in the legitimate business world.
Second, Ross suggests that this racist motivation is shown by the deal the government gave to Blandon, after his arrest and cooperation in undercover investigations. However, Ross also received a lenient sentence after his arrest in Cincinnati. He told the OIG that, "my whole time in prison I never seen anybody beside myself on the first deal that I got sell as much dope as Danilo and get probably the best deal that anybody ever got in America." [Emphasis added.] And, of course, Ross was not even held accountable for his crack empire for quite some time, ironically benefiting from the corruption of the LASD Task Force that initially targeted him.
O'Neale and Jones also made it clear that they gave Ross the opportunity to cooperate after his arrest in San Diego in 1996, but that Ross' efforts were "self-serving and ineffectual." Ross' high-speed flight from the arrest scene, his unsuccessful efforts to cooperate in an arson case that ATF investigators later attributed to Ross himself, and his two prior drug convictions are additional factors that likely bore on DOJ's decision not to continue efforts to work with Ross. These factors also clearly differentiate Ross from Danilo Blandon.
In the end, the chief difference between Blandon's sentencing in San Diego in 1994 and Ross' sentencing there in 1996 was that the government moved for a downward departure in Blandon's sentence based on his "substantial assistance" and made no such motion for Ross. Under the present sentencing scheme of mandatory minimums and Sentencing Guidelines, only a government motion certifying that a defendant rendered "substantial assistance" will allow a defendant convicted of trafficking in significant quantities of narcotics to avoid an extremely long sentence. While Blandon greatly assisted the government in the investigation and prosecution of other narcotics traffickers, Ross did not.
Because of the potential for allegations of prosecutorial bias or misconduct in the realm of downward departures, however, many U.S. Attorneys' offices have formed committees to review decisions on whether to file motions for downward departures. These committees consider the assistance the defendant has provided, the recommendation of the prosecutor, the recommendation of the investigating agents, and the severity of the defendant's crime. The committee compares those factors to the circumstances of other similarly situated defendants. The advantage of the committees is that the power to determine whether motions for downward departures should be made is taken out of the hands of one prosecutor, and there is a greater likelihood of comparable treatment given to defendants who are in comparable circumstances. Although the end result may well be the same, the appearance of fairness to the public is increased by a committee review of an individual prosecutor's recommendations. Because prosecutors and agents often meet to debrief defendants numerous times and can work with them extensively, relationships -- both good and bad -- can form. While these relationships may not influence decisions in sentencing recommendations, the oversight of a committee provides some assurance that they do not do so. While we do not know if use of a committee would have changed the result in the Ross or Blandon cases, we believe that U.S. Attorneys' Offices should use committees to review decisions whether or not to file motions for downward departures and the sentencing recommendations that follow, which will result in fairer and more consistent sentencing decisions.
Finally, it should be also noted that there has been much discussion about the substantial difference under the Sentencing Guidelines between sentences for crack cocaine and cocaine in powder form and that this difference has resulted in disproportionately harsh sentences for African-American defendants. However, these issues do not apply in this case, because Ross was sentenced for powder cocaine in all three of his convictions, as was Blandon for his conviction.
64. With regard to the information the CIA had on Meneses, McNair's declaration attached the CIA's response in 1986 to the request generated by FBI agent Aukland in the Los Angeles OCDETF investigation, discussed previously in the chapter on Meneses. This 1986 cable stated that the CIA had information that Meneses was involved in drug activities in Costa Rica in 1984 and was called "the kingpin of narcotics traffickers in Nicaragua" prior to the fall of Somoza.