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Judge offers insight on Ravenel sentencing, Why?

March 22, 2008

Ravenel judge offers insight

Explains sentences, wonders why no new drug suspects named

By Schuyler Kropf (Contact)
The Post and Courier
Saturday, March 22, 2008

The judge who sentenced former state Treasurer Thomas Ravenel to 10 months in prison explained his decision Friday by saying that anything else “would not promote respect for the law.”

He also wondered why more figures haven’t been named in the nine months since the state and federal investigation of Charleston’s social cocaine scene broke loose.

“It is perplexing to the court that the government could not present a single name of an individual to which Ravenel’s substantial assistance led,” U.S. District Judge Joseph Anderson Jr. wrote in court papers.

The comments come from sentencing memorandums filed one week after Anderson gave both men nearly identical 10-month prison terms.

The documents, filed in Columbia, largely expand on statements Anderson already made from the bench, but further explain his reasoning in connection with federal sentencing guidelines and requests for leniency.

Ravenel, of Charleston, faced one charge of conspiracy with intent to distribute cocaine for sharing the drug with friends. His legal team and prosecutors have described him as continuously cooperative in the probe.

Mount Pleasant deejay Michael Miller, 26 — Ravenel’s coke supplier — faced two charges, conspiracy and possession to distribute.

Despite authorities’ claims that Ravenel cooperated with them, Anderson pointed out inconsistencies covering Ravenel’s explanation of when he first began using cocaine.

In one early report from a state agent, Ravenel said he first experimented with powder cocaine in 2002, and later repeated that his drug use was something that was recent.

“A couple of years ago, I became friends with a group of ‘new friends,’ ” Ravenel is quoted as saying. “They were young and exciting. We went to bars and did things, cocaine. I knew that I should not be associating with these people. I wanted to be friendly with them. I exercised poor judgment in being with them and using cocaine.”

But another entry says Ravenel stated he began using when he was 18, and then sporadically between 1981 and 2005.

“The court found it disputable that Ravenel was completely forthcoming in his initial interview,” the judge wrote.

Defense lawyers and prosecutors also asked for leniency based on Ravenel’s cooperation so far, though authorities have declined to give specifics about their ongoing probe into Charleston’s cocaine scene, partly out of fear of divulging key information in open court.

The delay in announcing more cases was noted by Anderson. Only three figures have been named so far: Miller, Ravenel and local wine expert Pasquale Pellicoro, who is believed to have fled to Europe.

The 10-month sentence that Anderson gave was toward the lower end of the 8 to 14 months Ravenel faced, with all his benefits factored in.

He left open the possibility of a further reduction if his assistance leads to more cases.

Anderson also noted that even though the cocaine use was relatively minimal, because it was used inside the home of a state constitutional officer “to not impose a custodial sentence would not promote respect for the law.”

Miller, who goes by the street name “Hash,” was credited for turning in Ravenel during the first time he was approached by law enforcement.

“By implicating Ravenel, Miller arguably placed himself at odds with one of South Carolina’s most politically prominent and powerful families,” Anderson wrote in court documents.

Ravenel is a son of former lawmaker and congressman and current Charleston school board member Arthur Ravenel Jr.

The judge added, “To someone like Miller, who admits to daily drug use, has never maintained a permanent job, reports no assets and lives with his parents, the decision to implicate a member of this state’s power structure obviously required a degree of resolve that the court determined should be rewarded.”

Ravenel was a rising star in the Republican Party until his indictment on the drug charge last year, forcing him from office. In the week since his sentencing he and Miller have both asked to report to prison early.

They will report to a federal prison as close to Charleston as space allows.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at skropf@postandcourier.com or 937-5551.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 22, 2008 9:54 PM

    thats it, man

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