If Roger Stone were a narco, he'd be in the clear

If Roger Stone were a narco, he'd be in the clear
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When President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump fires intelligence community inspector general who flagged Ukraine whistleblower complaint Trump organization has laid off over 1000 employees due to pandemic: report Trump invokes Defense Production Act to prevent export of surgical masks, gloves MORE’s longtime ally, Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneJuan Williams: Mueller, one year on House Judiciary Committee postpones hearing with Barr amid coronavirus outbreak Trump 'strongly considering' full pardon for Flynn MORE, was convicted of witness tampering and lying to Congress, Trump’s enemies were gleeful; when prosecutors announced their recommended sentence, Trump reacted angrily, and Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrFeds distributing masks, other gear seized in price-gouging investigation to NY, NJ health care workers The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - All eyes on today's unemployment numbers Trump announces enhanced counternarcotics operation at coronavirus briefing MORE signaled to the president to pipe down so he could do his job.

Stone is partly responsible for his predicament because he violated a court gag order, but how does a first-time, nonviolent, 67-year-old offender get the possibility of 7-9 years?

Trump defended his response: “Now what am I going to do, sit back and let a man go to jail maybe for nine years, when murderers aren’t going to jail?”

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Now that wouldn’t happen in America, would it, a murderer avoiding jail, while a scheming political operator does time? Yes, Virginia, it does. It has. Let’s head west to the Southern District of California and recount the tale of former cartel hitman and Instagram starChino Antrax.”

José Rodrigo Aréchiga Gamboa aka “El Chino Antrax” was the enforcer for Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, which recently bested the Mexican army in a battle to secure the freedom of Ovidio Guzman, the son of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzman.

Whereas Roger Stone has committed crimes against good taste, Chino Antrax is the real thing. From 2008 to 2013 he headed Los Antrax, which protected drug lord Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, and was involved in murder, kidnapping, and narcotics trafficking to the United States.

Chino Antrax was arrested in The Netherlands in December 2013 and was extradited to the U.S. in January 2014. In March 2015, he pleaded guilty to “transportation of tons of cocaine and marijuana into the United States” and admitted he “ordered or participated in cartel-related violence.”

Now, “ordered or participated in cartel-related violence” sounds pretty bland until you consider the human cost of drug trafficking. The homicide rate in Mexico jumped in 2007, the first year in office of the administration of President Felipe Calderón (2006-2012). In the Calderon years, approximately the time Chino Antrax commanded Los Antrax, “the number of homicides was 121,669, an average of over 20,000 people per year, more than 55 people per day, or just over two people every hour.”

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Add to that the 40,000 “desaparecidos,” the disappeared victims of the Mexican drug war, who are likely dead — as well as U.S. drug overdose deaths which have marched steadily upward to 67,367  in 2018.

After the March 2015 guilty plea, there was silence until December 2019 when Aréchiga Gamboa was hit with a sentence of — wait for it — 7 years and 3 months, including time served, somewhat shy of the mandatory minimum of 10 years, with the possibility of life.

So — “Chino Antrax” will likely walk free sometime this year. And no fine instead of the $10 million dollar maximum. But the U.S. obviously means business, so he was hit with a $100 penalty assessment. And, instead of removal to Mexico at the end of the sentence, 5 years supervised release, which means maybe someone became a U.S. citizen in exchange for cooperation. According to the drug war news outlet Borderland Beat, Aréchiga Gamboa “would like to go into home remodeling and construction.”

Can you blame Aréchiga Gamboa for his good fortune? Heck, no. He had something to trade and he has a good lawyer, so he’ll do less time than a street dealer. Or Roger Stone.

The cartel guys understand the U.S. system. El Mayo’s son, Vicente Zambada-Niebla, faced life in prison, but got 15 years (the prosecutors asked for 17); he will be out in three, counting time served. Another son, Serafín Zambada Ortiz, surrendered to the U.S., was convicted of trafficking, got five years — but did eight months counting time served. And son #3, Ismael Zambada Imperial, was extradited to the U.S. in December 2019, after five years in Mexican custody, so we can expect he’ll be back on social media before long.

Good thing for them they aren’t known Trump supporters.

Stone was strung up because of the U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which use a point system to determine the government’s recommended sentence. Stone was found guilty, so got the full brunt of the guidelines — with enhancements for interfering with justice and threatening a witness. But for some reason those guidelines vanished in the cases of the cartel leaders. This must be that “prosecutorial discretion” so beloved by Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderThe Hill's Campaign Report: Coronavirus forces Democrats to postpone convention Biden associates reach out to Holder about VP search Big stimulus packages required, but they risk political blowback MORE, President Obama’s Attorney General and “wingman.”

In short, if you cooperate and aren’t defiant — and aren’t a political target — you can kill people and cause immense damage to Mexico and America, then serve a short sentence and disappear, while the prosecutor improves his conviction rate. A win-win.

It’s true. America really is the land of opportunity.

James Durso (@james_durso) is the Managing Director of Corsair LLC, a supply chain consultancy. He was a professional staff member at the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission and the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Durso served as a U.S. Navy officer for 20 years and specialized in logistics and security assistance. His overseas military postings were in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and he served in Iraq as a civilian transport advisor with the Coalition Provisional Authority.  He served afloat as Supply Officer of the submarine USS SKATE (SSN 578).