An appeals court has overturned a sentence for a “career” drug dealer who was expected to get five to 12 years in prison, but instead walked away with five years of probation.
U.S. District Court of Southern Illinois Judge Staci Yandle’s sentence that spared Skylar Henshaw from prison time was “substantively unreasonable,” the seventh circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said in its ruling Thursday.
His lawyer asked for 57 months in prison. The prosecutor asked for 151 months.
Yandle gave him five years of probation, saying his decision to go buy a kilogram of cocaine was “stupid and bonehead.” Yandle said she wanted to give Henshaw an “opportunity to rebound from this mistake,” even though he had previously been sentenced on three felony drug charges. She also mentioned that Henshaw had also been drug-free in the 19 months since his 2015 arrest.
“It is clear from the record that accompanying (Corey) Pryor to the drug purchase was not simply a one-off, ‘stupid and bonehead’ ‘deci(sion) to help a friend’ as the district court characterized it,” the appeals court said in its ruling. “To constitute just punishment, Henshaw’s sentence needed to reflect the fact that Henshaw remained a drug dealer despite the generous opportunities he had been given.”
The appeals court said his sentence was a major departure from the norm, and resulted in an “unusually lenient sentence of no imprisonment for a defendant whose own counsel recommended a sentence of well over four years.”
Henshaw had violated his probation multiple times in the past, and at the time of his arrest had been serving two four-year conditional discharge sentences. The appeals court said it was difficult to see how probation would deter him this time, when it hadn’t worked in the past.
“To constitute just punishment, Henshaw’s sentence needed to reflect the fact that Henshaw remained a drug dealer despite the generous opportunities he had been given,” the ruling said.
Based on his criminal history, his sentencing range laid out in the presentence investigation was 151 to 188 months in prison. Without the “career offender” status placed on him in the court’s presentence investigation, his guideline range would have been 57 to 71 months.
The U.S. District Court of Southern Illinois declined to comment, because Henshaw’s case is now pending in its court. Adam Fein, Henshaw’s lawyer, did not respond for comment.
Henshaw was arrested in Collinsville in July 2015 after the Drug Enforcement Agency arranged a drug deal for Henshaw and a friend to purchase a kilogram of cocaine, according to the court ruling. Agents found $3,174 cash on him when he was arrested, and $55,090 more in his home, along with 750 grams of marijuana and five ecstasy pills.
Henshaw will be re-sentenced at a later date.