MANHATTAN (CN) – A former drug dealer can witness the birth of his child in two weeks because his probation officer, over the protests of a prosecutor, passionately urged a federal judge not to incarcerate him again for a parole violation.
“He knows what it means to grow up without a father in his life,” U.S. Probation Office Kyle Crayton told the court.
Born to a schizophrenic mother and a father deported for drug offenses, “That Jordan Pena should become involved in a narcotics related offense was virtually written in the stars,” his attorney Joyce London wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
At age 19, Pena turned to selling marijuana, “only twice a week at the most,” to supplement his mother’s public assistance checks as he pursued a general equivalency diploma, the memo says.
Police arrested him in March 2009, in a bust of roughly 30 suspected members of the Trinitarios, a violent street gang.
Together, the defendants faced 24 charges alleging federal racketeering, murder, attempted murder and narcotics dealing.
Pena, however, denied any affiliation with the gang and pleaded to only one non-violent count of selling marijuana, even though he said he stopped dealing months before his arrest.
U.S. District Judge George Daniels found no need to add to Pena’s roughly two-year long pre-trial confinement, releasing him on time served in April 2011. But the judge ordered Pena to comply with three years of probation, banning him from keeping firearms and forcing him to participate in drug treatment and testing.
An unspecified violation of those terms sent Pena back to Judge Daniels’ court on Thursday, where his case divided the prosecution table.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Maiman seemed frustrated as he told the judge that his colleague at probation, “who is known to have a much bigger heart than mine,” was inclined to give Pena a second chance.
Crayton, facing a skeptical judge, cautiously made his case.
“I feel that the dynamics of the family has changed him,” Crayton said.
He added that continued treatment at the St. Marks Place Institute for Mental Health would be much more appropriate than jail.
“When he takes his medication, he’s a different person,” Crayton said, adding that Pena becomes “jovial” and “takes care of his appointments” under proper medical care.
“If we’re back here again, I’ll be back with my tail between my legs,” he acknowledged.
Later, Judge Daniels made Pena plea on his own behalf.
Choking back tears, Pena vowed, “I will try my best and my hardest.”
Daniels replied, “I don’t want you to do your best. You’ve got to do this, period. Are you going to do this or not?”
“Yes, sir,” Pena said.
Daniels added that, unlike Crayton, he would not be inclined to keep him out of jail after another violation.
“Probation, they’re social workers,” Daniels said. “I’m not.”
After some more words of warning, he released Pena until they met again for an Oct. 30 hearing.The visibly expectant and overjoyed mother, Yissel Taylor, told this reporter, “I’m just happy,” outside the courtroom.