In Summary
  • Prosecutors had asked Judge Victor Marrero to sentence Baktash to life in prison in response to his guilty plea 10 months ago.
  • Baktash could actually end up serving less than 20 years, defence attorney George Goltzer suggested following Friday's court session.
  • Baktash will be deported to Kenya upon his eventual release from a penitentiary in the US.
  • Baktash rose in court to offer apologies for his violations of US law.

The 25-year prison term given to Baktash Akasha on Friday would likely have been more severe had the presiding US judge not taken account of mitigating factors cited by the confessed drug lord and his defence attorney.

Prosecutors had asked Judge Victor Marrero to sentence Baktash to life in prison in response to his guilty plea 10 months ago.

CRIMES

He had admitted committing numerous drug-related crimes as well as obstructing justice by bribing several Kenyan officials.

Baktash could actually end up serving less than 20 years, defence attorney George Goltzer suggested following Friday's court session.

The 42-year-old Kenyan could receive a potential reduction of more than three years for good behaviour in prison, in addition to being credited for the two-and-a-half years he has spent in a New York detention centre.

Baktash will be deported to Kenya upon his eventual release from a penitentiary in the US.

His destination in the US prison system is not yet known, but an aide to Mr Goltzer said that “deportable aliens” such as Baktash are sometimes sent to a privately-run Moshannon Valley Correctional Institution in the state of Pennsylvania where inmates are housed in dormitories.

USD 100,000 FINE

Baktash was also slapped with a $100,000 (Sh10 million) fine as part of the punishment meted out by Judge Marrero.

“This case presents the court with some unique circumstances” that present “especially hard choices,” the federal judge said near the close of Friday's 75-minute sentencing session.

He observed that Baktash had sought to smuggle large quantities of heroin into the US.

The elder Akasha brother also owned he used multiple firearms, and engaged in “corruption of government institutions” in Kenya, Judge Marrero added.

But echoing an argument made by defence attorney George Goltzer, the judge added that Baktash's plan to ship heroin into the US had not been “fully consummated.”

There was also no indication that his weapons, including machine guns, were used directly in connection with the heroin smuggling plot, Judge Marrero said.

SUPPLY HEROIN

He further noted that Baktash had agreed to supply heroin to the US market at the instigation of a US undercover agent who was posing as a Colombian drug dealer.

Judge Marrero took note of Mr Goltzer's contention that Baktash was ensnared via a “sting operation.”

Despite the prosecution's failure to win a maximum sentence, the top prosecutor for the Manhattan Federal Court district depicted the outcome as a victory for US law enforcement.

“Akasha was once one of the world’s most prolific and violent drug traffickers, but today’s significant sentence of 25 years in prison all but guarantees he will never profit from the illicit drug trade again,” said US attorney Geoffrey Berman.

“Akasha, along with his brother, ensured that their enterprise operated with impunity for nearly 20 years by eliminating and intimidating rival drug traffickers with violence and murder, and bribing Kenyan government officials to avoid extradition to the US,” Mr Berman added.

In a direct attempt to persuade Judge Marrero to act with “mercy,” Baktash rose in court to offer apologies for his violations of US law.

GUILTY

“I am truly guilty of these crimes, and I stand ashamed,” he said while reading from a written statement he had prepared.

“I only have myself to blame,” Baktash added, his voice quavering at times during his five-minute plea for a sentence closer to a 10-year minimum term than to the maximum of life behind bars. “I need to change who I am as a person,” he added, his chin slumping toward the neckline of his beige prison uniform.

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