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Another 262 months for Jose Morales

August 1, 2013

mobsFederal district judge Roger Titus sentenced Jose J. Morales to an additional 262 months behind bars today for trying to smuggle heroin into federal prison while attempting to keep an outside-the-walls pot ring running. The sentence is to run consecutive to the 262 months he received in 2010 on another drug case.

“Judge Titus enhanced Morales’ sentence upon finding that Morales was a career offender, that he threatened his co-defendant, and that he used his minor child to help conceal the heroin smuggling,” according to a press release from the office of Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein.

For years Morales dealt drugs, set fires, collapsed houses, and stole vehicles and construction equipment in and around Baltimore with near impunity, baffling and frightening victims and neighbors in Morrell Park, where he grew up and where his mother still lives.

In 2008 his luck started to change. Robert Long, a co-defendant in a theft case, was murdered and Morales skipped court dates and was arrested in Texas with six kilos of cocaine, eventually earning the first 262 month sentence.

Baltimore police and prosecutors charged, and a jury convicted, another man for Long’s murder but last year that man, Demetrius Smith, was cleared and Morales was charged with arranging the killing by telephone. He faces trial next month.

The case has been complicated by stories Morales allegedly told federal law enforcement agents just after his Texas arrest. Prosecutors filed papers showing that Morales pointed the finger at his lawyer, Stanley Needleman, who was disbarred in 2011 upon his conviction in a tax evasion case. Needleman is expected to testify against Morales.

Late last week Morales’s lawyers moved to suppress Morales’ early statements while in federal custody, claiming he received ineffective assistance of counsel—and that he had not received his Miranda warning before either of the interviews in which he supposedly spoke freely to federal agents.

What is fascinating about this is the implication that Morales, bailed out on multiple state charges in Maryland and in custody with six kilos, felt comfortable speaking frankly and at length to law enforcement—apparently without the usual “proffer” letter that spells out what sort of immunity or other consideration he would be getting. As Morales’s lawyers, Gary Proctor and Jonathan Zucker, writein their motion:

In the case at bar there was to put it simply, no reason in the world that Mr. Morales’ defense counsel would not insist on a proffer letter. As stated supra, seeking a proffer letter is standard operating procedure in a run of the mill case – - let alone a homicide case which carries only two (2) possible penalties – - life or death. Mr. Morales’ Texas counsel did not seek a proffer letter – which is standard practice in this district and, no doubt, all others. They did not seek immunity. They did not seek a cooperation agreement. They simply told their client that he was free to implicate himself in a homicide that carries a mandatory life sentence. Similarly, the Government contends that, freed from the assistance of competent counsel, Mr. Morales also provided a rich vein of 404(b) evidence they intend to make hay with. There is no even conceivable tactical reason to chart this path.

Perhaps Morales’s trial will shed light on the reasons Morales said what he said.

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