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ROANOKE — In a 19-page legal brief, a federal public defender argued strenuously against the maximum sentence on an illegal drug charge that Elijah Lee Bond faced.
Bond, 25, of Galax had been indicted on five illegal drug charges, and pleaded guilty to a count of distribution of methamphetamine.
He appeared before Judge Glen Conrad in Roanoke on Oct. 7 for sentencing.
The federal court file is filled with character references, letters written by family and friends Bond made playing in a men’s open league softball team in Independence.
The letters, which describe Bond as a new father and a responsible and hard-working member of society, ask for leniency from the court.
The court file also contains a lengthy argument against sentencing Bond as a career offender, submitted by a federal public defender.
If the career offender guidelines were used in Bond’s case, he could have received a considerably longer sentence as a result.
“He faces a recommended range of imprisonment for 151 to 188 months under the sentencing guidelines because he is a ‘career offender,’” the argument said. “That designation stems from Bond’s convictions in state court for which he served a grand total of six months and one day in jail.
“Without application of the career offender enhancements, Bond faces a guidelines range of 70 to 87 months.”
Much of the argument addresses the political background and legal precedents of the career offender guidelines and when it should be applied.
Bond’s situation is that he was a talented baseball player in high school who won a scholarship to attend Radford University. He withdrew, due in part to “depression caused by a shoulder injury and his inability to play baseball.”
Adding to that was a family member’s serious medical condition.
Bond had no criminal record before his withdrawal from college, but then he started to use drugs, the defense argument noted. After this, he was convicted of possession with intent to distribute marijuana and, later, unlawful wounding and assault and battery.
On his federal meth distribution charge, the defense notes there were no aggravating circumstances, such as possessing a firearm or any violence or threats of violence.
“Elijah Bond was a methamphetamine addict who sold drugs to supply his habit,” the defense attorney wrote. “The non-violent nature and circumstances of the instant offense substantially mitigate against the application of the career offender guideline provision.”
The defense argued that a sentencing range between 70 to 87 months would be close to the mid-range of prison sentences imposed in cases of drug trafficking.
“Given the relatively small amount of drugs involved in Elijah’s transactions, and the lack of a weapon or violence, a sentence higher than 87 months would seem an unwarranted disparity,” the defense attorney wrote.
Judge Conrad granted a departure from the sentencing guidelines, based on the seriousness of the offense.
The judge imposed a prison sentence of 96 months on Bond, plus five years of supervised release and a $500 fine.
Bond will undergo drug treatment while confined to the federal prison in Beckley, W.Va., the court ruled.