On August 4, 2020 the Honorable Loretta A. Judge Preska of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted “compassionate release” to Protass Law PLLC client Robert Panton, reducing his life sentence to time-served after close to 30 years behind bars. Mr. Panton walked out of prison days later into the loving arms of his family as a free man for the first time since January 1991.
Mr. Panton had turned to the appeals and post-convictions attorneys at Protass Law PLLC because of its prior successes in reducing the life-without-parole sentences of seven other federal defendants. Parole no longer exists in the federal criminal justice system so a successful outcome in Mr. Panton’s case was literally a matter of life and death. After conducting a thorough investigation, New York criminal defense attorney Harlan Protass identified and presented the “extraordinary and compelling” reasons upon which Judge Preska based her decision to free Mr. Panton. It is that kind of deep-digging and laser focus that makes for a winning “compassionate release” presentation and distinguishes the legal services provided by the attorneys at Protass Law PLLC.
Mr. Panton had been arrested and charged for his participation in a spectacular heroin distribution organization run by George “Boy George” Rivera, a brilliant, powerfully ambitious and flamboyant drug entrepreneur who was responsible – by the age of 21 – for flooding the streets of Manhattan and the Bronx with more than 120 kilograms of heroin, principally under the name “Obsession.” Mr. Panton ran one of Mr. Rivera’s spots – known as a “store” – in upper Manhattan. He was held responsible at sentencing for the sale of 41 kilograms of heroin because he had joined Mr. Rivera’s organization after it had already been operating for years.
Attorney Harlan Protass succeeded in achieving Mr. Panton’s freedom where others had failed using 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A), which, as modified by the First Step Act, authorizes federal defendants to file their own compassionate release motions. Mr. Protass argued that Mr. Panton presented “extraordinary and compelling” reasons for a sentence reduction. Although rehabilitation, standing alone, does not qualify as an “extraordinary and compelling” reason for release, Mr. Panton’s remarkable rehabilitation weighed heavily in Judge Preska’s decision to set him free. The combination of his rehabilitation, other post-conviction achievements and strong family relations gave Judge Preska the comfort needed to conclude that granting “compassionate release” to Mr. Panton was the right thing to do for the right defendant. More particularly, Judge Preska found that the following “extraordinary and compelling” reasons justified Mr. Panton’s release:
“Over some three decades in high and medium security facilities, Mr. Panton has 1) maintained a good disciplinary record, 2) taken advantage of numerous courses and other opportunities to enable a law-abiding life, 3) evidenced a desire to help the outside community during which he demonstrated incredible empathy and compassion in an encounter with a child sex abuse victim, 4) maintained an exceptional degree of contact with his children, and 5) unfortunately, developed several serious health issues. Because all of Mr. Panton’s co-conspirators . . . have been released or have release dates, releasing Mr. Panton would avoid a sentencing disparity. Mr. Panton also has a viable post-release plan. The combination of these factors constitutes ‘extraordinary and compelling circumstances’ warranting release.”
Judge Preska’s 26-page decision granting compassionate release can be found here (and also on Westlaw at United States v. Panton, Case No. 89-CR-346 (LAP), 2020 WL 4505915 (Aug. 4, 2020)).
Protass Law PLLC’s success in achieving Mr. Panton’s freedom follows its success in April 2020 in reducing Eric Millan’s life sentence to time-served, also pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A) based on “extraordinary and compelling” reasons that warranted a sentence reduction. Like Mr. Panton, Mr. Millan ran a notorious narcotics distribution network – “Blue Thunder” – that distributed more than 500 kilograms of heroin over the course of its multi-year operations. Notably, Mr. Millan’s rehabilitation was the principal basis of the decision that resulted in his release after close to 30 years behind bars.
The appeals and post-convictions attorneys at Protass Law PLLC have, to date, successfully reduced the life sentences of eight defendants to time-served – men who likely otherwise would have died behind bars. [Protass Law PLLC] currently has a number of other “compassionate release” motions in the works for individuals like Mr. Panton and Mr. Millan and hope to have similar results (but cannot predict or promise any result).
If you have a family member, friend or loved one who you believe might present “extraordinary and compelling” reasons for a compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A), contact PROTASS LAW PLLC today for a free consultation. You can call us at 212.45.0335 or use our online contact form.