Jail time reduced for man in drug ring
Williams entitled to resentencing based on Alleyne ruling
HOLLIDAYSBURG — A Baltimore man convicted in 2013 for his role in an Altoona cocaine-selling business at the Corner Bar & Grille has had his jail time reduced by about 25 percent.
Instead of 22- to 44-years incarceration, the sentence for Rodney “Rocco” Williams will be 15 to 30 years, based on a ruling handed down Thursday by Blair County Judge Daniel Milliron.
The change means that the 41-year-old Williams, who has been incarcerated since November 2011, has about eight years and eight months remaining on his minimum sentence.
Rocco, convicted by a Blair County jury on nine-drug trafficking charges in May 2013, was involved in an effort set up by Damion “Benny” Floyd of Baltimore to transport cocaine to Altoona for sale through the bar at 1001 Eighth Ave. Police uncovered the distribution network during an investigation dubbed Operation Last Call.
Williams, who challenged the charges during his jury trial, told the judge Thursday that after 6.5 years in prison, he is a changed man and is taking responsibility for his actions. He said he has completed courses in money management, decision making and problem solving, which have helped him evaluate his actions.
“I brought pain to a community I had nothing to do with,” he said.
Williams also said he was not motivated by profit or drug use.
“I have to rethink how I view friendship and loyalty” he told the judge. “I assisted a friend in what he wanted me to do.”
Milliron mentioned the defendant’s remorse, plus his prison record with no infractions, as reasons in favor of a reduced sentence. The defendant was entitled to be resentenced based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Alleyne ruling, which found mandatory sentences to be unconstitutional.
Milliron said Thursday that he devoted a lot of time to reviewing the sentencing options.
“This is the exact opposite of a mechanical sentencing,” the judge said.
Senior Deputy Attorney General David Gorman asked Milliron to reimpose Williams’ 22- to 44-year sentence that was handed down in August 2013. It was appropriate, Gorman said, based on where Williams fell in the pecking order of Floyd’s drug ring.
Trial testimony indicated that Williams took on a leadership role in the business after Floyd went to prison in July 2011 for transporting a pound of cocaine. Floyd, who later pleaded guilty to charges arising from Operation Last Call, is serving a sentence of 23.5 to 60 years.
Williams’ role, Gorman told Milliron, was higher than the role of co-defendant Stephen Piner, who is serving a 20- to 40-year sentence. Williams also had an extensive prior record with 18 arrests, 11 convictions and seven stints in jail, Gorman said.
Milliron said his review of the organization puts Williams “near the top” of the organization but not in a specific position.
Defense attorney Paul Puskar said he was pleased with the sentence reduction.
“I think Mr. Williams helped himself by his attitude change and by his prison record,” Puskar said.
Williams showed no reaction in court or outside the courtroom while being escorted by a sheriff deputy.
Milliron also imposed $14,500 in fines for Williams’ convictions of possession, possession with intent to deliver, criminal conspiracy to possession with intent to deliver, participation in a corrupt organization, dealing in proceeds of an unlawful activity and criminal use of a communication facility.
Milliron said he elected to impose the fines based on the defendant’s testimony and character letters referencing his prior employment and his future employment opportunities.
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.