U.S. District Judge Michael Reagan sentenced heroin dealer Sean McGilvery, 34, to 10 years in prison and five years supervised release on Thursday at federal court in East St. Louis.
McGilvery pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to distribute heroin in a ring that involved former St. Clair County judge Michael Cook as a drug buyer.
On behalf of the government, assistant U.S. Attorney James Porter recommended the low end of the mandatory sentencing guideline – 10 years.
McGilvery’s public defender Rodney Holmes of St. Louis also asked for the low end on charges that carried up to a life sentence.
After explaining how his client got addicted to drugs, Holmes told the Court some of the things McGilvery didn’t do – such as extort from, bribe or ask for hush money from a judge “from one of the richest families in St. Clair County.”
Holmes said McGilvery supplied heroin to Cook, his friend, to “keep him from getting sick.”
“It’s not an excuse or justification,” Holmes said. He said he wanted the Court to know why his client dealt drugs.
Reagan held, in part, that because McGilvery’s crimes did not result in death, McGilvery would receive the low end of the sentence.
He noted the sentences of co-conspirators Deborah Perkins and Douglas Oliver who received 27 years and 30 years respectively for their drug crimes which resulted in deaths.
“The poison you peddled certainly had the potential to cause death,” Reagan said.
He said he took into account McGilvery’s criminal history which included one conviction on cannabis charges in 1999 at age 20. And, he took into account the type of drug and quantity of drug.
McGilvery pleaded guilty to possessing with the intent to deliver 1.01 kilograms of heroin. Had the amount involved less than 1 kilogram, he would have faced a minimum five year sentence, according to Reagan.
Holmes explained that his client’s addiction did not come about through partying and experimenting with heroin and cocaine, rather it came as a result of taking pain medicine to relieve “severe” back injuries, he said.
He compared McGilvery’s problem with prescription drugs to other high profile figures, such as Rush Limbaugh.
Reagan reminded Holmes that “None of them went on to sell heroin.”
“They had resources,” Holmes said. “Mr. McGilvery didn’t have the resources to get treatment so he went to find pills on the street.”
Holmes said he turned to heroin because “heroin is cheaper than Oxycontin.”
He explained that McGilvery wasn’t dealing to “children on the street.” He said his client was feeding his own habit and his friends’ habits – including Cook’s. McGilvery would make just enough money to buy more, Holmes said.
“No question it is illegal and wrong,” Holmes said. “We all know the consequences of heroin these days. The product on the streets now is much more toxic. People are dying on an almost daily basis.”
Reagan said that if McGilvery has a “stellar” record while in prison, he will only have to serve 85 percent of the sentence, or eight and a half years. But he admonished McGilvery to abide by terms of his supervised release because half of the persons he sentences end up back in front of him due to violating terms of release.
McGilvery, bound and wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, was escorted into court by a deputy U.S. Marshal. He smiled and waved to family and friends who occupied two rows in the center of the courtroom.
He apologized to the Court, saying he understood he hurt his community, family and self. He said he would focus on the future and that he looked forward to “getting all this behind me.”
Reagan noted that there were 15 letters of support for McGilvery on file.
Holmes asked that McGilvery be housed at a nearby facility and be allowed to participate in a drug treatment program while incarcerated, which could shave off another year of his sentence.
His sentence also includes a $100 assessment and $750 fine.
Porter said that $10,000 in cash seized from McGilvery when he was arrested has been forfeited.
In the meantime, Cook is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 26 on heroin possession and weapons charges.