The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit has rejected a former Aspen resident’s appeal that the government engaged in “prosecutorial vindictiveness” when it sentenced him to 20 years in prison for a cocaine-trafficking conviction.
In a 10-page written ruling delivered Monday, the three-judge panel unanimously concurred that Montgomery Chitty, 62, failed to demonstrate that prosecutors sought a long prison sentence out of “mean spirited retaliation” for Chitty’s decision to take the case to trial.
That means that Chitty’s sentence won’t be overturned by the appeals court. Chitty, once a close friend of Hunter S. Thompson and a consultant to the Democratic National Committee, currently is incarcerated at a federal penitentiary in Miami.
Chitty’s court-appointed attorney, Paula Ray, of Denver, said that Chitty is running out of options. Chances of having the U.S. Supreme Court hear his case are “slim to none,” she said.
The appellate court’s decision comes after federal Judge Marcia S. Krieger handed down a two-decade prison sentence in September, following an April 2013 trial in the U.S. District Court in Denver. A jury found Chitty guilty of conspiracy to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine.
He was arrested in February 2012 in Big Pine Key, Florida, nearly nine months after Drug Enforcement Administration agents snared 10 people in May 2011, including six people in their 50s and 60s from the Aspen-Snowmass area, on conspiracy charges that they trafficked more than 200 kilograms of cocaine between Aspen and Los Angeles over a 15-year period.
Meanwhile, Chitty, who retained and fired multiple attorneys since his arrest, took legal steps to appeal his sentence on Sept. 30.
And on April 7, through Ray, Chitty contended that he “incurred the wrath of the prosecutor when he fired his second lawyer” and proceeded to trial representing himself — with an advisory counsel — in last year’s trial, which came after several postponements.
Chitty’s appeal contended that the prosecution filed information seeking an enhanced sentence of a minimum prison sentence of 20 years “just days before trial.” The sentencing enhancement was due to a prior conviction Chitty had, from 1990 in Louisiana, for marijuana smuggling.
Chitty also argued the prosecution was well aware of the 1990 conviction, and the enhanced sentence was “no more than a mean-spirited retaliation to punish (Chitty) for his decision to pursue his constitutional right of trial by jury.”
Additionally, Chitty alleged that three other defendants were as culpable as he was in the cocaine-network, but they all received better deals.
“His cursory argument on this subject is less than persuasive,” the appeals court said.
Chitty’s prison sentence is significantly longer than those of others implicated as part of the investigation. Chitty was the only defendant who went to trial, while the other defendants reached plea deals.
“The other defendants got really good deals and they didn’t go to trial,” Ray said. “It really makes a difference, obviously.”
Among the co-conspirators receiving lighter sentences was Aspen resident Wayne Alan Reid, now 67 and considered by investigators as the orchestrator of the drug ring.
In March 2013, a federal judge sentenced Reid to 53 months in prison. According to court documents in the Reid case, “The defendant agrees to provide truthful, complete and accurate information, and agrees to cooperate fully with the government.”
Said Ray, “Usually if people come in and talk, they get a significantly better deal. Mr. Chitty did not want to talk and went to trial.”