Earl Rinehart The Columbus Dispatch @esrinehart
Carlos E. Herrera had done everything right after his arrest for hauling marijuana in big rigs from Tucson, Arizona, to Columbus, his attorney said.
He showed up for every court hearing even though he lives in the Jacksonville, Florida, area. He stayed out of trouble while on pretrial release since his arrest in January. And he pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to distribute marijuana.
Now that his wife was ill with Lyme disease, Herrera asked for “mercy” at his sentencing hearing Tuesday to continue his long-haul trucking business so she and their three young children don’t end up homeless. He would drive the same rig he used to transport loads of marijuana up to 3,000 pounds each.
“I put my whole family at risk,” Herrera told U.S. District Judge Michael H. Watson Tuesday. “I regret it.”
Defense attorney Regina Griffith asked Watson for probation instead of prison for Herrera, who she said had no prior criminal record.
Outside the courtroom, Griffith said Herrera unintentionally got involved with the drug gang when he accepted a job transporting cars from Arizona to Columbus. On one trip he smelled marijuana and realized what he was really hauling, she said.
The gang’s leaders were angry when he said he wanted out, she said. He was afraid for his safety and thought police wouldn’t believe he was duped into transporting drugs, so he made two more drug runs.
“Then he realized this was crazy,” Griffith said, and again asked how he could get out. He was told to find a replacement driver, which he did.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Martinez asked Watson to sentence Herrera to 46 months in prison, which is what Herrera’s replacement received.
From 2014 to 2016 the gang transported $11.7 million worth of marijuana