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65-year-old woman seeks compassionate jail release through First Step Act
Doug Collins 2018
Doug Collins

In the past six months, 34 motions were granted in the state of Georgia to reduce sentences through the First Step Act, and one 65-year-old woman is seeking a compassionate release.

Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, sponsored H.R. 5682, a form of the “FIRST STEP Act” focusing on recidivism-reducing programs for federal offenders that would ultimately pass as a combination of legislation. The bill was signed by President Donald Trump Dec. 21.

A separate bill sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, was introduced in the Senate, which included language about expanded judicial discretion on mandatory minimum sentencing. Another section included a “retroactive application” of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which would allow prisoners sentenced before that act to petition the court for a review in their case because of the “100-to-1 disparity in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine,” according to a fact sheet by the Judiciary Committee.

Nora Aguiar, who was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Gainesville in 2007, filed a request April 27 under the First Step Act to have counsel assist her in a compassionate release.

In her letter to District Judge Richard Story, Aguiar noted several of her ailments, including breast cancer, cardiac disease, and high blood pressure.

Aguiar said she was “deteriorating at a rapid pace,” adding she could stay with her daughter in Texas and use private insurance.

“Please, your honor, grant me my request so I may go home and become a productive member of society again. I have learned my lesson and will not squander the opportunity to be with my family for my remaining years,” Aguiar wrote.

Aguiar was sentenced in September 2007 to conspiracy to transport U.S. currency, transporting U.S. currency and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.

She was sentenced to 260 months imprisonment on the third count.

Aguiar’s attorney did not return a request for comment.

According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Drug Enforcement Administration agents received information in March 2005 about a private plane landing at Lee Gilmer Airport in Gainesville “to pick up over ($1 million) in cash.”

“Inside, agents found $1.3 million in cash packaged in a manner consistent with drug proceeds. During the encounter, Aguiar also produced another $20,000 in cash hidden in her purse. The agents followed the two unidentified men seen in the parking lot back to a home near Gainesville. Inside that home and another residence, agents discovered 17 kilograms of cocaine and several hundred thousand dollars in drug proceeds,” according to the news release.

Then U.S. Attorney David Nahmias said Aguiar “directly assisted with the distribution of significant quantities of cocaine throughout the southeastern United States.”

“As part of the conspiracy, she also ensured that the money generated from the sale of this poison was returned to drug kingpins in Mexico. This sentence reiterates that those who distribute cocaine and other dangerous drugs in our communities will face long years in prison,” according to the news release.

Across the country, there have been 1,051 granted motions for sentence reductions based on the First Step Act.

According to the nonprofit Families against Mandatory Minimums, the First Step Act applied the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 retroactively to drug offenders involved with crack cocaine.

“Prior to the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, the crack cocaine weight threshold for a 10-year mandatory minimum to life sentence was 50 grams, and for a five-year mandatory minimum to 40 years in prison was five grams. The Fair Sentencing Act also eliminated the five-year mandatory minimum for simple possession of crack cocaine,” according to Families against Mandatory Minimums.

Those thresholds are now raised to 280 grams for the 10-year sentence and 28 grams for the five-year sentence.

There have been 28 motions for sentence reduction under the First Step Act filed in the U.S. Northern District of Georgia as of June 12.

According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s data report released in June regarding the First Step Act, there have been two granted motions for sentence reductions in the Northern District of Georgia.

There have been 34 granted motions in the entire state of Georgia.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia declined to comment further.

According the sentencing commission’s report, the majority of the offenders receiving sentence reductions were originally sentenced between 2007 and 2010.