On October 8th, the Department of Justice announced that 6,000 federal inmates would be released “to reduce overcrowding and provide relief to drug offenders who received harsh sentences over the past three decades,” part of President Obama‘s new prison reform plan, which he addressed in July in Philadelphia at the NAACP convention. Well, it turns out that just three days before the DOJ announcement, former Philadelphia drug dealer George Martorano was released from federal prison after serving 31 years on drug charges.
Martorano — the son of late Philly mobster Raymond “Long John” Martorano — was said to be the longest incarcerated non-violent offender in the federal prison system prior to his release on October 5th from Florida’s Coleman Prison. Arrested in Philadelphia in 1982, later pleading guilty to drug charges (no violent offenses), and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the South Philadelphia man was considered to be one of the biggest casualties of Ronald Reagan‘s War on Drugs. Indeed, many murderers, rapists and child molesters have spent far less time in prison than Martorano.
That’s not to say that Martorano was dealing dime bags of weed on the street corner. Federal authorities accused Martorano of being at the top of an organized crime drug business that saw annual revenues of $75 million. The FBI caught him with a truckload — literally, a truckload — of marijuana, and his guilty plea included a variety of drug charges, including heroin and cocaine distribution.
So how does a guy enter a guilty plea and still wind up being sentenced to die in prison? Good question.
Martorano’s attorney in the drug case was the notorious Robert “Bobby” Simone, a good friend of the mobster Nicodemo “Nicky” Scarfo. Simone advised Martorano that if he entered a guilty plea, he would likely spend around a decade in prison, even though that was actually harsher than the time suggested by the sentencing guidelines back then: just three or four years. But, much to Martorano’s shock and horror, the judge dished out the drastic sentence, later affirmed by another judge after an appeal.
By all accounts, Martorano was a model prisoner, teaching other inmates yoga, creative writing and a prison course called Release Preparation: Starting a Business for Under $1,000. He never stopped fighting for his release. He petitioned the Supreme Court to take his case — they declined — and in 2014, he asked the court to reduce his sentence. In that appeal, a prison psychiatrist called Martorano’s behavior “outstanding” and insisted that he “has been a positive role model and positive influence.” Finally, when he turned 65 this year, he became eligible for the DOJ’s Compassionate Release program, and now he’s a free man.
Since walking out of prison, Martorano has been spending his time with his sister and her husband in Florida. Both of them spent countless hours lobbying for his release. (Below is a photo of the three of them, with George on the left).
Posted by Maryann Flahive on Sunday, October 18, 2015
We attempted to reach Martorano through his current attorney, Theodore Simon — yes, the same Theodore Simon who represented Amanda Knox and Ira Einhorn — but so far, Martorano’s not talking.
“Our time is not God’s time, but prayers do get answered,” says cousin Steve Martorano, a popular chef with restaurants in Florida, Las Vegas and Atlantic City. “Changes need to be made in our judicial system so this never happens again.”
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