A Florida man who spent three decades behind bars for charges stemming from marijuana may receive an early release, Your Content has learned.
Richard DeLisi has been incarcerated since 1989 when, at the age of 40, he was convicted on charges of racketeering, trafficking in cannabis and conspiracy after agreeing to help smuggle more than 100 pounds of marijuana from Colombia into Florida.
He received a 90-year prison sentence.
In 1988, Richard was caught as part of a reverse-sting/entrapment operation for trafficking cannabis into the State of Florida, according to the Last Prisoner Project.
Richard and his brother, Ted DeLisi, were both charged for cannabis trafficking and sentenced to a total of 98 years in prison. Ted DeLisi was released from prison in 2013.
Although the crime he was sentenced for carried a guideline of 12-17 years, Richard received what amounts to 3 life sentences for a plant which has been deemed “essential” by many state governments during the pandemic and is now socially accepted and legal in many countries all over the world.
Florida, a state notorious for harsh drug sentences, has since made cannabis legal for medicinal use. According to recent data,two-thirds of Americans believe that adult-use marijuana should be legalized. A poll by the University of North Floridareveals that 64 percent of Floridians now support adult-use marijuana, the Last Prisoner Project reveals.
On September 19, 1988, Richard DeLisi was arrested and charged with Trafficking in Cannabis, Conspiracy to Traffic in Cannabis, and Violation of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO).
These charges resulted from Richard agreeing to assist with the smuggling of cannabis into Florida from Colombia.
Richard, previously in 1975, was convicted of a RICO charge, for smuggling cannabis, as a result when he was released from prison a little over a year later he was in serious financial debt.
The RICO law intended for Florida to stymie illegal activity by financially punishing offenders.
The DeLisi case was Florida’s first chance to test the law and as a result they confiscated the brothers’ homes, cars, and mostly everything they owned besides their auto body shop. In addition to being stripped of all Richard had owned, he also owed over $50,000 in fees to the state as well as high attorney’s fees.
Numerous times during this difficult period, Richard was approached by his old smuggling friend, J.J. White, who told Richard they could be wealthy again if they went back to smuggling cannabis.
Richard wanted to only make money legally but because of his debts he eventually agreed to one last smuggling trip.
As the Miami New Times article about Richard DeLisi stated, “His friend J.J., a pilot, was going to hook them up with one last planeload of 1,500 pounds. And he was going to do it for free, without taking a cut, so the guys could pay off their attorneys’ fees, get themselves a new house, and bulk up their business.”
What Richard did not know was that his friend J.J. White was a paid confidential informant for the
Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) as well as numerous other government agencies.
At trial in 1989, Richard’s attorney argued the defense of entrapment but was unsuccessful.
While the Florida sentencing guidelines recommended Richard be sentenced to between 12 and 17 years in prison, the judge decided to give him 3 consecutive 30 year sentences totaling to a 90 year prison term.
The judge’s reasons for the upward departure and imposition of the maximum possible sentence were twofold.
First, the judge stated Richard and his brother were the ringleaders/organizers of the crime and second, because of an interview Richard did which was perceived as him bragging about making large amounts of money from cannabis smuggling.
Richard had given an interview to Geraldo Rivera which was edited down to a short clip that was not reflective of his true character.
Geraldo himself came to the trial, embraced Richard, and testified that he was a “remorseful victim of his own trade.”
Many think there must have been violence, weapons, or another aggravating factor for the judge to sentence Richard to 90 years but that is not the case.
Richard has no history of violence, while the newspapers at the time reported him as “armed and dangerous” he was never even accused of committing any acts of violence.
Even while incarcerated, where violence occurs often, Richard has never participated.
His friends have described him as a man who would never hurt anyone, in fact that’s why he refused to participate in the illicit industry of substances far more lucrative than cannabis where violence and death was the norm.