NEW YORK -- A New York Supreme Court Judge sentenced former Wharton junior Christopher Clemente to life imprisonment yesterday, following his conviction on nine felony drug and weapons counts last month. The judge also ruled that Clemente will not be eligible for parole for 16 years. Clemente was convicted on the charges January 16 and faced a maximum sentence of life imprisonment with eligibility for parole in 25 years, and a minimum of parole eligibility in 15 years. Immediately after the sentencing, Clemente's lawyer William Kunstler entered an oral appeal of the guilty verdict and said he would file the paperwork for the appeal immediately. Kunstler said he hoped the court would set an appeal trial date within the next few weeks. Clemente appeared emotionless and calm as the sentence was announced. Clemente's mother Barbara Jenkins, the only member of his family present at the sentencing, cried silently as she stared at her son's back. After the sentencing, court guards allowed Clemente and his mother to speak, but said there could be no physical contact between them. The guards did allow Clemente to kiss his mother briefly before removing him from the courtroom and returning him to his cell. According to New York District Attorney's office spokesperson Colleen Roche, Clemente will be transferred to a New York state prison within several days. In sentencing Clemente, Supreme Court Judge Richard Lowe told the former Wharton student that he wasted a chance that most people would never get. "The tragedy here may involve draconian drug laws, but it also involves an individual who had every opportunity [to succeed]," Lowe said. "The defendant made a decision to involve himself [in illegal activities]." Bronx resident Leah Bundy, who was arrested with Clemente and convicted of the same charges, was sentenced to life imprisonment with eligibility for parole in 15 years. Clemente and Bundy were arrested on January 9, 1990, in a Harlem apartment containing large amounts of crack cocaine and several guns. Before Lowe announced his sentence, the attorneys were given opportunities to recommend sentences to the judge. Kunstler asked the judge to consider the evidence and drop two of the major charges against Clemente. Lowe immediately denied this motion. The prosecutor, New York Assistant District Attorney Maxwell Wiley, presented several pieces of evidence to the judge which were not used as evidence in the trial, possibly in an attempt to convince the judge to hand down a stricter sentence. The prosecution said the evidence demonstrates that Clemente's arrest was not a case of his "being at the wrong place at the wrong time," as the defense had repeatedly asserted, and was not an isolated event. Wiley presented Lowe with photographs that Philadelphia Police seized from Clemente's room in Van Pelt College House after his arrest. The photos show Clemente posing with five firearms. Wiley also presented the judge with information on Clemente's previous two arrests on drug charges, which had been dismissed because he had been a minor at the time. Wiley also presented Clemente's academic record from the semester before his January 1990 arrest, in an attempt to discredit the defense's contention that Clemente had been a model student. The grades, which the defense moved to suppress, were three "F"'s and a "C". Kunstler said Wiley's presentation of this evidence to the judge without any recommendation for a stricter sentence was unnecessary. In one of his characteristic outbursts, Kunstler said Wiley's presentation of the evidence before the sentencing was "vindictive" and "total racism." Kunstler also criticized Wiley's character, describing him as "a man for whom I have no respect." "For what purpose is 25 to life, going beyond the mandatory minimum?" Kunstler asked. "This reflects an attitude of society and the doom that awaits us all." Judge Lowe responded firmly and quickly to Kunstler's outburst, saying that the evidence supports the verdict and that Wiley was only doing his job in pushing for a strict sentence. Lowe also challenged Kunstler's accusations of racism, saying "any time a call goes against you, a cry of racism goes out." Clemente's sentence includes a life sentence with an opportunity for parole in 15 years from a first degree criminal possession conviction. Lowe added an extra year to his parole eligibility because of his conviction on three felony weapons charges. Lowe sentenced Clemente to prison time for five other drug charges, but these sentences will run concurrently.Comments powered by Disqus
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