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Please grant clemency to Craig Cesal. He is serving life without parole for a first time non-violent offense.

This petition had 429 supporters

My name is Craig Cesal.

Since 2002, I have been serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for conspiracy to distribute marijuana, even though I never possessed, bought, sold, or grew it. 

At the time of my arrest, I was 42 years old with no prior criminal record, except for a minor offense during college where I was charged with entering a Bennigan's bar with a bottle of beer. I paid a $150 for that ticket.

I owned a semi-truck body shop for over 23 years and one of our clients was Sun Hill, a truck rental company. They would sometimes hire my company to retrieve, repair and then return their rented semis. Some of the drivers of that company were involved in transporting marijuana. The trucks would often become damaged either by the smugglers, or by the DEA during busts or searches. In either case, my company would be hired to make the necessary repairs and return the trucks to the rental company. At no time did I ever believe I was breaking the law.

In one instance, down in Georgia, one of Sun Hill's drivers had been arrested and marijuana had been torn out of the semi-trailer walls. The agents asserted that through my anticipated repairs, I had become partof the marijuana cartel. The arrested truck driver, in order to reduce his sentence, set up his marijuana supplier, his major customers, and implicated me as well. I was arrested and held in jail over 1,000  miles from home, incommunicado. I was permitted no phone calls nor mail for months. 

At the time of my arrest, my daughter Lauren was two months away from her eighth grade graduation, where she was expected to end up first or second in her class, when federal agents handcuffed me and stuck an arrest warrant in my face.

Daddy's girl was crushed at her graduation ceremony, since the one she worked so hard to make proud, didn't show up or call. My ten year old son Curtis lay on the couch atop his mother, and with tears in his eyes asked, "when will Daddy be  home."  She could only tell him she didn't know. 

Then, the life sentence was handed down, to a guy who was never in trouble before.  The lawyers sold my business and my home for their pay.

 Lauren and Curtis were not only shamed by having to explain that their Dad is in prison for life, but they also bore the taint of no new shoes, limited back-to-school clothes, and only having one parent for support. The kids lost interest and lost their direction. Their class rank went from number one, to "hopefully I'll graduate." 

My employees  became unemployed; their health insurance expired.  The business and I no longer paid any taxes. Instead, taxpayers spend over $40,000 per year for my housing, food, and medical. 

Those who provided, received, bought, and sold the marijuana were arrested and prosecuted in Texas, Florida, North Carolina, and elsewhere. I was never accused of buying, selling, possessing, or using marijuana, and I didn’t. In addition, I never had a stake in the success of any marijuana venture—my repairs were required whether or not the driver was busted.

My attorney advised me that I would get a sentence of seven years, (and serve far less) so I agreed to plea guilty.  I later learned that under the terms of the plea agreement, I would have to testify in any grand jury, deposition, or trial requested by prosecutors. Prosecutors eventually wanted me to testify against a number of people I did not know and two people that I actually believed were innocent of the charges against them.

Because I breached the plea agreement by refusing to testify falsely against others, I was sentenced to a mandatory LWOP sentence under the federal sentencing guidelines for my first felony conviction.  I voted my conscience and breached the plea agreement. I do not believe my sentence should have been inextricably intertwined with my ability or inability to provide substantial assistance in the prosecution of others.

All of my eight co-defendants pleaded guilty in exchange for sentences ranging from 50 to 130 months. In my case, those who did traffic marijuana received little or no prison sentences and resumed their activities. The irony of all this: they continue with their activities and patronize a different repair station now.

Lauren will walk down the wedding isle alone.  Curtis won't be shown what it is to be a man.  But, the War on Drugs lives on.  Only the President can restore sanity to this, and other federal prisoner's situations, when the system has gone awry.

While in prison, I have earned my paralegal certificate through a correspondence course and I work tirelessly as a jailhouse lawyer assisting other prisoners with their cases.

Please sign my petition- there is hope with the recent over-haul of the clemency program. Let the president hear your voices. Thank you.

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