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Fugitive who turned himself in gets 8 years in prison

Luis Munoz who had been lam for more than two decades after being convicted federal court drug charges turned himself

Luis Munoz who had been on the lam for more than two decades after being convicted in federal court on drug charges, turned himself in federal custody and will be sentenced in federal court in Chicago on Wednesday, October 3, 2012. Provided photo

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Updated: November 5, 2012 11:30AM

A drug dealer who spent 22 years on the lam in Mexico before his conscience finally got the better of him was sentenced to eight years behind bars Wednesday.

Judge Charles P. Kocoras — whose federal jurisdiction Luis Munoz fled in 1990 — said the 57-year-old alcoholic deserved credit for turning himself in to deputy U.S. marshals on the border this summer.

But in sentencing Munoz to 97 months and ordering him to pay $20,100 in restitution to the government, Kocoras said Munoz had not only cheated the law by going on the run, but also his family, whom he abandoned on Chicago’s Northwest Side when he fled.

“He’s remorseful — I can understand that. ... I do believe that he isn’t the same man that stood before me all those years ago,” the judge said after Munoz gave a short, stammering speech to the court in which he said he knew he had to finally pay for his crimes.

“I let my family down, even though I was a role model for them,” Munoz told the judge. “I tried to be a good son, a good father and a good husband, but I struggled. ...I know when my time comes I have to face the Lord.”

Wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and leg shackles, the portly, gray-haired Munoz bit down on his lower lip as he shuffled from court back into custody following the hearing on Wednesday at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse.

His attorney, Candace Jackson, said Munoz had been in tears before the hearing.

He turned himself in with his family’s help on May 21, wearing his U.S. Air Force fatigues when he gave himself up on the Bridge of the Americas in El Paso, Texas.

By then, his life was in tatters, relatives say. A busted-down drunk living in shelters and working odd jobs, Munoz was haunted by his decisions more than two decades ago to twice sell cocaine and heroin to an undercover informant and to flee the U.S. — a move which destroyed his family, relatives say.

At the sentencing on Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Amar Bhachu said Munoz shouldn’t be given credit for turning himself in, arguing that was like saying “someone who murders their parents should have mercy because they’re an orphan.” He urged Kocoras to sentence Munoz to at least 10 years.

But Jackson pointed to Munoz’s military service, his otherwise clean record and letters from Munoz’s son, mother and sister, urging leniency.

Kocoras acknowledged there was little chance Munoz would ever have been caught in Mexico had he not turned himself in. But he added, “I really don’t know what bigger plague there is in society than the sale of drugs. It ruins people, it destroys neighborhoods and ruins communities — there’s nothing right with it.”

He said he would recommend Munoz receive treatment for alcoholism in a prison in Texas, near where his family now lives.

And in a lighter moment — when Munoz asked permission to say his “final words” — the judge told him, “You’re not getting executed today.”

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