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U.S. Supreme Court sides with Chicago area men in crack sentencing ruling

Updated: July 23, 2012 7:47AM

Two Chicago-area crack cocaine dealers serving 10-year prison terms should have been sentenced under a 2010 law that reduced the disparity in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Corey A. Hill, a high-ranking Gangster Disciples member, was arrested in 2007 in Aurora for possession of 53 grams of crack cocaine with intent to distribute.

Edward Dorsey Sr. was arrested in 2008 in Kankakee County for possession of 5.5 grams of crack cocaine with the intent to distribute.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Fair Sentencing Act should have applied to Hill and Dorsey because their cases were still pending after President Barack Obama signed the law on Aug. 3, 2010.

Months later, they were sentenced under a law passed in 1986 that established a 100:1 ratio in the sentencing disparity between powder and crack cocaine.

For example, 5 grams of crack called for a minimum of five years in prison — as did 500 grams of powder cocaine. A 10-year minimum sentence was triggered by a conviction for possessing with intent to distribute 50 grams of crack and 5,000 grams of powder.

The Fair Sentencing Act reduced the disparity in federal sentencing between crack and powder cocaine to an 18:1 ratio.

The 100:1 disparity in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine was racially biased, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU hailed the ruling Thursday, saying it “upholds the act’s self-proclaimed objective to ‘restore fairness to federal cocaine sentencing.’ ”

Mark Harris, one of Hill’s attorneys, released a statement saying: “the Supreme Court agreed with our argument that Congress intended the Fair Sentencing Act to benefit all defendants who were sentenced following the act, regardless of when they committed their crimes.”

For Hill and Dorsey, the ruling could result in sentences of three or four years in prison — instead of 10 years — when their cases go back to a federal trial judge for reconsideration.

Hill was sentenced in December 2010 and Dorsey in September 2010 — months after the Fair Sentencing Act was signed into law.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago upheld their 10-year sentences, but the U.S. Supreme Court overturned their sentences Thursday in an opinion by Justice Stephen Breyer. Justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented.

Contributing: AP

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