Drug rehab earns break for felon
By Janet Kelley
Lancaster New Era (Lancaster, PA.)
May 17, 2002
The facts were undisputed: Anthony J. Mariani III, 40, has struggled with drug addiction his entire adult life and has been in criminal court many times.
But now, family members told Judge David Ashworth on Wednesday, Mariani is clean from his drug habit and back in control of his life.
Gone is the jaundice, loose and bleeding skin, Ashworth was told. Mariani looks like a completely different person.
Now, he is an "integral part" of the administrative staff of a drug rehabilitation center in Georgia, Ashworth was told.
Defense attorney John A. Kenneff urged the judge to put Mariani on probation for a long time and let him go back to his work helping others.
Assistant District Attorney Jeff Conrad was skeptical about Mariani's recovery from heroin since his arrest in September 2000.
Conrad argued for a stiff prison sentence, saying Mariani still needed to be held accountable for committing the felony crime for which he was convicted last March -- possessing 31 bags of heroin with the intent to deliver.
State legislative guidelines, the prosecutor suggested, call for a minimum sentence of 21 months in jail for the drugs as well as a minimum of six months in jail for an additional shoplifting charge.
After listening to more than an hour of testimony and discussion of the case Wednesday morning, Ashworth sentenced Mariani to one to two years in prison followed by 13 years probation.
He was given lesser concurrent probation sentences for retail theft and paraphernalia charges.
The judge reduced the prison sentence by one day so that it could be served in Lancaster County Prison. Then Mariani may be paroled to a drug rehabilitation facility, including the one where he works.
Before the sentence was imposed, Mariani's family members told the judge of the improvement they've seen in the defendant since he joined the drug rehabilitation center.
Mariani's father, Anthony Mariani Jr., told Ashworth he and his family have always tried to support his son through his addiction, but confessed, "I gave up there for a while."
"I've waited 25 years to have my son back," the elder Mariani told the judge. Now, he's "doing well," and helping others, he added.
"I'm proud of him," the father said.
Mary Reeser, director of the Narconon facility where Mariani works, said that since completing the program himself and joining the staff, he has become an "integral part of our facility."
Not only can he communicate well in helping others with their addiction, Mariani is a well-liked and efficient staff member.
Kenneff said Mariani's former attorney, Hobie Crystal, saw the defendant in the courthouse and "didn't know who he was. He simply didn't believe it ... the change was so drastic."
While Mariani may be clean from his drug addiction now, Conrad suggested that there was an "undue risk to society" and treatment is "best supplied in prison."
Conrad asked for a stiff prison sentence, telling the judge that a lesser period of incarceration would depreciate the seriousness of the crime.
Ashworth, who noted that Mariani became addicted to heroin at the age of 20 and has been in court 30 times since 1980, told Mariani he was giving him a break for the "miraculous steps" he has made at changing his life.