The New York Criminal Law Blog

Ringleader of Kennedy Airport Drug Smuggling Gets Life

Cue the clever movie references. Oh wait, the Feds already did.

The take-down of the "Bourne Organization" finally came to a close yesterday, as the ringleader of the Kennedy Airport baggage handler drug smuggling ring was sentenced to life in prison, reports The Associated Press. Authorities say that Victor Bourne led the group that smuggled millions of dollars in cocaine on American Airlines flights in and out of Kennedy airport.

Bourne was convicted after six former American Airlines employees testified against him.

He still maintains his innocence. The judge, however, could care less. Citing the risk to innocent passengers created by cramming bricks of cocaine into wing compartments reserved for avionic equipment, the judge showed no mercy when imposing the maximum sentence.

One witness testified that Bourne threatened to kill his entire family when a brick of cocaine went missing, reports the AP. Another witness saw Bourne pull an estimated sixty bricks of cocaine out of compartments in the wing. These areas are not meant for cargo, as they contain sensitive equipment. Packing cocaine into the areas endangered the lives of thousands of passengers between 2000 and 2009.

Though he was charged and convicted of a litany of offenses, he could have received a life sentence on one of the charges alone: attempted distribution of cocaine. The “attempt and conspiracy” statute makes the penalty for a planned, foiled, or foibled crime the same as it would be had the criminal succeeded. Cocaine distribution, if it involves at least five kilograms, can lead to a minimum sentence of ten years and a maximum of life.

The other charges for possession, marijuana smuggling, and numerous other crimes likely influenced the judge’s decision to impose life. After all, federal sentences are influence by the federal sentencing guidelines, which take into account prior offenses, concurrent offenses, and amount of drugs involved in calculating an appropriate sentence. Judges can depart from the guidelines if the situation calls for it, such as cases like this where Bourne’s actions put airline passengers and employees’ lives at risk.

In other words, under either the guidelines, or the judge’s discretion, he was pretty much doomed.

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