A federal judge sentenced a former aide to Sen. Thad Cochran to two and a half years in prison and three years of probation in a drug conspiracy case that involved shipments of methamphetamine sent to the aide’s home.
Fred W. Pagan, who was hired by the Mississippi Republican 30 years ago, stood with his attorney before Judge Beryl A. Howell in U.S. District Court in Washington Wednesday, as she flatly denied the defense’s request for a probation-only sentence. Howell did nix a $12,000 fine suggested under sentencing guidelines after the court found Pagan was unable to pay that amount.
Pagan was arrested on April 23 after authorities intercepted a package of another drug — 1.1 kilograms of gamma-Butyrolactone, or GBL — bound for the aide’s home. During their search of his home, agents found nearly 130 grams of methamphetamine under his bed.
Pagan told authorities he would share drugs in exchange for sex with other men in the District.
The Michigan native pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. The charge relating to GBL was dismissed.
Pagan, through his attorney, had requested that Cochran be allowed to address the court on his former aide's behalf during sentencing. While the senator attended an initial hearing on Jan. 15 and wrote a letter to the court championing Pagan, the request was later withdrawn. Court records stated Cochran had a scheduling conflict Wednesday.
No matter what sentence was imposed, Pagan told the court he had turned his life around, including undergoing continued drug treatment following his arrest. He told the court he had been “on my way to healing.”
“I’ve changed for the good,” Pagan said. His composure was measured as more than a dozen of his supporters looked on, filling half of the courtroom.
Pagan’s attorney, Kobie Flowers, had asked for three years of probation, arguing Pagan was a drug addict who needed treatment, not incarceration.
But U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Pearlman argued Pagan was a repeat offender who had at least six shipments of methamphetamine sent to his home in exchange for a discount from a dealer who was having it sent by mail from California.
Howell sided with the government’s position, saying probation alone wouldn’t be enough — especially because certain charges related to methamphetamine can carry 10-year minimum mandatory sentences and up to life in prison.
Howell said the aide had “already received a break” after he had “turned his own home into a stash house.”
Attorneys on both sides commended Pagan on a successful career in the Senate after overcoming an abusive childhood. Flowers said that abuse is what led to Pagan’s drug addiction.
Pagan’s two-and-a-half-year sentence was the minimum time allowed under the guidelines, after they had been downgraded during the case due to his minor involvement in the drug conspiracy and his lack of a criminal record.
Pagan’s sentencing was delayed by the court last week, after attorneys agreed to give him another change to divulge information on the drug conspiracy.
While Pagan did meet with officials between then and Wednesday, it was not stated during the hearing or in court records when the meeting occurred and if Pagan had offered any additional information.
Authorities were looking for information on how much Pagan knew about drug suppliers who were shipping methamphetamine to the District. Pearlman suggested Pagan may have withheld information when he was interviewed by federal agents at his home after it was discovered he had requested drugs directly from his dealer’s supplier.
Supporters of Pagan filled one side of the courtroom Wednesday, some of whom had written hundreds of pages of letters attesting to Pagan’s character as a successful aide to Cochran who was trusted with the Senator’s personal affairs that included caring for a dying wife.
Pearlman said that while Pagan’s successful career after a difficult childhood was “remarkable,” he knowingly violated the law by accepting shipments of drugs — and was only stopped when federal agents stepped in.
“Mr. Pagan should have known better,” Pearlman told the court.
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