Tim Tyler was convicted to life imprisonment in 1994 for selling LSD to a police informant. Now, after more than 20 years in a federal prison for a non violent crime related to drug trafficking, the President of the United States has decided to grant him clemency.
Timothy L. Tyler has spent 22 years in prison. An excessive conviction that nothing could compensate for, even if the news have been received with enormous joy by Tim and his family.
There are several cases in the USA that resemble Tim Tyler’s, like Ross Ulbricht’s, creator of Silk Road and also victim of a judgment that aimed at setting an example. They are a perfect example of the intransigence of the intricate American law system.
Tyler was 25 when he was arrested, and he was an LSD regular consumer, and also a great fan of the band Grateful Dead. He followed them throughout the country after graduating from high school. Unfortunately, Tyler suffered several psychotic episodes and developed certain mental problems. He was hospitalized on different occasions during his teenage years and youth. He was finally diagnosed a bipolar disorder.
A year prior to his arrestment, in 1991, Tim was arrested twice for trafficking after he sold small amounts of LSD to friends of his. He was released on parole in both cases. That was the beginning of his nightmare. In May 1992, Tim sold marijuana and LSD to an old acquaintance, who was working as an informant for federal agents as a way to get indulgence for his own crimes. During the next two months, Tyler posted the informant mail packages containing small amounts of LSD. He was arrested in August, along with three other defendants, including his father. Tim was accused and convicted for “conspiracy and possession of LSD with the intent to distribute”.
While the other defendants were sentenced to 5 to 10 years of imprisonment, Tim’s previous charges caused for a nasty surprise: a life imprisonment sentence with no possibility of parole. An excessive sentence considering the small amount of LSD he distributed: 5,2 grams.
Of course nobody could anticipate that the medium in which the substance was found, the blotter paper, would be taken into account, making the amount build up to 10 grams. From that moment on the terrible justice machinery started working. The mandatory minimum sentences added to the fact that it was his third conviction, resulting in a life imprisonment. With no possible review.
If the blotter paper had not been considered, and if the mandatory minimum sentences related to drug crimes did not exist in the federal American law, sentence would have been 262 to 327 months, between 21 and 27 years, according to federal laws. Still excessive if we consider that the crime was a non violent one, and also wasn’t a big scale drug trafficking operation. Just street level selling.
But the consequences have been devastating. Tim entered the prison when he was 23. His father died in prison while serving his ten year sentence. And the consequences, mental and physical, of incarceration have been extremely tough for Tim and his family. Our contributor Drogoteca has followed the case closely during the last few months, and has held conversations with Tim Tyler’s relatives (especially his sister Carrie, who has worked tirelessly for a review of the case), and just a few days ago told us how this sentence has affected Tim and all his loved ones.
“We have endured a terrible and daily anxiety. I didn’t know if Tim would be alive the next day. If I didn’t hear from him in a few days, I would assume he was in “the hole”, but a part of me always thought of something worse. As years go by, you fall into a terrible depression. I am going to keep fighting to free many others [in the same situation as his brother], Ross Ulbricht amongst them. Punishment does not fit the crime. He is no danger to anybody.”
Tim is now 48 years old, and his liberation is expected next year, August 30 2017, a year after Obama signed his pardon letter. He faces a long and complicated reinsertion, apart from trying to adapt to a new society, really different to what he knew before he entered prison (for instance, he doesn’t even know the internet). As we mentioned, his physical decay is significant.
His sister Carrie talks about it: “Tim is taking it well. I have recently talked to him several times. I don’t think any of us will believe in Obama’s clemency until Tim crosses that door in a year’s time. He needs to follow a 9 month drug rehabilitation program and afterwards he will enter a “halfway house” during 3 or 6 months (a rehabilitation house, where released prisoners live after leaving prison and before they live on their own). I still feel this is unreal. I miss him so much. I need to see him soon. He is both happy and sad. He does not have internet and has never seen it. He can’t believe all the stories that have been written about him, except f I print them and send them to him. If Tim had been convicted today, under current drug laws, he would have had a much shorter sentence. And he would be out already”.
Carrie has started a Change.org campaign to raise funds to help Tim get his life back on track after Obama’s pardon letter.
“Tim is a positive and grateful person. He is happy and in good spirit. He wants to eat organic vegetables and go into a sweat lodge, something we believe we could build in my backyard. He wants to try and sweat out all the toxins his body has been accumulating for the last 24 years. Probably he will want to visit his friends and family, and attend a Dead & Company concert. It will all be new to him, so it will take him some time to adapt to life outside. He is very grateful to people who have signed his petition in Change.org, and also to organizations that have helped him greatly, like FAMM (Families Against Mandatory Minimums) and CAN-Do Clemency, November Coalition and ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union)”.
It’s another case that shows that the drug policies that the USA have carried out so far are a complete disaster, and that certain things must change. First thing would be putting an end to the absurd War on Drugs and follow the path started by some States of legalizing marijuana.
“I think Cannabis is a harmless plant and it should be legal for everybody to grow and consume”, says Carrie. “Most people are not going to grow it anyway. They would simply buy it in a store if the price was reasonable. If you look at it from the economic perspective, maintaining the War on Drugs will never eliminate the substance demand. People have miserable lives and need to numb the pain, so they use substances. And where there’s a demand, there will be an offer. Who will be the supplier then? It could be the government, to end the War on Drugs, the murders, and the organized crime. Then innocent people would not have to die for no reason. The people who consume certain drugs need to assume their personal responsibilities. People should receive education on drugs and their consequences. And treatments to quit should be available for people if they need them. How does that sound?”
In Cannabis.es we are pleased to share with you this kind of news. We would love to see society, and American society especially, become aware of these situations (and others that we have been denouncing for a long time) so that we all, adding our efforts, can change things for the better.
In spite of the good news, we must not forget all those ones who have not had the luck to obtain presidential pardon like Tim Tyler did. Those include the aforementioned Ross Ulbricht or Michael Palmer, and others, too many…
That’s the goal, to make Justice a little bit fairer.