Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Suicidal drug addict gets 15 years for trafficking

While waiting for a domestic violence sentencing to be called in Judge Tim Shea's courtroom today, I watched with incredulity as the judge was required, by Florida Statute, to sentence a man to a minimum mandatory 15 years in the Department of Corrections for Trafficking in Hydrocodone.

I agree that drug dealers ought to be held accountable for dealing drugs - especially when they target children. But Todd Michael Hannigan, age 42, was no drug dealer.

Assistant Public Defender Robert Power reminded the Court that Hannigan had been suicidal when he was picked up in a park for an open container violation in November, 2009. He had stolen 31 pills from his mother (24.5 grams) and was planning to ingest them. His original intent was to commit suicide at his ex-girlfriend's home (she had recently ended the relationship), but she came home and kicked him out. Law enforcement had been called, and because he was on foot, he was quickly located at a nearby park with a bottle of partially consumed beer.

As one officer was putting him under arrest, a witness in the park notified another officer that the defendant had dropped something on the ground. The second officer retrieved a bag of pills.

A sensible person would think "that's only Possession - not Trafficking!" But the quantity of pills involved has been deemed by the Florida Legislature to assume that if you have that many pills on you without a prescription, you're a dealer.

Mr. Power tried unsuccessfully to argue mitigation. But there was a jury verdict and a minimum mandatory sentence that tied the judge's hands. Apparently, the legislators in Tallahassee have it all figured out. By removing any discretion from the judge's ability to sentence this defendant based on the circumstances of the case, Mr. Hannigan loses his freedom for the full 15 years (no gain time permitted) and the taxpayers will foot the bill.

I would say it's a lose-lose situation all the way around.
Florida Statute 893.135(1)(C) states:
Any person who knowingly sells, purchases, manufactures, delivers, or brings into this state, or who is knowingly in actual or constructive possession of, 4 grams or more of any morphine, opium, oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, or any salt, derivative, isomer, or salt of an isomer thereof, including heroin, as described in s. 893.03(1)(b), (2)(a), (3)(c)3., or (3)(c)4., or 4 grams or more of any mixture containing any such substance, but less than 30 kilograms of such substance or mixture, commits a felony of the first degree, which felony shall be known as "trafficking in illegal drugs," punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. If the quantity involved:

a. Is 4 grams or more, but less than 14 grams, such person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 3 years, and the defendant shall be ordered to pay a fine of $50,000.

b. Is 14 grams or more, but less than 28 grams, such person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 15 years, and the defendant shall be ordered to pay a fine of $100,000.

c. Is 28 grams or more, but less than 30 kilograms, such person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 25 calendar years and pay a fine of $500,000.

There's got to be a better way to handle cases of this nature. A judge's hands should not be tied by Tallahassee when mental health issues are involved. Send this blog to your senator and representative in the legislature and ask them to re-visit this part of the Statute.

Finally, CourtWatch wonders what compelled the State to go for the jugular on this case.

At the conclusion of today's hearing, the defendant stated "all I wanted was treatment - this won't help me at all." Judge Shea showed obvious concern for the defendant and was clearly frustrated with what the law required him to do.

A Notice of Appeal was filed on his client's behalf by Mr. Power.  But unless the law changes, it looks like Mr. Hannigan is stuck with the full 15 years.

PS: Mr. Hannigan's sentencing scoresheet totaled 91.6 points, 74 of which belong to this offense. Were it not for the minimum mandatory sentence, he would have scored 47.7 months (with eligibility for gain time). Previous convictions were primarily theft related. Defendant has no convictions for crimes of violence.

PPS: It would seem to CourtWatch that the legislature never took into account that someone with mental health issues might use a large quantity of drugs to commit suicide. Dr. Jeffrey Danziger was prepared to testify that the defendant suffered from clinical depression, but because there was no opportunity (by law) to hear mitigating factors, Judge Shea did not hear his report.


  1. This truly is a travesty of justice.

  2. Poor guy probably wishes now, more than ever, that he had gone through with it. If he had swallowed the pills there would be no trafficking question.

    This truly is just plain wrong. And like you said, we foot the bill for this wrong.

  3. In my original post I noted that I was confused as to why the State Attorney went for the jugular on this case. I hope to find out the answer to that.

  4. There's more than meets the eye, here.
    We might hazard a guess that the Assistant State Attorney didn't go for the jugular with the plea offer. ASAs do not relish the pharmaceutical possession cases, unless there is some information about sales. The sentence was not up to the ASA after the jury delivered its verdict.
    We must assume that the facts Robert Power argued were based on his client's statements to the police or testimony in court, not something Robert made up. The suicide story may only be a chronic criminal's best effort to concoct something that will play in Peoria. Odds of detection and rescue being high, a public park is a crumby place to commit suicide by overdose. His presence at a public park is more consistent with intent to sell the pills.
    The defendant, like so many I listened to in 14 years as an ASA, thinks it is still all about him, witness his belief that sentencing should "help" him. He probably blamed his addiction for each of his previous crimes, but never went to NA, got a sponsor and worked the Steps. The odds also suggest that he so often has gotten what he wanted by lying or using the addiction excuse, that he thinks he can sell snow to Eskimos.

  5. Mr. Townnes,
    Since you don't know the facts of the case, you should not speculate. Todd did not go to the park to commit suicide, his intention was to commit suicide at the apartment that he shared with his now ex-girlfriend, however, she came home shortly after his arrival and threw him out of the apartment. Having no where else to go he walked to a nearby park and he started taking the pills, he had taken 4 pills when the police arrived. And as for the plea offer, Todd was offered 8 years DOC with 10 years Drug Probation, not much of a deal now is it?

  6. I confirmed Tuesday that the plea offer was 10 years prison + 5 years probation.

  7. If I was him I would plead insanity.

    Stating that he was crazy about that girl. Maybe, he would get to be placed in club remed and still get to play with all the pills he wants. LOL

    If you have to do time amke it easy on yourself.
    Since the prosecutors state that this guy is insane it should be a closed case of giving the guy a walk in the park he chose the insanity appeal. LOL.

    Maybe, he could say he didn't know what he was doing as well. You can't hold a sick man criminally responsible can you? LOL

  8. The real crazy part is that he had pills of hydrocodone. Even if they were the strongest dosage available they would only contain 310 mg of narcotic. With a street value of about $155 to $310 and that is being unrealistically generous. He was sentenced as having from 14 to 28 grams of narcotic when he only had .3 grams but because of the term "any kind of mixture" in the statute he was sentenced for the acetaminophen and talc filler each pill contained as well which is almost a gram per pill. So he was sentenced the same as someone caught with 14-28 grams of pure heroin with a street value of up to $14,000 plus dollars. The amount of narcotic he had was at most equal to .2 grams of heroin. That is really sad all this is doing is punishing a sad man for a sad victimless crime