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Criminal Justice

Convicted of First Offense, ‘Grandma’ Is Serving Federal Life Term Without Parole

Posted May 10, 2012 11:37 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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The vast majority of individuals charged with federal drug offenses take plea deals rather than go to trial.

But Elisa Castillo told a federal jury in Texas she was innocent, claiming that she was tricked by her boyfriend into helping a Mexican friend set up a bus business in Houston, reports the Houston Chronicle.

Convicted three years ago of participating in a conspiracy to smuggle a ton of cocaine, by tour bus, into the United States, the 56-year-old is now serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, even though she had no prior criminal record. Meanwhile, the newspaper points out, major drug dealers who have information to trade with the government are being sentenced to much less time. Fellow prisoners call her "Grandma," she says.

"Any reasonable person would look at this and say, 'God, are you kidding?' " said attorney David Bires, who unsuccessfully appealed on Castillo's behalf. "It is not right."

His client still has hope that, somehow, she will one day be freed.

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