The apology, though, did not seem to sway U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady toward leniency. O’Grady imposed a prison term far closer to prosecutors’ request of 15 to 20 years than defense attorneys’ request of four years, and he said Crane is “an enormous danger to our community” who needs to be locked away until he is old enough to stop selling drugs.
“You chose a particularly vulnerable group of young people to supply, and you did it while you yourself were not addicted to oxycodone,” O’Grady said.
Crane, the son of longtime Republican House member Phil Crane, was charged in May in the 2010 overdose of one of his customers — William Huff of Leesburg — but ultimately pleaded guilty to a drug distribution offense that did not explicitly hold him responsible for the death.
The plea meant that instead of a possible mandatory-minimum life sentence, Crane would face a maximum of 20 years in prison and no mandatory minimum, said Greg English, his attorney.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam B. Schwartz argued in court Friday, though, that Crane bore some responsibility for Huff’s overdose. Crane’s dealing, he said, caused oxycodone addictions throughout an extensive group of young people in Loudoun, including some who then turned to heroin. And Crane, he said, “really was the face of that addiction for Mr. Huff.”
“The choice of customer is what I think makes it an especially egregious case,” Schwartz said. “The addictions that Mr. Crane sparked in these young people forever altered their lives.”
English argued that the drugs in Huff’s overdose might have been sold by Crane but filtered through others before getting to him. He said prosecuting his client for Huff’s death was equivalent to prosecuting “a farmer in Afghanistan who is growing poppies” for a heroin user’s overdose.
“Mr. Crane is several dominoes away from the death in this case,” English said.
Prosecutors have charged others in the case, most notably John George, a friend of Huff’s who gave Huff oxycodone pills only hours before he overdosed. George pleaded guilty in April 2012 to conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and was later sentenced to four years in prison. English argued that his client should face the same term — an argument the judge ultimately dismissed.
English also argued that although his client’s upbringing was “privileged,” it was also “dysfunctional.” Until 2005, his father, Phil Crane, represented Illinois for more than three decades. News reports say he battled alcoholism. Phil Crane’s brother, Dan Crane, was also a congressman. He was implicated in a sex scandal with a congressional page.
In a statement after the sentencing, Acting U.S. Attorney Dana Boente said that officials “have seen a disturbing increase in the use of opiates and heroin by young people across Eastern Virginia” and that “Crane’s decision to target young people and traffic oxycodone, an extremely dangerous drug, warrants the 12-year sentence.”
As George Crane walked into the courtroom in Alexandria, handcuffed and in a green jail jumpsuit, he nodded and winked at a group of supporters gathered in the first two rows. As U.S. Marshals led him away afterward, one woman in the group shouted, “Love you, George.”
The group declined to comment but said they were his nephews, nieces, siblings and other extended family members.
Schwartz said Huff’s mother was too grief-stricken to attend the proceedings. In an unsigned letter to the court, Huff’s family wrote that Crane should seek God’s forgiveness.
The letter goes on to say that “if he should someday find that forgiveness, it is then, he may know, that he has mine also.”