Two associates of cocaine gang leader Rayful Edmond III received reduced prison terms yesterday as U.S. District Judge Charles R. Richey began two weeks of sentencing hearings for 20 defendants in the massive drug conspiracy case.
The largest reduction went to Melvin D. Butler, the California cocaine broker for the Edmond gang, whose original sentence of life in prison was changed to 33 years and nine months.
Butler's new sentence is based on Richey's decision to give him credit for a last-minute admission -- made during his original sentencing in February -- that he had supplied large amounts of drugs to Edmond.
The second defendant to receive a reduced sentence was Bernice Hillman McCraw, one of Edmond's three sisters convicted with him, whose sentence was cut from 24 1/2 years to 19 years and seven months.
At the original sentencing hearing, Richey had increased McCraw's sentence because of allegedly false testimony she gave at a bond hearing for her husband. But yesterday Richey ruled that the government had not proved that McCraw obstructed justice.
McCraw's husband, David, was sentenced yesterday to the same prison term, 24 1/2 years. Armaretta Perry, Edmond's aunt, also received her original sentence, 33 years and nine months. The new hearings are necessary because Richey determined he had made errors in findings of fact.