I was disappointed and profoundly saddened by Chief Judge Rufus G. King III's Oct. 22 letter about The Post's coverage of the death of my client, Jonathan Magbie. The judge's letter appeared calculated to tar my client with unproven allegations and to shift the blame for his death to others.
Judge King knows that jurors are instructed not to consider an indictment as evidence or inference of guilt beyond the fact that it is the procedure by which charges are brought against defendants. The able attorneys of the United States, after more than 15 months of investigation and deliberation, dismissed the gun and cocaine charges against Mr. Magbie in exchange for a plea to simple possession of marijuana.
The prosecutors also did not oppose Mr. Magbie's being sentenced under the provision of the law that allowed his arrest and convic- tion record to be wiped clean following completion of a probationary sentence.
It is the province of Judge Judith E. Retchin to sentence Mr. Magbie to a term of incarceration as she did; it is her judgment and the wisdom in doing so that are at issue.
Mr. Magbie's arrest and plea of guilty to the marijuana charge were his first and only ones; the pre-sentence report determined that he was not a danger to the community. Notably, that report reiterated that Mr. Magbie required around-the-clock nursing care. The probation officer assigned to prepare the report observed that Mr. Magbie experienced continual muscle spasms during his interview.
In sentencing Mr. Magbie, Judge Retchin said that she had checked with the chief judge's office the pre- vious week and that the jail should have been able to accommodate Mr. Magbie's medical needs. If the doctor at the jail called to say that Mr. Magbie should be in the hospital, as the chief judge stated, the information would tend to dispute the initial assessment that the jail was able to take care of Mr. Magbie. Judge Retchin then was empowered to modify the sentence she had imposed the previous day. Judge King may not now rely on an exacting analysis of the information received from the doctor or the application for discretionary relief by counsel without the benefit of said information.
Judge Retchin is reported to have said that she was led to believe that Mr. Magbie's medical needs could have been met at the jail; the court spokeswoman, however, reportedly said that the full extent of Mr. Magbie's paralysis was inadvertently not relayed to the chief judge's office [Metro, Oct. 1]. The issue that Judge King must address is the due diligence -- or lack thereof -- of his office regarding the ability of the jail to accommodate Mr. Magbie's medical needs.
Judge King is a good and decent man, but it is time for leadership, not cheerleading or self-serving statements.
BONIFACE K. COBBINA