Ronald Green was not going to convince Judge Joseph M.F. Ryan that he was addicted to heroin and therefore exempt from a mandatory prison term.
The judge thought Green's attorney was trying to pull the wool over his eyes, and Ryan sent Green to prison with dispatch.
A 26-year-old laborer at the Naval Research Laboratory, Green had been convicted once before for stealing a radio from a police officer posing as a derelict.
He was awaiting trial on a misdemeanor charge of possessing a stolen bicycle when an informant on Aug. 3, 1983, told 3rd District police that Green was selling heroin in front of the Soul Liquor store at 14th and W streets NW.
Police searched Green and found 11 packets of heroin worth about $440 in his underwear.
It was Green's first drug arrest. But prosecutors in Superior Court insisted that he plead guilty to an indictment charging him with possession with intent to distribute heroin, with the understanding that the government would not contest his addiction claim.
On March 9, 1984, Green stepped into Ryan's courtroom for sentencing, accompanied by his attorney, James Doud, who told Ryan his client should not receive a mandatory term because he was selling the drugs to support his own heroin habit.
Green's wife sat in the audience ready to testify she had seen her husband shooting up. And Doud had brought another witness, Thomas H. Wade, a mail handler who conducted meetings of Narcotics Anonymous. He told Ryan that Green had been so worried that his addiction claim would be denied that he had planned to inject himself to prove he was a user.
Wade acknowledged that he had only known Green for about a week. But Doud stepped in to say that Green "has tracks on his arm" and was an addict "before he had a gleam in his eye to use the fact that he is an addict . . . to get leniency."
Ryan's response was immediate and direct. "Mr. Doud was very eloquent," he said. "But I have been sitting on this bench for 24 years, and I know when I am being manipulated. I do not find that he comes within the addict exemption. And even if he did, I'm going to sentence him to the mandatory minimum."
When asked about the sentence later, Ryan smiled. He said he had seen too many cases where defendants and their attorneys tried to pull a fast one on the court.
"Yeah, and I know Jim Doud would do it, too," the judge said. "I've known him for a long time . . . . It didn't impress me at all.
"I'm sure I was influenced by the guy's background and the presentence report, then this coming in at the eleventh hour. I just felt Doud was trying to do a little dog and pony show for me."
Doud could not be reached for comment about the case.
Green was sent to the federal prison in Ray Brook, N.Y., for drug treatment. But seven months after Ryan sentenced him to a minimum of four years with no chance of parole, the regional U.S. parole commissioner recommended the judge reduce the sentence to 20 months so it would conform with federal guidelines.
Ryan agreed and Green was released on parole last November.